US agrees prisoner release deal with Iran

On the same day that the IAEA confirmed Iran’s compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA, triggering substantial relief from EU and US sanctions, the US announced a separate prisoner release deal with Iran.  Under the deal, the US offered clemency to 7 convicted or accused sanctions violators in the US, in exchange for the release of 5 Americans who were being detained in Iran, among them Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian who had been held since 2014.  Of the 7 people offered clemency in the US, 6 are Iranian-Americans and one is Iranian.  The US also agreed to drop charges against 14 people living outside of the US who were subject to Interpol red notices for their extradition.

Among the alleged violations committed by the 7 people offered clemency in the deal were shipping microelectronics to Iran, conspiring to provide satellite-related services to Iran, exporting American manufactured industrial products and services to Iran, planning to send military electronic and marine navigation equipment to Iran, and participation in a cyberattack against US defence contractor Arrow Tech.  It has been reported that Iranian officials requested that more people be offered clemency, but the US insisted that no offers would be made to people facing charges for violent crimes or with connections to weapons of mass destruction.

Following the agreement, US officials suggested that a desire to avoid jeopardising the prisoner deal is what lay behind a decision to delay new ballistic missile sanctions on Iran that had originally been planned for December and were ultimately introduced this week (see previous blog).

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About Michael O'Kane

Michael O’Kane is a partner and Head of the Business Crime team at leading UK firm Peters & Peters. Described as ‘first-rate’ (Legal 500 2012), he “draws glowing praise from commentators” (Chambers 2013) for handling the international aspects of business crime, including sanctions, extradition and mutual legal assistance. Called to the Bar in 1992 and prior to joining Peters & Peters he was a senior specialist prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service Headquarters(CPS). At CPS HQ he was a key member of a small specialist unit responsible for the prosecution of serious and high profile fraud, terrorist and special interest criminal matters including the Stansted Airport Afghan hijacking and the prosecution of Paul Burrell (Princess Diana’s butler). Michael joined Peters & Peters in 2002. He became a partner in May 2004, and Head of the Business Crime team in May 2009. Since joining Peters & Peters, Michael has dealt with a wide range of business crime matters. He has particular expertise in international sanctions, criminal cartels, extradition, corruption, mutual legal assistance, and FSA investigations. Described as“ an influential practitioner in fraud and regulatory work, so much so that he is top of the referral lists of many City firms for independent advice for directors” (The Lawyer’s Hot 100 2009), he was recognised as one of the UK’s most innovative lawyers in the 2011 FT Innovative Lawyer Awards and included in the list of the UK's leading lawyers in 'The International Who's Who of Asset Recovery 2012. In 2012 he was the winner of the Global Competition Review Article of the Year. Michael regularly appears on television and radio to discuss his specialist areas and he is the author of the leading textbook on the UK Criminal Cartel Offence “The Law of Criminal Cartels-Practice and Procedure” (Oxford University Press 2009). Recent/Current Sanctions Work • Representing 109 individuals and 12 companies subject to designation by the European Council under targeted measures imposed against Zimbabwe. This is the largest and most complex collective challenge to a sanctions listing ever brought before the European Court. • Acting for a former Egyptian Minister and his UK resident wife, challenging their designation by the European Council of Ministers under targeted measures brought against former members of the Egyptian Government. • Advising a company accused in a UN investigation report to have breached UN sanctions imposed in relation to Somalia. • Advising a UK company in relation to ongoing commercial relationships with an Iranian company listed under both EU and UN sanctions. • Advising an individual in relation to a UK investigation for alleging breaching nuclear export controls.

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