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Amazon Fined $135,000 For Transacting Against Sanctioned Zimbabwe and other Rogue States

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Amazon, the US e-commerce and cloud computing giant is said to hire 1,000 people in Poland. The company already hires almost 5,000 people in Poland and has service centers in Gdansk, Wroclaw and Poznan ON 14 April 2016. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

While the debate of sanctions against Zimbabwe has been raging on for years, with most restrictive measures being relaxed, it was rather disturbing to note that Amazon has been fined for accepting Zimbabwean payments.

This move may likely force it to block Zimbabweans or ignore the punitive measures all together as the fine is rather paltry versus the business they are getting from the block countries.

The relief however lies in the period of the punitive measures, where most of these transactions were done around 2016 and 2017, before the restrictive measures were relaxed.

The blockage would greatly slow down digital transformation and growth in Zimbabwe if implemented and copied by other various players.

Zimbabwe government however has a responsibility as well to make sure that it simply complies with most general international laws and standards, to help the country from being flagged, even in future.


In a statement issued this week, the U.S. Treasury Department notes that Amazon has agreed to pay $134,523 to settle potential liability over alleged sanctions violations. The charges specifically pertain to goods and services sent to people located in Crimea, Iran and Syria, which are covered by Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctions, between November 2011 and October 2018.

The Treasury Department also states that the retail giant failed to report “several hundred” transactions in a timely manner. The department adds:

Amazon also accepted and processed orders on its websites for persons located in or employed by the foreign missions of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.

Additionally, Amazon accepted and processed orders from persons listed on OFAC’s List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (the “SDN List”) who were blocked pursuant to the Narcotics Trafficking Sanctions Regulations, the Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators Sanctions Regulations, the Transnational Criminal Organizations Sanctions Regulations,

the Democratic Republic of the Congo Sanctions Regulations,

the Venezuela Sanctions Regulations,

the Zimbabwe Sanctions Regulations,

the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations,

and the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions Regulations.

The settlement is, of course, fairly insubstantial, compared to the massive market cap of the online retail giant. The transactions, were, however, for fairly low-level retail goods and services. In all, the violations only amounted to around double the settlement price of $134,523.

The department doesn’t believe there was anything malicious going on, rather an issue with Amazon’s system, which failed to flag shipments to sanctioned areas. There appear to be a number of reasons this occurred. One example involves the site failing to note when product was shipped to the Iranian embassy in a different country.

Amazon opted not to offer a comment on the story, though the company notably self-disclosed what it believed to be potential violations of the aforementioned laws back in July of 2016. As The Wall Street Journal notes, a number of other tech giants have been hit with similar issues. Last year, Apple agreed to a $467,000 settlement for similar violations.

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