UN officials suspect that Iranian officials bypassed the sanctions by purchasing banned supplies online.
As world leaders and Iran go head to head in critical negotiations ahead of the June 30th deadline to seal the final nuclear deal, the UN says that help is needed from e commerce giants, such as Alibaba Group Holding and eBay Inc. (NASDAQ:EBAY), to ensure that online transactions are being strictly monitored to ban items from reaching suspicious recipients. However, this is not as easy as it seems.
Although UN officials had suspected this for long, they had only become known when Iran and the five major world powers had reached an interim agreement. They want to make sure that tight enforcement on online sales is maintained so that, in the event that nuclear talks fail, Iran does not go for resuming its nuclear drive, which it had promised to do. 21st century smugglers are smart enough to circumvent outdated controls on online shopping.
In addition, US officials are hesitant to enforce restrictions on illegal online sale transactions, as there is no international treaty that sets guidelines on how to regulate the dark side of illegal online trading.
Both, Alibaba and eBay, acknowledge this problem, with the latter stating that they are cooperating with governments around the world and international law enforcement agencies to ensure better effectiveness of trade controls. That is because under the terms of the agreement, Iran will have to avoid the e-commerce sites, such as those mentioned earlier, providing equipment that can be utilized in developing weapons, and includes an undertaking that Iran will not use discrete medium to evade those restrictions.
The tough task ahead for top diplomats is that if the deal is signed, it will need to conduct an aggressive international outreach among suppliers, registered or unregistered, to cooperate with ecommerce companies on this front. Data shows that in the last decade, Iran managed to import over $250 million worth of banned equipment, and it only makes it even more urgent to try to cooperate with the likes of Alibaba and eBay to shut down the illicit trade.
Alibaba.com has garnered around 4,397 Gallium listings in April, whereas EBay.com, on the other hand, has close to 229 listings of its own. Meanwhile, less than 2000 suppliers are offering ‘hydrazine’ on Alibaba.com platform and another 54 on eBay.com. Both nuclear fuels are an important component in developing a nuclear warhead. To this end, both companies are considering installation of algorithms-based search filters to avoid suspicious searches of nuclear related equipment or products.
eBay’s stock price ended the day at $57.82, down 0.21 the previous day.