Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
BERLIN – The Swiss energy group EGL’s €18 billion gas contract with the National
Iranian Gas Export Company faced criticism at a US congressional hearing in late
July because of possible violations of American sanctions against firms active
in Iran’s gas and oil sectors.
“The Obama administration is required,
under a new Iran sanctions law signed by the president in July, to investigate
companies doing business with the Iranian regime,” Mark Dubowitz, the executive
director of the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told
The Jerusalem Post by e-mail on Tuesday.
“The Swiss energy giant EGL
should be on the administration’s target list over its €18b. gas deal with the
Iranian regime,” he said.
Dubowitz, an authority on energy sanctions,
called for EGL “to be considered a candidate for sanctions” at the congressional
hearing last month.
EGL would be wise to draw a lesson from the $536
million fine imposed by the US government on Credit Suisse, another Swiss
company that decided to test US laws prohibiting business with Iran, Dubowitz
told the Post
in his e-mail.
“EGL should not want to be another example
of Swiss complicity with a regime that is developing nuclear weapons, supporting
terrorism and brutalizing its own people,” he said.
Lilly Frei, a
spokeswoman for EGL, told the Post
, “We are not violating any regulations, and
[we] follow rules; we feel we are not really deserving to come on the
Pressed about Teheran using the revenues from the EGL
deal to finance terrorism and its allies Hamas and Hizbullah, Frei said, “That
is speculation” about “money we would be paying” supporting terrorism. She said
she “cannot really comment on such a speculation.”
She added that EU
sanctions were “evaluated by our advisers, [who said that] offtake of gas at the
border would not fall under these sanctions.”
Asked if the EGL legal
advisers investigated an ownership connection between the Revolutionary Guard
and the National Iranian Gas Export Company, Frei said that EGL does “not know
if the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is affiliated with National Iranian Gas
When asked about the fresh round of enhanced EU, US and
UN sanctions and their impact on the EGL contract, Adrian Sollberger, a
spokesman for the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, told the Post
that the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs was responsible for the review
of new Iran sanctions.
Sollberger later wrote by e-mail to the Post that
the “Gas delivery contract is between EGL and Iran (not between Switzerland and
He said that Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey “enabled
and facilitated” the deal in 2008, but deferred the question as to whether the
EGL contract violated UN, US and EU sanctions to Rita Baldegger, a spokeswoman
for the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.
Baldegger wrote by e-mail
that “Switzerland will forcefully implement the UN Security Council sanctions.
The Secretariat for Economic Affairs can only comment on these
For “additional information, I have to refer you to the
Federal Department of Foreign Affairs,” Baldegger said.
When asked if EGL
was violating its corporate code of conduct by pursuing the gas contract
Iran, EGL spokeswoman Frei told the Post that EGL adheres to “local laws
[the rules of the] international community.
“We have a contract with the
company, not [with] Ahmadinejad,” she said.