Tricks and Cunning – German-Iranian Business Transactions take a Roundabout Way

2010/06/24

Published on German public service TV channel ARD (broadcast “KONTRASTE”) on 24 June 2010
Source, with video (German): http://www.rbb-online.de/kontraste/archiv/kontraste_vom_24_06/list_und_tuecke__.html

Only recently, the UN and the EU have again tightened the sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. The federal government also calls for “restraint” on business with Iran. But German companies want continue to expand the Iran business and use the United Arab Emirates as a discreet location for the transactions.

“As annoying as flies” – this is Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s description for the economic sanctions against his country over its nuclear program. “We will resist, ‘he says. There is a reason for his arrogance: despite the most severe sanctions, Iran seems to find ways and means to continue bringing high technology into the country. Via a loophole, German companies also continue to cheerfully do business with Iran.

René Althammer, Benedict Maria Mülder, Susanne Katharina Opalka.

Tehran, June 2009 – Citizens are protesting against the regime’s vote rigging and are brutally confronted and beaten. The pictures of a female protester that was shot dead go around the world. The Federal Chancellor is appalled by the human rights abuses.

Angela Merkel (CDU), Federal Chancellor, 25 June 2009
“I believe to speak on everyone’s behalf when I tell those who want to hold peaceful demonstrations in Iran: We are at your side.”

The dictatorship carries out missile tests to demonstrate their power. Iran relies on nuclear weapons. The Chancellor welcomes the recent UN sanctions.

Angela Merkel (CDU), Federal Chancellor, 11 June 2010
“The key goal of this resolution is to by means of diplomacy prevent Iran from further working on its nuclear program.”

For the native Iranian and MP Omid Nouripour (Green Party), this is merely a lip service, because despite all the protests, Iran still is a huge market for Germany.

Omid Nouripour (B‘90/Die Grünen), MP
“While the Federal Government is doing everything in their power to stop the Iranian nuclear program for the reason that it is a threat, lively trade with Iran is continuing to take place, providing the Iranian government with the required funds and technology it needs to stay in power.”

Dubai City, United Arabic Emirates. This country is currently Germany’s most important trading partner in the Persian Gulf region – and at the same time, it is Iran’s gateway to the world. While previously German exports used to go directly to Iran, since the politcal pressure on the mullah regime has increased, the more unobtrusive route via Dubai is being used more and more often today.

This was confirmed by the Vice-President of the Iranian Business Council in Dubai. He is satisfied that the business is booming despite all opposition.

Morteza Masoumzadeh, Iranian Business Council, Dubai
“Many German business people conduct their business with Iran through Dubai. Iran is a big country, it has many buyers, and they all want to do business.”

The German-Emirati Dubai Chamber of Commerce promotes the expansion of this business. The then Minister of economics, Guttenberg, even traveled to the Gulf for the grand opening in May 2009. A few months later, the Chamber invites to the high-class Monarch Hotel. The guests: 15 Iranian and German business representatives. The topic: German-Iranian trade relations via Dubai.

A protocol that was made available to KONTRASTE documents the course of the talks. Particularly noteworthy: one participant suggested, given the current situation a more “unorthodox way of thinking should be exerted, particularly when it comes to financial transactions…” and recommended “to make use of Iran’s presence here in Dubai” in order “to establish contacts.”

KONTRASTE contacted Peter Göpfrich, managing director of the Chamber of Commerce, to find out what exactly was the meaning of “unorthodox”. Göpfrich declined an interview. In writing, he told us: unfortunately, an “incomplete and misleadingly formulated protocol resulted in wrong conclusions… and does not on every point reflect the position of Chamber of Commerce.”

Omid Nouripur has doubts about this interpretation.

Omid Nouripour (B‘90/Die Grünen), MP
“The representatives of the Chamber are interested in doing business, because they know as well that politicians do not usually take very close looks. Thus, it is all the more important that the federal government watches the business via Dubai to Iran very carefully and no longer looks away.”

Looking away – this is exactly what the ministry of economics, which co-funds the Chamber with taxpayer’s money, is doing. The explanation about the allegedly “misleading protocol” is enough to satisfy the ministry.

More than 4,000 Iranian companies have their headquarters in Dubai. Many work directly for the mullahs’ regime. They use the sixth-largest port in the world on the outskirts of Dubai City – a huge loophole to evade the sanctions against Iran.

Omid Nouripour (B‘90/Die Grünen), MP
“Dubai is a wonderful transshipment point to avoid the sanctions of the UN as well as those of the EU.”

This view is backed by the Federal Criminal Police Office. In an assessment, it warned some time ago that the Emirates are being used as “circumvention territory” for armaments – meaning that smuggling is prospering.

The Iranians are trying to buy advanced technology for their missile and nuclear programs, because the sanctions prohibit delivery.

At the Customs Criminal Office in Cologne. Here, the nationwide investigation into illegal shipments to Iran is being coordinated. The investigators have an accurate picture of what the Iranians are particularly interested in.

Wolfgang Schmitz, Customs Criminal Office, Cologne
“When we look at the focus of Iran’s attempts to obtain [sanctioned goods], we see that they are particularly interested in uranium enrichment, meaning that they are after constructing an atomic bomb. The second part is linked to the field of missile technology – we repeatedly noticed that Iran tries to increase the range of their missile program by using technology from Western Europe.”

These confiscated tubes were destined for Iran as well. They are important components for the gas ultra centrifuge for uranium enrichment – just like this high-purity graphite.

Wolfgang Schmitz, Customs Criminal Office, Cologne
“In the preliminary proceedings of the past – also in proceedings that are being brought to court right now – we observed that suppliers, or agents, or intermediaries acting on behalf of Iran, frequently propose a seemingly uncritical corridor for goods transport via Dubai, where, with the help of front companies, it is quite simple to disguise the actual routes.”

The Iranian nuclear and armament programs as well as the oppression of the population would hardly be possible without the booming trade through Dubai.

Omid Nouripour (B‘90/Die Grünen), MP
“In terms of security policy, of human rights policy, and economic policy it is short-sighted to allow this business to go on like that.”

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