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Telecom Giant Admits Iran Dealings

In letter to legal NGO, Inmarsat confirms it gives satellite service to Iranian tankers despite sanctions against the country.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 8/5/2012, 5:37 PM

Crude oil tanker
Crude oil tanker
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Telecommunications giant Inmarsat has confirmed that it provided satellite communications services to Iranian oil tankers and other vessels, despite the international sanctions against Tehran.

The admission is contained in an official letter sent from Rich Harris, Senior Vice President of the London-based Inmarsat, to Shurat HaDin, an Israeli NGO that specializes in anti-terrorist "lawfare."

IMRA , which reviews and analyzes Middle East news, reported that Shurat HaDin had previously sent a letter to Inmarsat warning it against providing prohibited satellite communications services to Iranian oil vessels and stressing that Inmarsat's actions would expose the firm to criminal prosecution and civil liability from Americans and others who suffer as a result of Tehran's sponsorship of terrorism.

Shurat HaDin responded Sunday to Inmarsat's admission with another letter in which it pointed out that the US sanctions regime against Iran does not merely prohibit the direct sale of telecommunications services to Iran or its shipping lines, but also bans the supply of services via non-US distributors. Hence, contrary to claims made by Inmarsat in its letter, its providing of services through non-US distributors constitutes a further breach of US law.

"Inmarsat's responses…have confirmed that not only is Inmarsat supplying satellite communications services to a large number of ships owned, operated or controlled by the Government of Iran…it is knowingly participating in attempts to circumvent the US sanctions regime against Iran," stressed Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of the Tel Aviv-based counter terrorist organization.

“We will not tolerate Inmarsat’s – or any corporation’s – profiting from the blood of innocent people," IMRA quoted Darshan-Leitner's letter as saying. "It is unacceptable for a global company to seek to cover up its links to Iranian interests or to claim these ties are handled by third party partners or vendors, which by itself is a violation of US law. The maritime satellite industry can no longer get a free pass.”

Shurat HaDin noted that "companies like Inmarsat that attempt to thwart the US sanctions regime by pretending that they do not know the actual ownership of the ships they service, or the parties they are doing business with, will face criminal and civil liability."

"As a listed public company, it is difficult to understand why Inmarsat would continue to risk criminal prosecution, civil claims and reputational damage as a sanctions evader for the very small commercial benefit supplying telecommunications services to Iranian-controlled ships", continued Darshan-Leitner, warning that if the company did not cease its dealings with Iran the matter would be "pursued vigorously in all legal and political forums."