Anti-Terror Powerhouse Shurat Hadin Targets Inmarsat PLC's Aiding of Iran in Defiance of United States Treasury

Jul 25, 2012, 11:48 ET from Shurat HaDin—Israel Law Center

NEW YORK, July 25, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Shurat HaDin - Israel Law Center, the organization that built its reputation on hard-fought legal battles and victories against terror sponsors, today sent a letter to worldwide mobile satellite company Inmarsat PLC, warning it against providing prohibited guidance services to Iranian oil tankers and Iranian military vessels. The warning letter stressed that Inmarsat's actions would expose the telecommunications giant to criminal prosecution and civil liability from Americans and others who suffer as a result of Iran's international sponsorship of terrorism.

In 2008, the United States Supreme Court ruling made the determination that individuals or companies that materially support terrorist organizations are liable for the murder and injuries they cause, according to Boim v. Holy Land Foundation. Fueled by this variety of tenacious judicial support, the Center submitted a letter [see below] alerting Inmarsat's leadership that its actions are illegal and serve as a civil liability to American citizens and to all those across the globe who experience the brunt of Iran's sponsorship of terror. On July 12, 2012 the US Treasury announced further restrictions on US and non-US citizens prohibiting dealing with Iranian oil and ships. Despite this, Inmarsat, with offices in Miami and Washington D.C., continues to provide mobile satellite services to Iranian ships. 

Shurat HaDin founder, and human rights activist, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said, "We will not tolerate Inmarsat's – or any corporation's – profiting from the blood of innocent people. Anything short of immediate and decisive action on our part would be akin to acceptance. It is a simple issue of justice: Inmarsat must uphold its legal obligations in compliance with US Treasury regulations and immediately cease its support for Iran."

This action represents the latest example of the Law Center's harnessing of American and international law to knock down the financial and technological buttresses of terrorism.

In June 2011, Shurat HaDin brought legal action against Inmarsat for continuing to support ships seeking to breach Israel's naval blockade of Gaza. Shurat HaDin underlined that Inmarsat's services provided communications to the Mavi Marmara and other ships that participated in the Gaza flotilla of May 2010. The case was filed in a Federal Court in Miami.

The warning letter additionally noted that previous judgments allowed victims of terrorism to file suit against an oil and gas company, as well as against its officers, for engaging in business with a state sponsor of terrorism. Additionally, Darshan-Leitner stressed that by providing aid to Iran, Inmarsat subjects itself to forfeiture of its assets to judgment creditors who hold unenforced judgments against the Islamic regime.

Shurat HaDin also states its intention to pursue the company, its officers and directors for providing aid to terrorists. The stakes could not be higher. When taking on cases such as these, the Law Center exposes companies to forfeitures of assets and severe financial penalties.

The Letter And Facts Sheets About Shurat Hadin And Inmarsat Are Found Below

About Shurat HaDin

Shurat HaDin—Israel Law Center is an Israeli based civil rights organization and world leader in combating the terrorist organizations and the regimes that support them through lawsuits litigated in courtrooms around the world. Fighting for the rights of hundreds of terror victims, Shurat HaDin seeks to bankrupt the terror groups and grind their criminal activities to a halt - one lawsuit at a time. Established in 2003 and based in Tel-Aviv, Shurat HaDin works together with western intelligence agencies and volunteer lawyers around the world to file legal actions on behalf of victims of terror.

                                                                                                July 25, 2012

Andrew Sukawaty – Executive Chairman
Rupert Pearce, Esq. – Director and Chief Executive Officer
Rick Medlock – Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer
John Rennocks – Deputy Chairman
Alison Horrocks – Director, Senior Vice President and Secretary
Sir Bryan Carsberg – Director
Stephen Davidson – Director
Admiral James Ellis Jr (Rtd) – Director
Kathleen Flaherty – Director
Janice Obuchowski – Director

Inmarsat

Inmarsat

99 City Road

1101 Connecticut Avenue, NW

London EC1Y 1AX

Suite 1200

United Kingdom

Washington DC 20036

Via Fax: 44 (0)20 7728 1142

Via Fax: 202 248 5177

Re: Criminal and Civil Liability of Inrmarsat and its Officers and
Directors Relating to Vessels Owned by, Operated by, or
Dedicated to the Aid of The Islamic Republic of Iran

Dear Sir or Madam:

Shurat HaDin—Israel Law Center, an Israeli organization dedicated to enforcing basic human rights through the legal system, represents victims of terrorism in courtrooms around the world. Among our clients are current judgment creditors of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

It has come to our attention that Inmarsat* is providing satellite services to oil tankers and other vessels that are owned by, controlled by, or dedicated to the aid of Iran. On July 12, 2012 the United States Treasury further updated its lists of designated companies, individuals and property that American and non-American citizens are prohibited from engaging with. Many of the vessels listed by the Treasury are being provided satellite services by Inmarsat. (See http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg1634.aspx, http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20120712.aspx#vessels ). 

Please be advised that providing aid to Iran is illegal and will expose Inmarsat and its officers and directors to criminal prosecution and civil liability to American citizens and others who suffer as a result of Iran's international sponsorship of terrorism. (See Abecassis v. Wyatt, 785 F.Supp.2d 614 (S.D. Tex. 2011) (allowing a suit to go forward against an oil and gas company and its officers and directors for engaging in business with a terrorist state.)) Additionally, by providing aid to Iran, Inmarsat subjects itself to forfeiture of its assets to judgment creditors who hold unenforced judgments against Iran. (See 28 U.S.C. § 1610 note and 28 U.S.C. § 1610(g) (permitting judgment creditors to execute judgments against the property of terrorist states); 31 C.F.R. §§ 535.311, 535.312 (defining "property" to include any "property, real, personal, or mixed, tangible or intangible, or interest or interests therein, present, future or contingent" and defining "interest," as used in this sentence, to mean "an interest of any nature whatsoever, direct or indirect."))

Since January 19, 1984, Iran has been and continues to be designated by the United States, pursuant to Section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act, Section 40 of the Arms Export Control Act, and Section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act, as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. As a result of that designation, it is subject to numerous restrictions and sanctions under United States law and subjects those organizations that do business with it to numerous restrictions. According to the U.S. State Department, Iran is the world's "most active state sponsor of terrorism." Further, "Iran's financial, material, and logistic support for terrorist and militant groups throughout the Middle East and Central Asia had a direct impact on international efforts to promote peace, threatened economic stability in the Gulf, and undermined the growth of democracy…. Iran [remains] the principal supporter of groups implacably opposed to the Middle East Peace Process."

Moreover, the international economic sanctions regime imposed against Iran along with the regulations enacted by the United States Treasury and the European Union are intended to deter the Iranian government from advancing its nuclear weapons program in violation of international law. 

By materially supporting Iran's oil industry, Inmarsat facilitates Iran's terrorist activities and nuclear weapons program. To the extent that Inmarsat's satellite support is utilized by Iran's military agencies, Inmarsat is a direct participator in Iran's terrorist activities and nuclear weapons program.

Provision of communications services constitutes the provision of "material support or resources" pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2339A. Such provision therefore subjects Inmarsat to criminal liability pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 2339A, 2339B, 2339C and to civil liability pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2333 (see Boim v. Holy Land Foundation, 549 F.3d 685, 690-91 (7th Cir. 2008) (en banc)). The United States Supreme Court has ruled that material support liability exists without regard to the criminal or terror-inducing intent of the material supporter. Indeed, gifts to the purely charitable objectives of a terrorist state or organization are actionable because, in the words of
the Court,

Money is fungible, and when foreign terrorist organizations that have a dual structure raise funds, they highlight the civilian and humanitarian ends to which such moneys could be put. But there is reason to believe that foreign terrorist organizations do not maintain legitimate financial firewalls between those funds raised for civil, nonviolent activities, and those ultimately used to support violent, terrorist operations. Thus, funds raised ostensibly for charitable purposes have in the past been redirected by some terrorist groups to fund the purchase of arms and explosives.

Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project

, ___ U.S. ___, 130 S. Ct. 2705, 2720, 2729 (2010). (Internal citations and quotation marks omitted). The analysis in Holder is no less accurate (or binding) when applied to the business activities of a sophisticated sovereign entity that orchestrates terrorist operations globally. (A copy of Holder is attached to this letter for your review.)

Moreover, 31 C.F.R. § 535.201, et seq., prohibits all parties (including non-Americans) from transporting, selling, transferring, exporting, or dealing with any property (including oil) that Iran has any interest of any nature whatsoever. The regulations freeze all such property within the United States and expressly prohibit any action designed to evade the regulations. Violators are subject to a civil penalty not to exceed the greater of $250,000 or an amount that is twice the amount of the transaction that is the basis of the violation and a criminal penalty not to exceed $1,000,000, twenty years in prison, or both. 31 C.F.R. § 535.701. While Inmarsat might not operate the vessels that carry Iranian property, Inmarsat's services enable those vessels to operate and is thus the proximate cause, acting pursuant to contract, of the illegal actions of another.

That Iran pretends that its vessels are owned by another sovereign is not sufficient to avoid liability under the above sections. Nor is it sufficient if Iran has actually effected legal transfer of its vessels (or reflagging) if Iran retains effective control over the vessels or if the vessels are primarily or materially dedicated to the support of Iran.

In light of the above, we request that you immediately provide us written confirmation that Inmarsat has permanently discontinued the provision of all services, including satellite and communications services, to Iran, all of its vessels, all vessels effectively controlled by Iran, and all vessels primarily or materially dedicated to servicing, aiding, or trading on behalf of Iran.

Absent such immediate confirmation, we will seek all available relief and remedies against Inmarsat in all relevant jurisdictions.

Very truly yours,

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, Esq., Director
Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center

* All references in this letter to "Inmarsat" include Inmarsat PLC and Inmarsat Inc., as well as all subsidiaries thereof and all entities affiliate therewith. Where appropriate, it also includes Inmarsat's officers and directors.

Shurat HaDin—Israel Law Center is an Israeli based civil rights organization and world leader in combating terrorist organizations and the regimes that support them through lawsuits litigated in courtrooms around the world. Fighting for the rights of hundreds of terror victims, Shurat HaDin seeks to bankrupt the terror groups and grind their criminal activities to a halt - one lawsuit at a time.

Beginning in the 1990s, Western countries, especially the United States, passed laws making it possible for victims of terror to sue the regimes that sponsor terror, banks that transfer funds to terror groups, front organizations that portray themselves as serving charitable causes, and even the terrorists themselves.

Established in 2003 and based in Tel-Aviv, Shurat HaDin works together with western intelligence agencies and volunteer lawyers around the world to file legal actions on behalf of victims of terror.

Following the model pioneered by the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center—a non-profit legal center that over the last four decades has successfully confronted and shut down racist groups across America—Shurat HaDin seeks to bring terrorism to a halt through legal action.

Shurat HaDin represents hundreds of victims in cases against Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, the Palestinian Authority, Iran, Syria, North Korea, and numerous financial institutions such as UBS AG, the Lebanese-Canadian Bank, American Express Bank, and the Bank of China. The main goals:

  • Stop the flow of terror money through massive civil suits and other legal action;
  • Defend the victims of terror and their families, by representing them in court, seeking disbursement of funds and implementation of rulings;
  • Educate the broader public about terrorism and terror funding through missions, public lectures, publications, targeted mailings, and our website.

Beyond litigation, Shurat HaDin seeks also to educate financial institutions around the world about how terror funding works — and how they expose themselves if they choose to turn a blind eye. Above all, Shurat HaDin looks to educate, and fight for the rights of, the victims of terror, who rarely know they have legal recourse against the world's most vicious criminals. We are empowering the victims, and teaching them to fight back. The results of Shurat HaDin's efforts are phenomenal, including:

  • Over $1 Billion in judgments against terror organizations and state sponsors.
  • Over $600 million in terror assets frozen — money which would otherwise have made its way to Hamas, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, Fatah, and other terror groups; compared with the roughly $140 million frozen as a result of U.S. government action in the same period, and it will become clear how effective private civil suits can be.
  • Over $120 million in recoveries, money that went directly to the victims and their families— many of whom have lost, along with their dearest loved ones, the basis of their livelihood.

The most important effect of Shurat HaDin's efforts has put a massive roadblock in the path of terror funding. A decade ago, terror money flowed freely throughout Western financial institutions and into the hands of terrorists, today the fear of court-ordered seizures resulting from civil suits changed the equation. Some examples:

  • Hamas and other terror groups not to use the banking system in any way instead smuggling their money into Gaza through underground tunnels and suitcases;
  • Iran pulled its assets out of Europe, shifting its business to Asia; obstructing its use of hard currency; and a great any banks to refuse to do business with terror-funding organizations, thoroughly investigate before opening new accounts with suspicious groups, and closing down accounts which are suspected to be identified with terror organizations.
  • Lawsuits have sent a shockwave throughout the international banking system, with many of the formerly reluctant financial institutions now fearful of massive civil liability and seeking the guidance of Western intelligence services concerning the identities of their customers.
  • According to one high ranking Mossad official, Shurat Hadin's legal activities have reduced actual terror activity in the Gaza Strip by as much as 60 percent.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner
Founder, Shurat HaDin Israeli Law Center

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner is an Israeli attorney, human rights activist and the founder of Shurat HaDin Israeli Law Center. She built her reputation through legal activism, especially lawsuits and legal actions brought on behalf of terrorvictims against terrorist groups, their leaders and financial patrons. In addition, her law office has brought civil actions against numerous banks and financial institutions she accuses of aiding and abetting Islamic and Arab groups engaged in terror attacks.

In 2003, Darshan-Leitner founded Shurat HaDin - Israel Law Center in Tel Aviv. Shurat HaDin is an Israeli based civil rights center that focuses on bringing lawsuits and legal actions on behalf of the victims of terrorism. She credits the Southern Poverty Law Center, which had bankrupted several branches of the KKK and other neo-Nazigroups through civil litigation, as an important influence in her work. In founding Shurat HaDin, she noted her goal was to "go after terrorists in the same way that they (the SPLC) were going after racists."

Darshan-Leitner succeeded in receiving more than $1 billion in judgments, freezing over $600 million in terror assets and securing over $120 million in actual disbursements to the victims and their families. She represents hundreds of terror victims in cases brought against the Islamic Republic of Iran, North Korea, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and the PLO, among others. She successfully represented Puerto Rican family victims of the 1972 Lod terrorist attack in a lawsuit against North Korea. In 2010, a US federal court on the island ruled in their favor, ordering the North Korean government to compensate the victims for the sum of $378 million.

In April 2012, Darshan-Leitner was awarded the Moskowitz Family Foundation "Oz Tzion" Prize.

Darshan-Leitner was born in Petah Tikva, Israel. After completing her national service as an ambulance dispatcher she received a law degree from Bar Ilan University Faculty of Law in 1996. She subsequently received an MBA from Manchester University in the United Kingdom.

Inmarsat Background Information

On Inmarsat Facilitating Services to Iranain owned vessels:

  • Inmarsat is unlawfully providing satellite services to oil tankers and other vessels that are owned by, controlled by, or dedicated to the aid of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
  • The United States Treasury has designated and blocked numerous sea vessels it has identified as belonging to the proscribed Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL). On July 12, 2012 the Treasury updated its list of ships once again as many of the Iranian owned vessels have changed their names and been re-flagged to avoid detection.
  • Since the provision of services to proscribed Iranian owned sea vessels is illegal, Inmarsat's continued servicing of these Iranian vessels thwarts the internationally mandated economic sanctions levied against Tehran and the  U.S. Treasury's regulations prohibiting servicing these vessels.
  • By providing crucial satellite services and materially supporting Iran's oil industry, Inmarsat facilitates Tehran's abilities to advance its illegal nuclear weapons program and escalate its sponsorship of  Islamic terrorism.
  • According to the United States Supreme Court, the provision of communications services constitutes the provision of "material support or resources" pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2339A. Such provision therefore subjects Inmarsat to criminal liability pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 2339A, 2339B, 2339C and to civil liability pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2333 (see Boim v. Holy Land Foundation, 549 F.3d 685, 690-91 (7th Cir. 2008) (en banc)).
  • While Inmarsat might not operate the vessels that carry Iranian property, Inmarsat's crucial satellite services enable those vessels to operate and in turn aid and abet Iran's illegal efforts to evade the imposed economic sanctions and fund its nuclear and terrorism programs.

    Last summer, Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center brought suit against Inmarsat in Miami to terminate its provision of satellite services to boats being illegally utilized for the Gaza Flotilla including the infamous Mavi Marmara

History of Company:

  • Founded in 1979 by the International Maritime Organization to enable communication among ships and for assistance in emergencies.
  • Launched the world's first global mobile satellite communications system in 1982.
  • In 1999, transitioned from intergovernmental organization into a privately held company.
  • Through the acquisition of Stratos Global and Segovia, a provider of secure IP-based managed solutions to the US Government, and leading VSAT provider Ship Equip.
  • Inmarsat currently has offices in more than 40 locations across every continent including Miami, Florida and Washington, DC.

About Inmarsat:

  • Inmarsat has been at the forefront of mobile satellite services for more than 32 years and is a leading provider of global voice, data and IP communications solutions. 
  • Inmarsat owns and operates a fleet of 11 satellites providing mobile voice and data communications around the world, enabling users to make phone calls or connect to the internet on land, at sea or in the air.
  • Inmarsat sells services and solutions directly, or through their worldwide network of independent distribution partners and service providers.
  • Inmarsat offers a wide portfolio of global communications solutions and value-added services available on the market; providing voice and high-speed data services to almost anywhere on the planet - on land, at sea and in the air.
  • Enable people and organizations to make calls or connect to the internet - whenever and wherever they need – using handheld satellite phones or small notebook-size broadband devices.
  • Offer a range of communication and safety services, including voice and broadband IP data for vessel operations, crew and passenger connectivity, and access to the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS).
  • Provides use of satellite operation in the aviation sector, enabling a diverse range of applications for the cockpit and cabin, from safety communications, weather and flight updates to email, internet and phone services.

SOURCE Shurat HaDin—Israel Law Center