BIS recently announced a consent agreement with Aramex Emirates under which Aramex agreed to cough up $125,000 in connection with its export of network equipment from the U.A.E. to Syria. Of course, for the few of us remaining that do not believe that the U.S. Government can exercise jurisdiction over everyone anywhere in the world whenever it wants, the interesting question is this: why did a company in the U.A.E. get tangled up over a shipment from the U.A.E. to Syria that was legal under U.A.E. law?

At issue were network devices and software classified as ECCN 5A002 and 5D002. In the Order, BIS then has this to say:

Under the widely-known U.S. trade embargo against Syria, no item subject to the Regulations may be exported or re-exported to Syria without a Department of Commerce license, with the exceptions of certain medicines and food, as set forth at all times pertinent hereto in General Order No. 2.

General Order No. 2 notes that the prohibitions of the embargo on Syria are described in section 746.9 of the EAR, which indeed prohibits all exports and re-exports except “food and medicine” by everyone in the universe. (Don’t get confused by section 742.9 which describes another set of restrictions on Syria which would permit exports of certain EAR99 items but which have been superseded by 746.9 and is just kept in the EAR to confuse ordinary people and to keep lawyers employed.)

So, even though the EAR says that foreign persons can’t re-export items from their own country to Syria, why would anyone pay any attention to this, particularly where the export was not illegal under the laws of their own country? An attempt by the U.S. to extradite someone for such an export might not be entertained by his local courts simply because the U.S. asserts that the item originally came from the United States.

BIS’s hammer here is more likely the export denial order. Even if it has no criminal jurisdiction and no ability to enforce or collect administrative fines in such cases, it does have the power to impose an export denial order which would forbid persons within its jurisdiction from exporting anything to Aramex. That might deliver a significant economic blow to a freight forwarder and logistics provider like Aramex. In that case a $125,000 fine might appear to be a good deal.