I didn''t sell aircraft parts to Iran, says Dutch businessman

21 Sep 2007


Robert Kraaipoel, a Dutch businessman accused by the US government of illegally exporting US-made aircraft parts to Iran, said on Wednesday 19 September that he has scrupulously followed regulations in the Netherlands, and has received no word whatsoever that he is charged with a crime.

The US Department of Justice said on Tuesday that a warrant was issued for Kraaipoel''s arrest, but it did not say where. It has accused Robert Kraaipoel and his Netherlands-based company, Aviation Services International BV, of violating the US trade embargo against Iran. The charges include making false statements on export control documents.

All exports to Iran of US-origin commodities are prohibited without authorisation in the form of an export license from the US Treasury Department. It is also unlawful to ship products with US origins to a third country and then to re-export them to Iran without the necessary authorisation.

Prosecutors say that Aviation Services and Kraaipoel made false statements in November 2005 and January 2006, when they certified that US-origin aviation communications equipment was being sent to the Poland Border Control Agency. The equipment was actually sent to Iran, authorities said.

Last year, Aviation Services obtained more than 290 items, including parachutes, aircraft parts, aircraft paint and industrial chemicals from the United States and sent them to Iran, the complaint says.

Kraaipoel said it was true that his company sourced parts from the United States, among others, and that it sells to Iran, among others. But he denied falsifying documents, though he said he could not immediately address the other allegations against him.

A representative for the Netherlands national financial prosecutor''s office said Kraaipoel was not under investigation in the Netherlands, and that the US government has not asked for his extradition.

Kraaipoel says he has specifically sought and received approval from the Dutch Economic Affairs Ministry for all shipments his company has made to Iran since October 2006, when the European Union began seriously discussing economic sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear programme.

An economic affairs ministry representative said Kraaipoel was warned in December 2005 about differences between European law and US law, regarding exports to Iran. "He was aware that US restrictions go further than European laws," the representative said, "effectively, that the US had a complete ban."

Ministry sources confirmed that Aviation Services had applied for export permits to Iran, some of which were granted, while others were denied. US authorities allege Kraaipoel bought the items from companies in Connecticut, Arizona, Florida, Kansas and New Hampshire.

The complaint says Kraaipoel used entities in the Netherlands, Cyprus and Dubai that Kraaipoel owned or controlled, to pose as end users for US goods that were being re-exported to Iran. Dutch customs officials told US officials that many of the American goods were sent to Iranian government agencies, procurement agencies or companies doing business in Iran. Two other companies also charged with violating the embargo are owned by Kraaipoel''s son.

In the US, the maximum penalty for individuals violating the trade embargo on Iran is 20 years'' imprisonment, a $250,000 fine or both. Corporations face a maximum $500,000 fine. Some Dutch businessmen have been prosecuted for violating international embargoes in recent years.

Henk Slebos was sentenced to a one-year jail term in 2005 for selling dual-use nuclear technology to Pakistan. In 2006, Guus Kouwenhoven was sentenced to eight years in prison for breaking a UN weapons embargo by selling arms to Charles Taylor''s regime in Liberia. In May, Frans van Anraat was sentenced to 17 years in prison after being convicted of war crimes for selling chemicals to Saddam Hussein''s regime in the 1980s that were used to make mustard gas.

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