EXCLUSIVE: UAE firm sues EU over Iran claims

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A UAE accountancy firm is taking legal action against the European Union after it was added to a list of entities ordered to have their funds and activities frozen as part of Europe’s increased sanctions against Iran, Arabian Business has learned.

Morison Menon Chartered Accountants brought legal action against the Council of the European Union after its name was added in December 2011 to a list of companies suspected of being “involved in the nuclear or ballistic missile programmes of the Islamic Republic of Iran”.

According to court documents lodged with the Court of Justice of the European Communities, Morison Menon was accused of being a “IRISL (Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines) front company, owned or controlled by IRISL or an IRISL affiliate”.

The accountancy firm, which has offices in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah, has denied it is a front for the IRISL and has vowed to fight to clear its name.

“We assisted [IRISL] to set up some companies [in the UAE] but that is only a professional capacity and it was done before the date [for EU sanctions]… but because the IRISL name is involved and without doing any due diligence, or without giving us any phone call, somebody listed us,” Raju Menon, managing partner of Morison Menon Chartered Accountants, told Arabian Business in an interview on Wednesday.

The firm is licenced by the Dubai government, but while the EU listing only barred it from operating in Europe, which had previously accounted for around a quarter of its business, it claimed the allegations could damage its reputation and business in the UAE.

“It is very probable that banks located in the UAE will remove them from their approved list of auditors, which will result in an additional loss of clients and that those banks will no longer use the applicants [Morison Menon] for the auditing of their trust accounts,” it claimed in court documents.

The UAE firm applied to the Court of Justice of the European Communities in February to have it removed from the Council of European Union’s list of suspected Iranian entities, but its application was dismissed by the Luxembourg court.

Menon said the Council has until April 25 to respond to his queries and he plans to lodge a further appeal in order to clear his company’s name.

“The case is going on and we are presenting our argument to the Council directly and secondly through the courts but both are taking time and the EU are taking time as they are more interested in listing more companies than delisting companies so the bureaucratic process is there and, because of that, it is taking time,” Menon added.

“We should take action if someone is trying [harm us]… We cannot just keep quiet,” he added.

Rising tension over Iran’s nuclear programme prompted the European Union and the US to impose additional sanctions, restricting trade and financial transactions. Iran, the second-largest producer in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, after Saudi Arabia, is already under four rounds of UN sanctions.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said Iranian assertions that its nuclear programme is peaceful are unconvincing and that it is up to the government in Tehran to assuage suspicions over its atomic work.

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