CALGARY - Attempting to ship $15 in O-rings usable in nuclear applications to an Iranian firm has cost a Red Deer company $90,000 for violating Canadian sanctions against the Middle East country.
Lawyer Kris Robidoux appeared in Calgary provincial court Monday and entered a guilty plea on behalf of Lee Specialties Ltd. to a charge under the Special Economic Measures Act.
The company admitted sending a shipment of just over $6,000 in parts bound for an address in Tehran, which included 50 Viton O-rings worth 30 cents each.
Provincial court Judge Allan Fradsham, in accepting a joint Crown and defence submission for the hefty fine noted it wasn’t so much the value of the little rings, but for what they could be potentially used.
Because of the rubber used in making them, the O-rings have a high tolerance to heat and cold as well as certain chemicals, making them useful in nuclear applications.
“We are concerned more with what might have occurred than what did occur,” Fradsham said.
“Though it’s a small amount of money and seems like an innocent thing ... the potential harm which could have come about through the sale of the item to Iran is what dictates the penalty,” Fradsham said.
Robidoux said despite the product’s potential use in nuclear productions, Lee Specialties had no sinister intent in trying to ship the material to Iran, to a company which also had a Dubai office.
She said the regulations on what goods are sanctioned for export to Iran are constantly changing and it’s a difficult area for oil companies to navigate.
“We assist many clients with this (act),” Robidoux said.
On May 1, 2011, Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers at the Calgary airport were doing export verifications — checking to make sure items leaving the country met regulations and have the proper paperwork, said spokesman Sean Best.
“They found a cargo shipment destined for Iran and intercepted Viton O-rings,” said Best.
Viton is a brand of synthetic rubber and fluoropolymer elastomer commonly used in O-rings and can be used in a number of ways, including oilfield or nuclear applications.
Viton O-rings are prohibited from being shipped or sold to any person or company in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Const. Ben Simon, with the RCMP’s Federal Policing South serious and organized crime unit, said this was the first time a company had been charged under the act.
“There are many sanctioned countries that are attempting to procure items that they cannot obtain legally,” he said.
- with files by Jenna McMurray