UK Firm Fined $2 Million for Exporting Boeing 747 Aircraft to Iran

On May 11, 2010, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Balli Aviation Ltd., a subsidiary of the United Kingdom-based Balli Group PLC, was sentenced that day in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to pay a $2 million fine and to serve a five-year corporate period of probation after pleading guilty on Feb. 5, 2010, to a two-count criminal information in connection with its illegal export of commercial Boeing 747 aircraft from the United States to Iran.

DOJ stated that:

According to count one of the criminal 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.  Specifically, 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 criminal 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.

The court imposed the maximum $2 million fine and a corporate probation of 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), is one of the largest fines for an export violation in BIS history.

In addition to the fines, Balli Aviation and Balli Group are denied export privileges for five years. This sanction will be suspended provided that neither company commits any export violations and pays the civil penalty.