Iran Sues Warehouse in Baltimore

A043504811.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Iran’s Defense Ministry is suing a Baltimore warehousing company in federal court, claiming a floor collapse three years ago damaged $50 million worth of military equipment that has been held in limbo by the US government since the late 1970s.

In the lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Greenbelt, the Iranian government seeks unspecified damages for military equipment and parts it claims were destroyed or lost while stored by Overflo Warehouse LLC in 2005. The items reportedly damaged include 1970s-era navigation and radar equipment, computer parts and military components.

Iran has no diplomatic representation in the US. Instead, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Iranian Interest Section, which is located in the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington.

Calls to Saeid B. Amini, the Cleveland attorney representing the Iranian Defense Ministry, were not returned on Wednesday.

Overflo President Gary Timme said the company had not been served with the lawsuit, filed Friday, as of Wednesday. However, he said the company planned to vigorously defend itself against the lawsuit.

Overflo is a family-owned business that was started in 1979. According to the company, it offers 2 million square feet of storage space at 10 locations in the Baltimore-Washington region.

In court documents, the Iranian government claims “several billions” of dollars worth of various military equipment and spare parts were purchased from the US in the 1970s. After the government of the Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979, the US government blocked the materiel from being exported.

The items were stored in Virginia until April 2005, when they were transferred to Overflo’s warehouses in the Baltimore region, the complaint says.

According to the lawsuit, in September 2005, about 1,500 square feet of a second floor at an Overflo building collapsed. The ministry claims the 20-foot drop “significantly” damaged a “large number of expensive parts.” While the complaint does not seek a specific amount of damages, the ministry claims the items had a value of $50 million.

The items in question are being held under a license by Office of Foreign Assets Control, a part of the US Department of Treasury, which enforces economic and trade sanctions. Under federal regulations, Timme said, he could not provide information about the exact makeup of equipment and parts, or whether they are still being stored by Overflo.

Treasury spokesman Andrew DeSouza confirmed that discussing Office of Foreign Assets Control license matters was prohibited. DeSouza said department policy confirming or denying if a foreign asset control license was even issued would violate the Uniform Trade Secrets Act.

The lawsuit notes that the primary dispute over the items “is being litigated at the International Court of Justice” in The Hague, Netherlands.

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