In its quest to keep the world safe from an Iranian nuclear bomb, the Office of Foreign Assets Control has focused its laser-like scrutiny on an Iranian tennis referee. Obviously, the same skills required to call a ball out or to halt a match for rain are critical to the process of uranium enrichment.
In this regard, OFAC has just fined ATP Tour, Inc. $48,600 as part of a settlement of charges that ATP had made “salary payments to an individual who is ordinarily resident in Iran … for services rendered and expenses incurred in connection with ATP tournaments the individual officiated.” The settlement documents do not reveal the individual involved but it almost certainly has to be Ali Nili, a well-known Gold Badge tennis umpire who has frequently officiated ATP and other international tennis matches.
One of the things that probably, and somewhat justifiably, hacked off OFAC is that apparently ATP made 8 payments to the Iranian referee after it had received a warning letter from OFAC about the payments. That was probably a bad idea, since even OFAC admits in the settlement papers that paying Iranian refs “represent[s] relatively low harm to the sanctions program.” You think? OFAC also indicates that the payments were probably licensable.
Another interesting area of speculation, not directly revealed in the settlement documents, is what is currently being done with Ali Nili who is still officiating ATP matches, like this one at the Shanghai Rolex Masters in 2012. I’m assuming that ATP has now in fact applied for, and received, an OFAC license.