Military food supplier keeps job after subcontractor's $45M fraud settlement

Subcontractor accused of violating Iran sanctions

A private defense firm is keeping a contract to supply food to the U.S. military in Afghanistan even after a subcontractor paid $45 million to resolve criminal charges that it illegally shipped goods through Iran.

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Between November 2011 and May 2012, Unitrans International -- a Virginia-based firm that worked with Dubai service provider Anham -- was responsible for transporting construction materials for a warehouse to Afghanistan and violated U.S. law by carrying them through the Islamic Republic, the Justice Department said in a statement. The U.S. has had no formal diplomatic relations with Tehran for about 40 years.

American forces invaded Afghanistan after determining its ruling Taliban had sheltered al-Qaeda operatives before the terrorist group flew hijackers into the New York's World Trade Center as well as the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. The resulting war has lasted 18 years and, according to the Washington Post, cost Americans nearly $1 trillion.

An Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter lands in Afghanistan. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Unitran's $45 million settlement includes a non-prosecution agreement with the Justice Department and a commitment to pay $31.5 million, covering a criminal penalty and a victim compensation payment.

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The company also agreed to pay $13.5 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations in a related civil case. That suit accuses Unitrans of winning wartime contracts to supply food and trucks by falsely certifying that it was complying with U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Marine snipers in Iraq in 2003.

In a statement, Anham described Unitrans as a "former subcontractor" and said that neither Anham nor any current employees were charged with any wrongdoing.

The company's former CEO, however, was charged with fraud and violating restrictions on doing business with Iran in late 2018, in connection with its $8 billion contract to provide food and supplies in Afghanistan.

The company, which voluntarily reported the Iranian shipment route to the U.S. in 2013, said it has a "long and successful history" of working with the U.S. government and military.

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