The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has to make some very tough decisions soon on a billion-dollar military service contract that provides food and equipment to our troops in the Middle East.
This decision regarding the behemoth Kuwait and Gulf Link Transport or KGL is just the latest in over a decade of allegations such as sanctions busting, corruption, and fraud that have followed the company.
The latest controversy involves a contract from January of this year, when the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency awarded $1.38 billion for food supplies to a subsidiary of KGL, long a logistics linchpin for American forces in the region. Yet the award came just weeks after a top KGL lawyer acknowledged to a U.S. court that the firm had years earlier set up a “ghost structure,” i.e., a company that existed in name only, as a go-between for a joint venture it had with a U.S.-sanctioned Iranian partner.
The award was also announced as two of the company’s recently resigned top executives sat in a Kuwaiti jail. On Sunday, those two executives, Saed Dashti and Marsha Lazareva, were sentenced in a Kuwaiti court to 15 and 10 years in prison, respectively.
The allegations revolve around KGL’s relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, known as IRISL, and affiliates, such as Valfajr, which were hit with U.S. sanctions in September 2008 for aiding Tehran’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.
In 2011, the Manhattan district attorney indicted a key IRISL executive, Mohammad Moghaddami Fard, for money laundering, records falsification, and other crimes, though he never stood trial. That same year, leaked emails revealed links between Fard and senior KGL executives demonstrating that he had helped run KGL’s joint ventures.
But KGL has continued to face questions, as in May 2016, when Fuad Dashti — a significant KGL shareholder and brother of its chairman — was arrested at San Francisco International Airport and charged with trying to transfer airplane parts to Iran. When he was brought to Washington for FBI interrogation, the U.S. government quietly allowed him to slip out of the country in the waning days of the Obama administration.
The Justice Department never publicly commented on the case, and a KGL lawyer said at the time that Dashti’s alleged conduct was unrelated to company business.
Even as legal challenges to KGL multiplied, however, the company continued to score lucrative deals. The Pentagon awarded KGL its $1.38 billion food contract in mid-January. The day of the award, KGL’s recently departed chairman and the other executive charged with felonies were still in a Kuwaiti jail awaiting trial. Both insisted upon their innocence.
To be deemed worthy of becoming a contractor with the United States government, the company must be considered “responsible” which means they must have integrity, business ethics and meet other criteria according to the government. This doesn’t sound like anyone at KGL.
To read the entire article from Foreign Policy, click here:
Photo Instagram of Saed Dashti and Marsha Lazareva KGL executives sentenced to jail in Kuwait