KGL – A Test Case on Sanctions?
Sounding the Alarm
The American whistleblowers declined to comment on or directly confirm their contacts with the FBI, but POGO has been told by a variety of sources that both have given evidence to Bureau agents.
Mrs. Abdul Wahab is the former head of Human Resources at KGL Investment Company, a KGL subsidiary. The mother of three small children and an Egyptian national long resident in Kuwait, she says she was fired by KGL in 2010 in part because of her objections to the company’s dealings with Iran. According to emails that she supplied, she was twice jailed last year in Kuwait (before the death threats began) after KGL complained to local authorities, who have charged her and three other defendants with facilitating the removal of confidential, internal KGL documents at a time when she was allegedly using the offices and staff of a major KGL competitor to process the material. She has denied culpability.
Many of those KGL internal documents later reached Members of Congress, and some were interpreted by Sen. Kirk and other lawmakers as possible evidence of KGL’s ties to Iran. KGL has said key elements in the material are “fabricated.”
Kuwait’s Al-Jarida newspaper has reported that a woman—who turns out to be Mrs. Abdul Wahab—has brought a legal case in the sheikhdom charging a member of the Kuwait parliament, who it says is an investor in KGL, with money laundering in support of the Iranian nuclear program. The newspaper did not identify the member of parliament by name.
A Smear Campaign?
When the U.S. imposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) in 2008—accusing it of transporting nuclear and missile components—KGL quickly sought to comply, severing its business ties with the company and related entities, KGL has said in court filings and other public statements.
But that hasn’t stopped accusations that it’s still in business with Tehran. KGL has spent $350,000 on a high-powered Washington lobbying campaign designed to, congressional staffers say, combat these allegations. And last year, it launched a lawsuit in the District of Columbia. The lawsuit blames reports of its ties to Iran on a shadowy smear campaign engineered in part by one of its principal competitors, in cahoots with a diverse group that includes Mrs. Abdul Wahab, the former KGL employee in Kuwait, as well as Pam Baragona, the sister of a U.S. Army officer killed in Iraq in 2003 when his vehicle crashed with a truck driven by a KGL employee.
In a March 21, 2012, amendment to the lawsuit, KGL also charged that emails sent under a phony pseudonym to U.S. agencies highlighting its supposed Iran connections actually originated from an internet provider belonging to KGL’s competitor.
KGL has served the U.S. military for nearly two decades and, according to the firm’s website, received a variety of commendations from the U.S. military for a job well done. The company prides itself on having the U.S. military as one of its biggest customers, and claims to be “the premier provider of integrated Supply Chain Management services in the Middle East,” fulfilling the “Transportation, Logistics, Port Management, Shipping and Freight Forwarding needs of countless regional and international clients.”
Last June, a 317-count indictment obtained by the Manhattan District Attorney cited an Iranian businessman, Moghaddami Fard, whose name figures in dozens of purported emails between him and top KGL executives that were given to Members of Congress. The man allegedly sat on the five-member board of a company, RAK Shipping, of which KGL and IRISL (the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines) had part ownership. IRISL and many of its affiliates appear on an official list of entities banned from doing business with the U.S. As detailed by Sen. Menendez, KGL’s claims to have divested its share in RAK shipping are bogus. “This is not a divestiture, it is a transfer of ownership to another company shared by KGL and the Iranian government,” the Senator’s letter says.
“We must come down hard on this company so others realize they will pay a price for doing business with Iran,” Sen. McCaskill said after the indictment was made public. “Our sanctions must have sharp teeth.”
The chairman of KGL Holding Company, Dr. Ali Dashti, also spoke out. He was quoted by ABC News claiming that, “KGL has been the victim of a campaign to spread false and altered documents attempting to show an improper relationship between KGL and sanctioned parties.” He denied that Fard, the Iranian businessman, ever represented KGL. The case is still pending in New York.