BERLIN/DUSSELDORF – Congressman Peter King (R-New York) called on CMA CGM, the world’s third largest shipping company, to end its business relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, citing the US Treasury’s decision on Tuesday to sanction the French shipping giant for violating Iran sanctions, in an exclusive statement to The Jerusalem Post.
King, an influential congressional representative and head of the Homeland Security Committee in Congress, told the Post: “I have already called on CMA CGM twice to immediately comply with US, EU, and UN sanctions and to renounce its business relationship with Iran. I applaud the Treasury Department for enforcing penalties against CMA CGM, whose alleged violations of sanctions on Cuba, Sudan, and Iran go back several years. This news confirms that CMA CGM has a troubling pattern of skirting regulations and I strongly urge them to immediately comply and abide by international sanctions.”
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The US Treasury sanctions dealt another blow to CMA CGM’s shipping reputation because of the company’s strong economic ties with Iran’s maritime industry. In December, King wrote to Philippe Soulié, CEO of the shipping company, noting that he is “deeply concerned” about CMA CGM trade relations with Iran.
The company’s MV Everest container ship was seized off the Nigerian coast last year, fully loaded with Iranian weapons. King put the company on notice that its monitoring mechanisms are inadequate.
CMA-CGM appeared to ignore King’s warning.
Israel’s Navy seized in March the CMA CGM-operated container ship MV
in the Mediterranean. A cache of more than 50 tons of weapons
from Iran were aboard, including anti-ship missiles, 3,000 mortar shells
and almost 70,000 rounds of ammunition for machine guns.
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Though Tuesday’s sanctions did not target CMA CGM for the 2009-2010
transports of Iranian weapons, the United States Treasury Department
fined the French shipping company in the amount of $374,400 to settle
allegations of violations of regulations blocking trade with Cuba, Sudan
and Iran between the period December 2004 and April 2008.
According to the Treasury, CCA, a subsidiary of the CMA CGM,
“facilitated the exportation of goods from foreign ports to Sudan on at
least two occasions and, in 28 separate transactions, accepted payments
for shipping services provided by its foreign parent company, CMA CGM,
or its foreign affiliates, in connection with shipments between third
countries and Cuba, Iran or Sudan.”
In an e-mail to the Post on Thursday, the office of Mike Conaway
(R-Texas) wrote, “Congressman Conaway is encouraged by the Treasury
Department’s actions and will remain engaged on the issue moving
The prominent US Congressman from Texas had issued a strongly worded
April letter to the US Treasury and State Departments that CMA CGM’s
“repeated failures” to enforce international guidelines to stop weapons
smuggling warranted an American response.
He called for the Treasury to ban CMA CGM from conducting maritime trade
with Iran if the company did not crackdown on its porous control
A joint May Handelsblatt (Germany’s business daily) and Post
investigative report first disclosed the King and Conaway letters
complaining about CMA CGM failure to clamp down on illicit Iranian
shipments aboard its company-operated vessels.
In response to the Post/Handelsblatt articles, CMA CGM implemented an
Iran compliance desk to monitor goods from the Islamic Republic.
The new Treasury financial penalties note that “CCA did not voluntarily
self-disclose the matter to OFAC and that the alleged violations
constituted a non-egregious case,” adding, “CCA and CMA CGM have
undertaken remediation to ensure that such alleged violations do not
When asked about King’s call for CMA CGM to pull the plug on its Iran
business transactions and the company’s assessment of the financial
penalties, Heather M. Spring, CMA CGM’s vice president and general
counsel in the US-branch in Norfolk, wrote the Post on Thursday: “As you
may be aware, the settlement has nothing to do with the CMA GGM Group’s
lawful activities in Iran. Nor did the settlement relate to weapons
trade or the transportation of any other type of unlawful cargo.
“To the contrary, most of the shipments involved food and medicine, lawfully shipped between non-US destinations.”
She continued: “As a French company CMA CGM is permitted to do business
with Iran, Cuba and Sudan, subject to UN and EU sanctions.
We here at CMA CGM [America], however, can have no involvement, however
small, in our parent company’s trade with those nations. We take that
responsibility very seriously.”
Though Spring declined to comment specifically on King’s call for CMA
CGM to end its business with Iran, she wrote, “We have previously been
in touch with Mr. King’s office and have been completely forthright with
him about these issues and our enhanced compliance efforts.”
CMA CGM operates its US operation in Norfolk, Virginia. Spring did not
comment on whether the sanctions and the company’s continued trade with
Iran will adversely impact its American customer base.
The US says that Iran is developing a nuclear-weapons program and finances terror groups, including Al-Qaida and Hezbollah.
In a separate set of sanctions, the US Treasury Department fined the
French bank Société Générale $111,359 to settle alleged violations of
Iran sanctions. According to the Treasury settlement, the Société
Générale issued “letters of credit between two nonsanctioned parties,
processed two payments under those letters of credit involving the
shipment of cargo transported aboard vessels owned and/or managed by the
Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines of Tehran, Iran, an Iranian
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