Ericsson used Botswana’s name in sanction busting shady deal

22 Jul 2018

Ericsson fraudulently used Botswana’s name in their attempt to violate American suctions against Sundan. This emerged recently when the U.S. Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that Ericsson, a Swedish telecommunications company, agreed to pay approximately $145,000 for violating U.S. sanctions on Sudan.  Among other things, this is one of the few OFAC enforcement actions explicitly premised on a non-U.S. actor causing a U.S. company to violate U.S. sanctions.

According to OFAC, the violations involved Ericsson, AB (EAB), which is based in Sweden, causing a U.S. seller of a satellite hub to export that hub from the United States to Sudan.  Interestingly, in connection with EAB’s purchase of the satellite hub, an EAB employee communicated about the matter with Ericsson’s compliance department.  In those communications, the EAB employee was informed that the purchase of the satellite would violate Ericsson’s sanctions compliance policy.

Yet the EAB employee proceeded with the acquisition, with support from an Ericsson employee in the United States.  OFAC asserted that the two Ericsson employees agreed to identify “Botswana” as the destination of the satellite hub.  The EAB employee then structured the acquisition so that the satellite hub was shipped through several other countries, including with help from a third party in Lebanon, before eventually arriving in Sudan.

It appears that, when the Ericsson U.S. employee was first contacted by his counterparts at EAB, he informed them that he could not be involved in any Sudan business.  But subsequently, he did assist his EAB counterparts by providing technical guidance related to the Sudan project.  (The U.S. employee sent one e-mail related to Sudan in which “East Africa” was listed as the subject of the e-mail.)  The U.S. employee also met in person with an EAB employee to discuss the project.

There is no indication that the U.S. employee had any role in purchasing or shipping the satellite hub to Sudan.  Nonetheless, by providing guidance and advice about the Sudan project, the U.S. employee facilitated that project and thereby violated U.S. sanctions on Sudan.  Like other U.S. sanctions programs, under U.S. sanctions on Sudan, U.S. persons were prohibited from indirectly supporting (or facilitating) a project in Sudan that the U.S. person could not engage in directly.