Despite sanctions, Apple gear booms in Iran
By Marcus George ,Reuters
July 15, 2012, 12:03 am TWN
DUBAI -- At its gleaming store, RadanMac offers the latest Apple gear — the new iPad, iPhones, iPods, laptops, all-in-one desktop computers and more.
But this is no ordinary Apple store. It's in Tehran, where Apple and other U.S. computer products are banned under U.S. sanctions that have been in place for years. Despite the embargo, RadanMac is one of an estimated 100 stores in the Iranian capital that openly sell Apple products, often at little more than U.S. prices.
"Business has been booming for the last three years," said Majid Tavassoli, the store's owner, in a phone interview. He said his company employs more than 20 staffers and has been supplying Apple products to Iranian buyers since 1995. The company also has a servicing unit and a business sales arm whose clients have included the Central Bank of Iran, state television channels, newspapers and design professionals.
Iran's booming Apple business underscores the limitations of economic sanctions by the United States and other countries. Washington and its allies have imposed sanctions in an attempt to curb Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran maintains is peaceful. U.S. companies are barred from selling any goods or services to Iran unless they obtain special authorization.
The focus of the sanctions has been on Iran's banks and oil industry, Iranian individuals and companies that Western capitals believe are assisting what they suspect is Tehran's drive towards a nuclear weapons capability.
But U.S. consumer products and computer equipment are another matter. Although they are banned, enterprising Iranian merchants continue to source them through underground trade routes in the Middle East and beyond.
In the case of Apple, some digital sales of music, videos and software go directly through the California company — via its iTunes and App Store online services. According to Tehran computer dealers, Iran is a rapidly growing market for software downloads: Iranians register Apple accounts with randomly-chosen addresses outside the country, and use foreign gift-cards to pay for purchases.
In response, a spokesman for Apple Inc referred Reuters to its export control policy that restricts it or any subsidiaries it owns from exporting any products to Iran.
Once considered rare and sought-after, iPhones and iPads are now de rigueur in Iran among those who can afford them. The epicenter of the trade is Tehran's largest technology mall, the bustling Capital Computer Complex, where more than 350 traders supply products for Iran's increasingly tech-savvy population.