- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2002

An activist who is refusing to pay a $10,000 fine for violating U.S. sanctions on Iraq will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, a Treasury Department spokesman said yesterday.
"The Treasury Department enforces the law of the land," said Rob Nichols, deputy assistant press secretary. "If someone doesn't pay a fine, we begin a collection process that can last up to six months."
Mr. Nichols refused to comment specifically on the case of Bert Sacks, a retired civil engineer from Seattle who said Monday that he won't pay the May 17 fine for making illegal currency transactions in Iraq in 1997.
However, he acknowledged that the Treasury Department has rarely needed to prosecute an unpaid fine.
"I don't know of any debt collection that has lasted beyond six months," Mr. Nichols said. The Treasury Department would refer any such case to the Internal Revenue Service after six months.
The IRS would then follow its own collection process, which could result in further fines and eventual jail time for Mr. Sacks.
On Monday, the deadline for payment, Mr. Sacks sent a letter to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), refusing to pay the fine. He said his only violation of the sanctions against Saddam Hussein's regime was bringing more than $40,000 worth of medicine to Iraq in 1997.
"I admit to bringing medicines to Iraq," Mr. Sacks wrote. "This is the only violation of United States' sanctions regulations I admit to."
Mr. Sacks cited U.N. reports that 5,000 children die each month in Iraq, and blamed U.S.-led economic sanctions. U.S. policy specifies legal ways in which American citizens may export medicines to Iraq, but Mr. Sacks rejects U.S. sanctions authority.
"I believe that U.S. sanctions against Iraq are illegal under the U.S. Constitution and international law and that I have a moral and legal obligation to resist them," wrote Mr. Sacks.
Sanctions against Iraq were first implemented after Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990. Current sanctions are intended to prevent shipments of aid from being intercepted by the Iraqi dictator's regime.
Mr. Sacks' $10,000 fine stretches back to a 1997 incident involving him and four other activists against sanctions.
While confiscating illegal film from their baggage, a customs official at Detroit International Airport detained them as they were returning from Iraq. The Treasury Department subsequently sent letters to all four signed by OFAC Director R. Richard Newcomb in December of 1998.
Only Mr. Sacks has been fined to date.
"We all received pre-penalty notices," said Kathy Kelly, spokeswoman for the Chicago-based Voices in the Wilderness campaign against the Iraq sanctions who traveled with Mr. Sacks.
Mr. Sacks has made eight trips to Iraq since 1996, and said that he will continue to do so regardless of whether he is eventually fined and jailed by the IRS.

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