Company Must Pay $232.7 Million Penalty

The U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia entered a formal judgment yesterday memorializing the sentence requiring Schlumberger Oilfield Holdings Ltd. (SOHL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Schlumberger Ltd, to pay a $232,708,356 penalty to the United States for conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) by willfully facilitating illegal transactions and engaging in trade with Iran and Sudan.

The judgment was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, Acting U.S. Attorney Vincent H. Cohen Jr. of the District of Columbia and Under Secretary Eric L. Hirschhorn of the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS).

At a hearing on April 30, 2015, the District Judge John D. Bates of the District of Columbia accepted the company’s guilty plea and sentenced the company to the proposed sentence articulated in the plea agreement, which called for the fine and other terms of corporate probation.  The court recognized the seriousness of SOHL’s criminal conduct, which posed a threat to our national security.  In addition, the court noted that the scope of criminal conduct justified the large monetary penalty imposed.  Finally, the court concluded that the terms of probation provided adequate deterrence to SOHL as well as other companies.  Yesterday, the court entered the written judgment confirming the sentence imposed on April 30, 2015.

“The court’s judgment represents a milestone in the enforcement of U.S. sanctions laws,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin.  “This case marks the first conviction of a corporate entity for facilitating violations of the International Economic Emergency Powers Act and the highest criminal fine ever imposed in a sanctions prosecution.  The Court’s imposition of this serious sentence should serve as a strong deterrent for multinational corporations doing any business in countries subject to U.S. economic sanctions.”

“This guilty plea and sentence hold this company accountable for violating trade laws by doing business with sanctioned countries and undermining the interests of the United States,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Cohen. “We hope that other companies tempted to break our export laws take note of the $232.7 million penalty that will be paid in this case.”

The criminal information and plea agreement were filed on March 25, 2015, in federal court in the District of Columbia, charging SOHL with one count of knowingly and willfully conspiring to violate IEEPA.  The plea agreement that the court approved also requires SOHL to submit to a three-year period of corporate probation and agree to continue to cooperate with the government and not commit any additional felony violations of U.S. federal law.  SOHL’s monetary penalty includes a $77,569,452 criminal forfeiture and an additional $155,138,904 criminal fine.  The criminal fine represents the largest criminal fine in connection with an IEEPA prosecution.  In addition to SOHL’s commitments, under the plea agreement SOHL’s parent company, Schlumberger Ltd., has also agreed to the following terms during the three-year term of probation, among others: maintaining its cessation of all operations in Iran and Sudan, reporting on the parent company’s compliance with sanctions, responding to requests to disclose information and materials related to the parent company’s compliance with U.S. sanctions laws when requested by U.S. authorities, and hiring an independent consultant to review the parent company’s internal sanctions policies and procedures and the parent company’s internal audits focused on sanctions compliance.

The court agreed that in addition to SOHL continuing its cooperation with U.S. authorities throughout the three-year period of probation and agreeing not to engage in any felony violation of U.S. federal law, SOHL’s parent company, Schlumberger Ltd., will also hire an independent consultant who will review the parent company’s internal sanctions policies, procedures and company-generated sanctions audit reports.

According to court documents, starting on or about early 2004 and continuing through June 2010, Drilling & Measurements (D&M), a United States-based Schlumberger business segment, provided oilfield services to Schlumberger customers in Iran and Sudan through non-U.S. subsidiaries of SOHL.  Although SOHL, as a subsidiary of Schlumberger Ltd., had policies and procedures designed to ensure that D&M did not violate U.S. sanctions, SOHL failed to train its employees adequately to ensure that all U.S. persons, including non-U.S. citizens who resided in the United States while employed at D&M, complied with Schlumberger Ltd.’s sanctions policies and compliance procedures.  As a result of D&M’s lack of adherence to U.S. sanctions combined with SOHL’s failure to train properly U.S. persons and to enforce fully its policies and procedures, D&M, through the acts of employees residing in the United States, violated U.S. sanctions against Iran and Sudan by: (1) approving and disguising the company’s capital expenditure requests from Iran and Sudan for the manufacture of new oilfield drilling tools and for the spending of money for certain company purchases; (2) making and implementing business decisions specifically concerning Iran and Sudan; and (3) providing certain technical services and expertise in order to troubleshoot mechanical failures and to sustain expensive drilling tools and related equipment in Iran and Sudan.

The investigation that commenced in 2009 was led by the Justice Department’s National Security Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia and the U.S. Department of Commerce BIS’ Dallas Field Office.  Assistant Attorney General Carlin is grateful to Special Agent Troy Shaffer from BIS’ Dallas Field Office for his excellent work.  Assistant Attorney General Carlin also acknowledged the work of those who handled the case from the National Security Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including former Trial Attorney Ryan Fayhee and former Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Borchert and Ann H. Petalas.

The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Casey Arrowood of the National Security Division, Assistant U.S. Attorney Maia L. Miller of the National Security Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Zia Faruqui of the District of Columbia.

“Karl Lee” Charged for Evading US Sanctions

Sanctions Previously Had Been Imposed Because of “Karl Lee’s” Role in Iranian Weapons Proliferation Activities; an Additional Round of Sanctions Are Also Announced Today
Li Fangwei, who is more commonly known by his alias “Karl Lee,” is charged with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) by using United States-based financial institutions to engage in millions of dollars of U.S. dollar transactions in violation of economic sanctions that prohibited such financial transactions. In addition, Li Fangwei is also charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, a money laundering conspiracy, two separate violations of IEEPA and two separate substantive counts of wire fraud, in connection with such illicit transactions.   Li Fangwei, a national of the People’s Republic of China, is a fugitive.

The announcement was made today by Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, George C. Venizelos, Assistant Director in Charge for the FBI’s New York Field Office.

“ These charges are an important part of the ‘ all tools’ approach our government is takingagainst Li Fangwei to shut down and deny him the profit from his proliferation activities,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin.  “This case is an outstanding example of multiple agencies working together to focus various enforcement efforts on the significant threat to our national security posed by such proliferation networks.”

“As alleged, Li Fangwei has used subterfuge and deceit to continue to evade U.S. sanctions that had been imposed because of his illicit trade in prohibited materials with Iran,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara.   “Previously having been exposed as a violator of those sanctions, Li spun a web of front companies to carry out prohibited transactions essentially in disguise.   He now stands charged with serious crimes, and millions of his dollars have been seized.   It is the hope of this Office not only that Li’s banned commerce cease once and for all, but that he be apprehended and brought before the bar of American justice.”

“Whether motivated by greed or otherwise, Li Fangwei allegedly ignored sanctions imposed by the United States Government and hid behind front companies he developed to engage in a series of illegal transactions, including attempts to acquire ‘dual use’ items on behalf of Iran-based entities,” said Director in Charge Venizelos.  “IEEPA makes it a crime to willfully violate U.S. sanctions on designated countries such as Iran.  Individuals and companies who evade U.S. sanctions and misuse our banking system to further their illegal activity not only undermine the integrity of our financial markets but also threaten U.S. National Security interests.  The FBI is committed to ensuring that strategically important goods and technology, particularly those that could be used in the production or delivery of weapons of mass destruction, do not end up in the wrong hands.”

According to the superseding indictment previously filed in Manhattan federal court and other court documents:

Li Fangwei controls a large network of industrial companies based in eastern China, one of which is LIMMT Economic and Trade Company Ltd. (LIMMT).   Over the years, Li Fangwei’s companies have done millions of dollars of business with Iran.   This business has included selling to Iranian entities various metallurgical goods and related components that are banned for transfer to Iran by, among others, the United Nations, because the items are controlled by the Nuclear Supplier’s Group (a multinational group that maintains “control lists,” which identify nuclear-related dual-use equipment, material and technology).   Li Fangwei has been, among other things, a long-time supplier to Iran’s Defense Industries Organization and Iran’s Aerospace Industries Organization.   In addition, Li Fangwei has been a principal contributor to Iran’s ballistic missile program, through China-based entities that have been sanctioned by the United States.

In light of his supply of restricted items to Iran, the United States has imposed targeted sanctions on both Li Fangwei and LIMMT.   Specifically, the United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC) publicly added LIMMT (in 2006) and Li Fangwei (in 2009) to its List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN List).  By virtue of their inclusion on the SDN List, Li Fangwei and LIMMT were effectively precluded from conducting any business within the United States without first obtaining a license or authorization from OFAC.   Neither Li Fangwei nor LIMMT has sought such a license or authorization.

The above-referenced restrictions have forced Li Fangwei to operate much of his business covertly.   In response to United States sanctions, Li Fangwei has built an outsized network of China-based front companies to conceal his continuing participation, and LIMMT’s continuing participation, in sanctioned activities.   The front companies are listed in Exhibit A to the superseding indictment.   As shown in Exhibit A, many of those front companies have used the same address as LIMMT, or a close variant thereof.

During the period from 2006 through to the present, Li Fangwei has used front companies to engage in more than 165 separate U.S. dollar transactions, with a total value in excess of approximately $8.5 million dollars.   Included in those illicit transactions have been transactions involving sales to U.S. companies and sales of merchandise by Li Fangwei to Iran-based companies utilizing the U.S. financial system.   Li Fangwei also attempted to acquire on behalf of Iran-based entities so-called “dual use” items from the United States, China and other countries that could be used in the production of weapons of mass destruction and/or devices used to deliver weapons of mass destruction.

Additionally, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI announced the seizure of over $6,895,000 in funds attributable to the Li Fangwei front companies, and the filing of a civil complaint seeking the forfeiture of those funds to the United States.   The seized funds are substitutes for money held by Li Fangwei’s front companies at banks in China, and were seized from accounts at U.S. banks held in the name of foreign banks used by these front companies to conduct U.S. currency transactions (the correspondent accounts).   The funds were seized pursuant to seizure warrants issued on Dec. 18, 2013, and April 25, 2014.   The $6,895,000 represents funds used by the Li Fangwei front companies to engage in transactions that violate the U.S. sanctions laws and thus are subject to forfeiture.   There are no allegations of wrongdoing by the U.S. or foreign banks that maintain these accounts.   Because the funds used in those transactions are held in banks overseas, the United States is unable to seize the funds directly.   However, pursuant to U.S. law, the United States can seize funds located in a bank’s correspondent accounts in the United States if there is probable cause to believe that funds subject to forfeiture are on deposit with that bank overseas.   Based on this provision and others, the seizure warrants were executed.   These funds were transferred to a seized asset account maintained by the United States Marshals Service pending resolution of the forfeiture action.

Based on information developed in the course of the FBI’s investigation into Li Fangwei that forms the basis of the superseding indictment, OFAC today is adding eight additional front companies used by Li Fangwei to its List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons.

Finally, the United States Department of Commerce announced today the addition of nine China-based suppliers of Li Fangwei to its Entity List.

The Superseding Indictment charges Li Fangwei with seven separate offenses:

  • Count One: Conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act;


  • Counts Two and Three: Substantive violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act;


  • Count Four: Money laundering conspiracy;


  • Count Five: Conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud; and


  • Counts Six and Seven: Wire fraud.

If convicted, Li Fangwei faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each of Counts One through Four and Counts Six and Seven, and 30 years in prison on Count Five.  The statutory maximum sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by the judge.

Additional efforts directed at Li Fangwei and his network were announced today by the U.S. Department of State’s Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program, Department of Treasury and the Department of Commerce.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.