(This story will pop up in the local media any day now….)
NYT: U.S. Approved Business With Blacklisted Nations
Several … American businesses were permitted to deal with foreign companies believed to be involved in terrorism or weapons proliferation. In one such case, involving equipment bought by a medical waste disposal plant in Hawaii, the government was preparing to deny the license until an influential politician intervened. (And who might that be? See next item….)
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NYT: Hawaii Medical Vitrification
This license involved a medical-waste disposal plant in Honolulu called Hawaii Medical Vitrification. On July 28, 2003, the plant’s owner, Samuel Liu, ordered 200 graphite electrodes from a Chinese government-owned company, China Precision Machinery Import Export Corporation. In an interview, Mr. Liu said he had chosen the company because the electrodes available in the United States were harder to find and more expensive.
Two days later, the Bush administration barred American citizens from doing business with the Chinese company, which had already been penalized repeatedly for providing missile technology to Pakistan and Iran.
By the time Customs seized the electrodes on Nov. 5, waste was piling up in the sun. Nor did prospects look good for Mr. Liu’s application to the licensing office seeking to do an end run around the sanctions. On Nov. 21, a State Department official, Ralph Palmiero, recommended that the agency deny the request since the sanctions explicitly mandated the "termination of existing contracts" like Mr. Liu’s. "The penalties are clear in this case," Mr. Palmiero wrote, "and the responsibility rests with OFAC to implement the import ban."
That is when Senator Daniel K. Inouye’s office stepped in. While his electrodes were at sea, Mr. Liu had made his first political contribution ever, giving the senator’s campaign $2,000. Mr. Liu says the timing was coincidental, that he was simply feeling more politically inclined. Records show that an Inouye aide called the licensing office on Mr. Liu’s behalf the same day that Mr. Palmiero recommended denying the application. The senator himself wrote two days later.
Mr. Inouye’s spokesman, Peter Boylan, said the contribution had "no impact whatsoever" on the senator’s actions, which he said were motivated solely by concern for the community’s health and welfare. The pressure appears to have worked. The following day, the licensing office’s director at the time asked the State Department to reconsider in an e-mail that prominently noted the senator’s interest. A few days later, the State Department found that the purchase qualified for a special “medical and humanitarian” exception. The license was issued Dec. 10.
Two months later, Mr. Liu sent the senator another $2,000 contribution, the maximum allowable. Treasury Under Secretary Stuart Levey said he could not comment on the details of a decision predating his tenure. But he noted that sanctions against the Chinese company had since been toughened, and added, “Certainly this transaction wouldn’t be authorized today.”
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 24, 2010
Contact: Kimmie Lipscomb, firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: (212) 554-3296
UANI Calls on U.S. Regulated Companies to End Business in Iran on the Basis of Unwarranted Trade Licenses
New York, NY - United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) today called on U.S. companies to end business in Iran on the basis of unwarranted trade licenses. A New York Times investigation, published today, revealed that American companies have abused humanitarian trade exemptions for short-term financial gain. All responsible corporations must refuse to do business in Iran.
The U.S. Government also should tighten loopholes and only grant licenses to companies to conduct business in Iran that address real humanitarian and medical needs.
In a statement, UANI President Ambassador Mark D. Wallace said:
All responsible companies should end their business in Iran. Only on the basis of compelling humanitarian and/or medical reasons should U.S. regulated companies trade with Iran. Chewing gum, popcorn, and soda do not fall within such exceptions. Such companies trading these non-essential products should immediately cease their business with Iran.
Responsible corporations such as General Electric have partnered with UANI to commit to ending all non-humanitarian business in Iran. General Electric signed UANI's Iran Business Declaration and provides to charity all proceeds from humanitarian business in Iran. We call on all U.S. companies to follow suit.
Click here to read The New York Times investigative report
Click here to learn more about GE's partnership with UANI
Click here to learn more about the Iran Business Declaration
HA: Medical waste site worries legislative task force 12-12-2003
HI DoH: HAWAII MEDICAL VITRIFICATION SUBJECT TO ENFORCEMENT ACTION 5-28-2004