FDIC Head Admits “mistake” in ‘Operation Choke Point.’
Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Martin Gruenberg told members of a U.S. House panel that much of the FDIC’s involvement in “Operation Choke Point” was a “mistake,” including the decision to create a now-withdrawn list of “high risk” industries that included firearms businesses. At the hearing was Mike Schuetz, owner of Wisconsin-based Hawkins Guns, who was told by his credit union that he couldn’t bank with them because of federal regulators’ guidance. In the Senate, meanwhile, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) introduced an amendment to the budget resolution to end Operation Choke Point that was passed by the full Senate.
Russia Opens Way to Missile Deliveries to Iran, Starts Oil-for-Goods Swap
Russia paved the way on Monday for missile system deliveries to Iran and started an oil-for-goods swap, signaling that Moscow may have a head-start in the race to benefit from an eventual lifting of sanctions on Tehran.
The moves come after world powers, including Russia, reached an interim deal with Iran on curbing its nuclear program.
The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin signed a decree ending a self-imposed ban on delivering the S-300 anti-missile rocket system to Iran, removing a major irritant between the two after Moscow canceled a corresponding contract in 2010 under pressure from the West.
A senior government official said separately that Russia has started supplying grain, equipment and construction materials to Iran in exchange for crude oil under a barter deal. The deal could be worth up to $20 billion, and would involve Russia buying up to 500,000 barrels of Iranian oil a day.
Office of Foreign Asset Controls Takes Action
The Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) quietly removed a number of Cuba-related listings from its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list. The action included dissolved companies, dead people and Cuban ships that had either sunk or were out of commission. For example, Amado Padron Trujillo, designated in 1986,was executed in 1989. By Cuba. For treason. Talk about a guy who couldn’t get a break.
Also delisted was the late Alfred Stern, who was once accused of spying for the Soviet Union. He fled the United States, lived in Cuba from 1963 to 1970 and died in Prague in 1986. Another dead man taken off the SDN List was Carlos Duque, a business partner of Manuel Noriega, who stopped threatening the United States when he died last October.
Even though OFAC delisted dead people and sunken ships from the SDN List, it still could not bring itself to delist the probably fictional Daniel Garcia, who allegedly threatens the United States by running a non-existent talent agency, Promociones Artisticas (PROARTE), in Mexico City. The problem with designating a non-existent Daniel Garcia is that there are plenty of real people named Daniel Garcia who, as a result, cannot open bank accounts, get loans, buy automobiles, or get on an airplane without getting searched.
How Not to Export Arms From the United States
Former NYPD officer Rex Maralit and former U.S. customs agent Wilfredo Maralit plead guilty to violations of the Arms Export Control Act in connection with a little business they ran with brother Ariel Maralit in the Philippines. Allegedly, Ariel would take orders from customers in the Philippines for AR-15 rifles and other semi-automatic firearms, and send those orders to brothers Rex and Wilfredo in the United States. The brothers would use their law enforcement discounts to buy the weapons cheaply and then pack them up and ship them to Ariel for a tidy profit. Rex is quoted as saying he just thought he was “avoiding red tape.” Wilfredo’s lawyer said he was just in it for the money.
Rex and Wilfredo were told they would receive a lighter sentence if they could convince their brother Ariel to come to the United States and face charges, but the brothers were unsuccessful.
Cuba Sanctions to be Lifted?
On April 15, 2015, President Obama dropped Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, a largely symbolic action. As a result of the action, 45-day notice has been initiated under the three acts that provide the basis for the terror list: § 6(j)(4)(A)(i)-(iii) of the Export Administration Act of 1979; § 40(f)(1)(A)(i)-(iii) of the Arms Export Control Act; and § 620A(c)(1)(A)-(C) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. The Arms Export Control Act provides for a blocking mechanism through a joint resolution by Congress, but it seems unlikely the Obama administration will remove Cuba from the current arms embargo. So a joint resolution y Congress under the AECA would be largely symbolic – not unlike President Obama’s action dropping Cuba from the terror list. In other words – nothing will happen to the status quo.