The US government has imposed a civil penalty on Egypt's largest state-owned bank for violating American legal strictures prohibiting compliance with the Arab boycott of Israel, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
In a formal order issued in January, a copy of which was obtained by the Post, US Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Enforcement Darryl W. Jackson levied a fine of $22,500 on the National Bank of Egypt's New York branch.
The penalty was imposed after the bank agreed to settle charges made against it by the US Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), which oversees enforcement of US anti-boycott regulations.
Last April, BIS officials had accused the Egyptian bank of providing commercial invoices on four separate occasions in 2001 and 2002 to the Al Issar Trading Company, a Syrian firm, all of which included declarations to the effect that the goods in question had not been manufactured or produced in Israel.
US law bars firms from providing information in order to comply with boycott-related requests.
As a government-owned entity, the Egyptian bank's actions would also appear to violate the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Under Article 3 of the pact, Egypt agreed to the "termination of economic boycotts and discriminatory barriers to the free movement of people and goods."
Hassan Eissa, general manager of the Egyptian bank's New York branch, told the Post by phone that he considers the matter closed. "I can not comment on their action," he said, referring to the Commerce Department's decision. "It is settled and it is done."
Eissa insisted, however, that the bank did not discriminate against Jews or Israelis. "There are no restrictions whatsoever," he said. "A customer is a customer, and many Israelis have bank accounts in Egypt."
Asked how he handles requests from Arab governments for boycott-related information, Eissa said that the bank abides by US law.
"If we receive such a request, we must reject it and report it to the Commerce Department in accordance with US law, just like any other bank or company," he said. "We have to comply with US law."