US drops sanctions against Irish-based Pacnet executives

Watchdog Sanctions Alert said move means those involved now cleared of wrongdoing

Pacnet consolidated its Irish companies, all based in Shannon Airport, into one entity, Pacnet Holdings, at the beginning of this year. Photograph: Arthur Ellis/Press22

Pacnet consolidated its Irish companies, all based in Shannon Airport, into one entity, Pacnet Holdings, at the beginning of this year. Photograph: Arthur Ellis/Press22

 

US authorities have dropped sanctions against a number of Irish-based executives working for payments company Pacnet, who were linked to an investigation of the Canadian-headquartered group last year.

Last autumn, the US department of the treasury sanctioned Pacnet for allegedly laundering money from schemes used to dupe people out of cash.

However, the department’s office of foreign assets control (Ofac) recently removed the names of a number of the Irish-based Pacnet employees and directors from its special designation list, which bars US residents from doing business with them and froze any assets they may have held in the US.

According to a series of statements that Ofac published in recent weeks, former Pacnet Holdings directors Estelle Snyman, Siobhán Hanrahan and Brian Weekes were all removed from the list, effectively clearing them of suspicion.

The office delisted London-based director Donna Maria MacBain at the same time and changed the designation of a series of Pacnet group companies in the Republic and the UK.

Rapid delisting

While the Ofac statement did not say why the organisation had delisted these people, Saskia Rietbroek, principal of US and Netherlands-based watchdog Sanctions Alert, said the move meant those involved were cleared of any wrongdoing. She pointed out that Ofac had taken the Pacnet directors off its list unusually quickly, five months after placing them on it in the first place.

“There is little public information about exactly why a person is delisted,” she said. “Ofac simply puts out a general public notice on its website announcing that a name has been removed.

“But, removals are well-known to be difficult to obtain, and the process for removal can be very lengthy. It normally takes about two years.”

Another Pacnet director, Gerry Humphreys, who was listed along with his colleagues last autumn, has yet to be delisted, but it is understood Ofac is expected to take this step in the near future.

Pacnet Holdings

Pacnet consolidated its Irish companies, all based in Shannon Airport, into one entity, Pacnet Holdings, at the beginning of this year in a move that saw a number of directors resign, including Ms Snyman and Ms Hanrahan. Mr Humphreys remains a director.

One source said on Monday that the company and the Irish-based directors caught up in the controversy believed Ofac had acted “irresponsibly”, damaging Pacnet’s business in the process.

Both the group and some individuals hired lawyers to act for them once the investigation began. It is not known at this stage if anyone involved in the controversy is considering legal action.

A powerful arm of the US treasury, Ofac enforces economic and trade sanctions against foreign organisations and individuals it believes pose a threat to the US or are involved in crime within its jurisdiction.

The office dates back to the second World War but stepped up its activities in the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks against the US. It operates under presidential emergency powers and legislative authority.