July 30, 2021

Singapore-based shipping company challenges Iran-related designations

Strait Shipbrokers Pte. Ltd., a Singapore-based tanker chartering and shipping company, and its managing director Murtuza Mustafa Munir Basrai, have filed a complaint in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, challenging the Iran-related sanctions imposed upon them in October 2020 by the US Department of the State and the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. 

The July 19, 2021 complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief to remove the designations that have resulted in the freezing of the company’s bank account, cancellation of the company’s group insurance policy, damage to itsreputation around the world, and has allegedly damaged the company’s ability to do business in the US and elsewhere.  The plaintiffs claim that the decision to impose sanctions was based on inaccurate information and, therefore, an arbitrary and capricious violation of the Administrative Procedure Act; they also claim that they were denied their Fifth Amendment right to due process.  

According to the complaint, Strait was unable to obtain copies of the administrative record from OFAC, after filing a petition for delisting with OFAC in December 2020, and seeking a general license to continue operating; the State Department confirmed only that the plaintiffs’ designations were pursuant to section 3(a)(ii) of Executive Order 13846, and explained that sanctions were imposed due to plaintiffs’ roles in brokering two ships that were used to transport Iranian petroleum products.  However, the plaintiffs contend that they have never done business with the two vessels.  Plaintiffs also maintain that they have never knowingly engaged in any transaction involving Iranian origin petroleum products and that neither agency has produced any evidence to the contrary.