Is the Isle of Man an arms transshipment point for the Iranian government to its Hezbollah allies and a way to circumvent U.N. Security Council sanctions? The Isle, an independent territory of the United Kingdom, has a notorious reputation as a tax haven, a criminal sanctuary, and the transshipment point for smuggling.
While refusing to deny it’s true, today Isle of Man Chief Minister J. A. Brown — supported by Obama administration officials — threaded the needle and says there is there is”no evidence” to support allegations that illegal Iranian arms shipments went through the Isle of Man or were carried by Isle of Man flagged ships. That response, of course, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
Last September, acting on a tip, the Celtic League, a watchdog organization on the Isle of Man, reported that in November 2009 a Douglas-registered ship called The Visea had “transferred 320 tons worth of arms shipments, including 9,000 mortar shells, thousands of 107-mm Katyusha rockets, 600 122-mm rockets, and hundreds of thousands of rounds of Iranian ammunition, onto another ship, `Francop’, destined for Hezbollah.” The shipment was by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line (IRISL) and went through the Isle of Man. The cargo was destined for the Lebanese Islamic radical group Hezbollah.
The Celtic League charged that the Isle of Man might have breached U.N. sanctions against Iran, a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1747.
The island’s minister today further told the Celtic League that “we have had a visit of the U.S. Office Foreign Asset Control and U.S. Embassy officials – and neither provided any further evidence or other information about the alleged shipment.”
Nevertheless the minister does acknowledge that “I am advised that in the past few months several persons in the Island have severed their links with Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line (IRISL)” and that they promise there will be no more transfers of illegal arms through the Isle of Man flag s by the Iranians.