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Press Release

U.K. Firm Pleads Guilty to Illegally Exporting
Boeing 747 Aircraft to Iran

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs
Firm Agrees to Pay $15 Million in Fines

Balli Aviation Ltd., a subsidiary of the United Kingdom-based Balli Group PLC, pleaded guilty today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a two-count criminal information in connection with its illegal export of commercial Boeing 747 aircraft from the United States to Iran, announced David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Channing D. Phillips, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; Thomas Madigan, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Enforcement; and Adam J. Szubin, Director of the Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Under the plea agreement, Balli Aviation Ltd. agreed to pay a $2 million criminal fine and be placed on corporate probation for five years. The $2 million fine, combined with a related $15 million civil settlement among Balli Group PLC, Balli Aviation Ltd., the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), and the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), that was also announced today, represents one of the largest fines for an export violation in BIS history. Under the terms of the related civil settlement, Balli Group PLC and Balli Aviation Ltd. have agreed to pay a civil penalty of $15 million of which $2 million will be suspended if there are no further export control violations. In addition, Balli Aviation Ltd. and Balli Group PLC are denied export privileges for five years, although this penalty will be suspended provided that neither Balli Aviation nor Balli Group commits any export violations and pays the civil penalty.  Under the terms of the settlement, Balli Group PLC and Balli Aviation, Ltd. will also have to submit the results of an independent audit of its export compliance program to BIS and OFAC for each of the next five years.

According to count one of the information filed with the court, beginning in at least October 2007, through July 2008, Balli Aviation Ltd. conspired to export three Boeing 747 aircraft from the United States to Iran without first having obtained the required export license from BIS or authorization from OFAC, in violation of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and the Iranian Transactions Regulations. More particularly, the information states that Balli Aviation Ltd., through its subsidiaries, the Blue Sky Companies, purchased U.S.-origin aircraft with financing obtained from an Iranian airline and caused these aircraft to be exported to Iran without obtaining the required U.S. government licenses. Further, Balli Aviation Ltd. entered into lease arrangements that permitted the Iranian airline to use the U.S.-origin aircraft for flights in and out of Iran.

Count two of the information states that Balli Aviation Ltd. violated a Temporary Denial Order (TDO) issued by BIS on March 17, 2008, that prohibited the company from conducting any transaction involving any item subject to the EAR. Starting in or about March 2008 and continuing through about August 2008, Balli Aviation Ltd. willfully violated the TDO by carrying on negotiations with others concerning buying, receiving, using, selling and delivering U.S.-origin aircraft which went to the Export Administration Regulations.

"As this case demonstrates, corporations that conduct business with Iran in violation of U.S. export laws and sanctions face serious consequences," said David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security. "The many agents, analysts and attorneys who worked on this successful investigation and prosecution deserve special thanks for their efforts."

"These charges reflect the commitment of the United States to vigorously enforce our laws against corporations that illegally seek to acquire U.S. aircraft from the U.S. on behalf of Iranian customers," said Channing Phillips, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. "Those who seek to profit by violating and circumventing U.S. trade laws should take heed of today’s guilty plea by Balli Aviation."

"The significant fine is a direct consequence of the level of deception used to mislead investigators," said Thomas Madigan, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Enforcement. "The case agents worked through a complex corporate maze to obtain the facts and bring the violators to justice."

"Today’s case should serve as further warning of Iran’s continued efforts to circumvent sanctions and obtain U.S. technology. Together with our colleagues from the Justice and Commerce departments, OFAC will continue to aggressively pursue both domestic and foreign entities that seek to violate U.S. sanctions programs by exporting goods to Iran from the United States." said Adam J. Szubin, Director, Office of Foreign Assets Control.

In announcing the plea, Assistant Attorney General Kris, Acting U.S. Attorney Phillips, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Madigan and OFAC Director Szubin commended Assistant Director for Operations John Sonderman, Special Agent in Charge Rick Shimon, Special Agent Joseph Varga, and Chief Counsel Attorney Gregory Michelsen, all of the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security. They also thanked Trial Attorney Jonathan C. Poling of the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Asuncion of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, who are prosecuting this matter.

Updated September 15, 2014

Press Release Number: 10-131