2008年7月11日金曜日

Beware Syrians Bearing Duty-Free

Today OFAC designated [http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/actions/20080710.shtml] two of Makhluf's most visible business enterprises as SDNs - Syriatel and Ramak Duty Free, a chain of duty free stores that includes Damascus Duty Free at the Damascus International Airport. As a result of that designation, U.S. citizens are prohibited from doing business with either entity. (OFAC's press release on the designation can be found at http://www.treas.gov/press/releases/hp1075.htm.)


This may catch many Americans traveling to Syria unaware. The Damascus Duty Free at the airport is reputed [http://www.airlinequality.com/Airports/Airport_forum/dam.htm] to have a large selection of goods at attractive discounts and is popular among travelers departing the airport. The State Department's guidance page [http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1035.html] on travel to Syria has not yet been updated to reflect this new restriction, stating only that, because Syria is a designated state sponsor of terrorism, U.S. citizens "are prohibited from engaging in financial transactions which a U.S. person knows or has reasonable cause to believe pose a risk of furthering terrorists' acts in the United States."


Americans traveling in Syria with unlocked GSM phones might also violate the sanctions if they bought a pre-paid SIM card from Syriatel for use in Syria. Buying telcom services from Syriatel is arguably exempt under the Berman Amendment, but the purchase of the hardware - the SIM card - arguably could overstep the line.


One major American company is currently providing service to Syriatel.Network Solutions is the registrar [http://www.networksolutions.com/whois/results.jsp?domain=syriatel.com] for Syriatel.com [http://www.syriatel.com/], which, as of this posting, was still functioning. Given the increased penalties for violating U.S.sanctions laws, it won't be surprising if that site disappears shortly.

1 件のコメント:

Tatsuya さんのコメント...

Syriatel, Syria's largest provider of mobile phone service, was recently put on the Specially Designated Nationals ("SDN") List by the Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC"). As a result, U.S. citizens are prohibited from doing business with Syriatel. Last Thursday, Syriatel sent a fax to the Associated Press claiming that it was hiring lawyers in the United States to contest this designation.

The basis for this objection, as stated in that fax, is that Syriatel is owned by more than 7,500 shareholder and not only by Rami Makhluf whose ownership of Syriatel served as the basis for the designation. The company is going to need a stronger argument than that because OFAC seemed to be quite aware, judging by its press release announcing the designation, that Makhluf was not the only owner of Syriatel but simply the majority owner.

Syriatel's efforts to contest the designation may face a larger barrier.
A recent guidance document from OFAC suggests that OFAC is going to limit the fees paid to lawyers representing SDNs to $125 per hour, with a cap of $7,000 per lawyer for up to two lawyers.
We'll be interested to see who agrees to represent Syriatel under these conditions.