EXCLUSIVE: UAE firm sues EU over Iran claims

Accountancy firm fights ruling barring it from EU after company was listed as possible front for Iranian nuclear interests
European Union flags
By Shane McGinley
Mon 16 Apr 2012 08:29 AM

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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