The United States Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (the “Kingpin Act”) became law in the United States on December 3, 1999. Its purpose is
to deny significant foreign narcotics traffickers, their related businesses, and their operatives access to the U.S. financial system and to prohibit all trade and transactions between the traffickers and U.S. companies and individuals. The Kingpin Act authorizes the President to take these actions when he determines that a foreign person plays a significant role in international narcotics trafficking.
In other words Kingpin Act targets, on a worldwide basis, significant foreign narcotics traffickers, their organizations, and operatives by making it illegal for any U.S. company or any U.S. individual to conduct any financial transactions with them.
Individuals who violate the Kingpin Act are subject to criminal penalties
of up to 10 years in prison and/or fines pursuant to Title 18 of the U.S. Code. Entities that violate the Act face criminal penalties in the form of fines up to USD 10 million; officers, directors, or agents of an entity who knowingly participate in a violation of the Kingpin Act are subject to criminal penalties of up to 30 years in imprison and/or a USD 5 million fine. The Kingpin Act also provides for civil penalties of up to USD 1.075 million against individuals or entities that violate its provisions.
Annually on the 1st of June the U.S. President can write to the U.S. Congress with a list of individuals to be sanctioned under the Act. On the 1st of June 2011, that list contained the names of two Kenyans; John Harun Mwau and Naima Mohamed Nyakiniywa.
Facebook is a social networking service and website operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc. Facebook, Inc was founded in 2004 and is based in Palo Alto, California. It is a U.S. company. Ownership of Facebook, Inc is shared between Mark Zuckerberg, Accel Partners, Digital Sky Technologies, Greylock Partners, Meritech Capital Partners and Microsoft amongst others. Most are U.S. citizens and U.S. companies.
Remember that U.S. companies and U.S. individuals are forbidden from any financial transactions with narcotics traffickers named through the Kingpin Act. The fines for ignoring the Act range from USD 1 million to USD 10 million and there’s also the not very little matter of the possibility of 30 years imprisonment.
Last night I started noticing adverts on Facebook for John Harun Mwau’s Facebook page. The text for the ad reads:
Success and Wealth are but a state of mind. Discover the principles that guided me to Success on My Facebook Page.
A screenshot of the ad is below:
These ads are typical paid for, they usually involve some sort of financial transaction. The type of transaction the Kingpin Act forbids.
Until otherwise explained it looks like Facebook, Inc may have violated the Kingpin Act and is putting itself, its owners (such as Zuckerberg), its partners (such as Microsoft – whose technology runs the ads) at the risk of some very serious fines and jail time. All for a few ads which probably generated just a couple hundred of dollars in revenue for Facebook, Inc.
The world is a village. You never know when a “significant narcotics trafficker” is going to buy ads on your service. The real question here perhaps is what will these U.S. companies, such as Facebook and Microsoft, do when they find out individuals they are not allowed to do business with are buying their services?