• December 26, 2010

The United Kingdom government has rejected assertions made by the Celtic League that Iranian shipping owned via Isle of Man registered companies may have breached sanctions.

The League wrote to UK Lord Chancellor Kenneth Clarke in September (see linkbelow):


The UK say that it is accepted that a number of ships belonging to the Islamic Republic of Iran are owned by Isle of Man companies however they go on to say that their investigations have found no evidence of sanctions being breached.

Interestingly, however the Ministry of Justice have not commented on our request that they should publicise the result of the inquiries that they made.

Given that we have every confidence in the veracity of the source on which our original enquiry was based the assurances from both the Isle of Man and UK governments about the activities of Manx-Iranian linked shipping have a somewhat hollow ring.

The reply from the Ministry of Justice is set out below:

“17th December 2010

Dear Mr Moffatt

Subject: Alleged shipments of arms on behalf of Iran

Thank you for your letter of 18 September 2010 to the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, the Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke QC MP, in which you expressed concern about allegations that Iranian ships registered in the Isle of Man had been involved in the shipment of arms in violation of UN sanctions. I have been asked to reply, as a member of the team within the Ministry of Justice
responsible for overseeing the constitutional relationship between the United Kingdom and the Crown Dependencies. I regret the delay in responding.

You refer in your letter to an undertaking to make inquiries into this issue, given in Parliament in July by the Secretary of State. I assume that this is a reference to Mr Clarke’s reply to Thomas Docherty MP during Topical Questions on 20 July, when he said that the Department would contact the Isle of Man to ensure that everything that could properly be done was being done to ensure that
no breach of international sanctions that could be prevented was being allowed to go ahead. If so, I can advise you that we did indeed contact the Isle of Man Government and were assured that the Island’s sanctions regime was the same as
that of the UK and that there had been no breach of current restrictions. The Isle of Man authorities said that they would continue to pay close attention to relevant activities within the Island to ensure compliance with existing sanctions and any further measures that might be taken internationally. Mr Docherty was informed of this at the time.

On receiving your letter of 18 September I sought the comments of the Isle of Man Government on the matters you raise. Officials in the Island confirm that their Government is aware of the existence of a number of ships belonging to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line (IRISL) which are owned by Isle of Man companies. The Island Government is also aware of the involvement of Manx companies with IRISL ships that are owned elsewhere. It takes its commitments under UN and EU sanctions seriously and, in particular, it takes action to ensure that EU sanctions such as those imposed in respect of Iran are given effect in the Island, where such measures do not apply directly. The EU sanctions against Iran which were imposed by Council Decision 2010/413/CFSP with effect from 27 July 2010 have been applied in the Island and work is in progress to apply Council Resolution (EU) 916/2010. Under the current sanctions regime, funds belonging to, or intended for, IRISL or other individuals or entities subject to the sanctions are to be frozen. The authorities in the Island assure us that they co-operate fully with the relevant authorities in the UK and other countries in respect of sanctions measures.

So far as the most recent correspondence is concerned, I am advised by the Isle of Man authorities that evidence to date is that no person or company in the Island has acted in breach of any UN or EU sanctions, or any export or trade controls, in respect of IRISL or Iran in general. In particular, as regards the extract from your letter of 18 September to the Chief Minister of the Isle of
Man concerning the vessel “Francop”, the Isle of Man Government is not aware of any evidence that a vessel with Manx connections was involved in transhipping military equipment that was subsequently seized from that vessel by Israel in November 2009. Furthermore, enquiries undertaken locally following the incident revealed no evidence that any person in the Island was involved in the operational control of any IRISL vessels (sourcing cargo, routes, negotiating shipping contracts and charters and so on). Any such involvement in the “Francop” case could have constituted a serious trade control offence under Manx domestic law, regardless of any UN sanctions.

I would emphasise that the UK is committed to enforcing and implementing tough sanctions against Iran. The matters you have raised are, however, ones for the Isle of Man to investigate. I understand that the Chief Minister has informed you by letter that if you have evidence to support your allegations that a Manx flagged vessel transhipped a consignment of arms destined for Hezbollah to another vessel, the “Francop”, then you should forward that evidence to him so that the appropriate investigations can be put in hand.

Yours sincerely,

Janet Tweedale
Crown Dependencies Branch”

Related links on Celtic News


J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League


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