The US Treasury Department is investigating some twenty American
basketball players who have been playing in Iran over the past several
years. The athletes may be guilty of having violated the sanctions that
Washington has imposed for years on Teheran. The US cut off diplomatic
relations with Iran in 1979. Each player faces a fine of 50,000 dollars
for having ignored the embargo.
Details of the investigation.
The Treasury spokesperson gave no details
on individual cases but confirmed that the Department is looking into
the matter. According to the system put in place by the US, American
citizens are prohibited from engaging in economic transactions or
providing services to Iran without special permission from the Office
of Foreign Assets Control. Over the past few weeks, agents from the
Treasury have begun contacting US players in Iran and requesting
information about the types of contracts they signed and who in the US
negotiated them. One Iranian consultant for teams in the national
championship told the BBC that the players never dreamed they were
violating an embargo. Critics claim that the US law on sanctions, if
followed to the letter, would prohibit economic interaction of any sort
between US citizens and Iranians, even an American student in Iran who
wanted to tutor English.
The basketball playoffs in Iran are popular.
While the level of play isn’t particularly high, recent years have seen
the participation of more and more second-tier US players—athletes
willing to go anywhere in the world to play professional basketball
even if it means joining a mediocre team. In a period of increasing
friction between the US and Iran, many hold up these players as an
example of how we can overcome political tensions, from the Khomeini
revolution to the nuclear question. Last year, 20 US players took part
in the Iranian championships. But already this season only two are
left. For athletes at this level, 50 thousand dollars means an entire
championship earnings. It seems clear, in any event, that next year’s
games will be a strictly Iranian affair.