Washington Lawyer Says Sudanese Bank Waltzed on Bill

WASHINGTON (CN) – After a Sudan-run bank sought help shaking U.S. sanctions, a D.C. law firm claims in a federal complaint that the $200,000 it was promised for the work remains outstanding.

Arman Dabiri filed the Nov. 17 complaint pro se on behalf of the I Street law firm that takes his name. He says it all started in January 2017 when outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama issued an executive order that provided for the loosening of sanctions that had been levied against the Sudanese government decades earlier in response to its support of terrorism.

Obama recognized Sudan’s progress on human rights issues, and hinged permanent revocation of the sanctions on Sudan’s future rating by the State Department.

With that “report card” expected to fall in July 2017, Dabiri says he had to work against the clock when the state-run Agricultural Bank of Sudan approached him in March.

Dabiri calls the bank’s request two-pronged: it wanted the U.S. sanctions removed completely, and it wanted help establishing relationships with U.S. banking institutions that were otherwise jittery about working with the Sudanese government.

Concerns about the probationary nature of Obama’s order aside, Dabiri says the banks “were also reluctant in engaging various agencies and departments of the government of Sudan due to its continued presence on the state sponsor of terrorism list.”

Under the terms of the retainer agreement executed in May, according to the complaint, the Agricultural Bank of Sudan had 30 days to pay Dabiri a $200,000 flat-fee lump sum for legal services.

Dabiri says his firm got to work immediately, reviewing all sanctions and litigation against Sudan, including cases filed by American plaintiffs against Sudan under the terrorism exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. This was all done to prepare for a meeting with the U.S. State Department, according to the complaint, which says Dabiri also made coordinated a visit Washington by various Sudanese officials.

With an eye toward “contracts with U.S. companies specializing in irrigation and agricultural equipment,” the Agricultural Bank of Sudan provided Dabiri with the necessary documents between May and July so that it could collaborate with a certain U.S. bank, the complaint states.

The 30-day payment window in the retainer agreement lapsed in the meantime, but Dabiri says the Agricultural Bank of Sudan chalked up its delays to “problems with obtaining hard currency from the Central Bank of Sudan.”

“ABS requested that work by plaintiff continue based on promises and assurances that payment pursuant to the retainer agreement would be forthcoming,” the complaint continues, abbreviating the name of the Agricultural Bank of Sudan.

Once ABS established its coveted relationship with a U.S. banking partner on July 7, however, Dabiri says his client “commenced providing contradictory information regarding the timing of payment to plaintiff.”

That new banking relationship even included what the complaint describes as “SWIFT protocol,” allowing ABS to engage in international wire transfers between Sudan and the United States.

Still no payments to Dabiri were made.

As the lawyer began churning out demand letters through September, he says ABS stopped responding.

“ABS’s designated agent in the matter provided contradictory information relating to the timing of payment as well as requests that were in violation of ethical and legal obligations of plaintiff to ABS,” the complaint states. “The designated agent, in writing and orally, also informed plaintiff that it did not have any reliable information from ABS.”

Dabiri says he filed his suit because the letter he sent to Sudan’s newly appointed minister of agriculture and forests and to the general manager of ABS went unanswered.

Sudan’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forests likewise did not respond to an email seeking comment from Courthouse News.

The 11-page complaint alleges one count of breach of contract.

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