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Amazon Accused of Breaching UK Russia Sanctions by Ex-Employee

A former Amazon Web Services (AWS) employee, Charles Forrest, has leveled a serious accusation against his previous employer at a London employment tribunal. Mr. Forrest alleges that Amazon violated United Kingdom sanctions imposed on Russia following the invasion of Ukraine by supplying facial recognition technology to a Russian company.

The allegation revolves around Amazon’s purported continued access to the Russian market through a business deal with VisionLabs, a firm known for its advanced facial recognition technology. Mr. Forrest contends that Amazon provided VisionLabs with access to its Rekognition facial recognition software even after the UK implemented sanctions restricting such transactions.

Amazon vehemently denies these claims, asserting they lack merit and will demonstrably refute them throughout the legal process. The company maintains that it did not provide its facial recognition technology to any Russian entity, including VisionLabs. It further argues that Mr. Forrest’s assertion of a deal with a shell company established in the Netherlands to circumvent sanctions is unsubstantiated.

The legal dispute extends beyond the alleged violation of sanctions. Mr. Forrest additionally claims that he was unfairly dismissed by Amazon in 2023. He maintains that his termination was a direct consequence of raising internal concerns about the alleged violation of sanctions and other unspecified issues between November 2022 and May 2023.

Amazon counters this claim, stating that Mr. Forrest’s termination resulted from gross misconduct, including refusing to fulfill his contractual working hours and failing to respond to communications or attend meetings. The company further asserts that the concerns raised by Mr. Forrest did not qualify for whistleblower protections.

This situation has also drawn the attention of UK authorities. In May 2023, Mr. Forrest reportedly filed complaints with both the House of Commons Defence Select Committee and the Serious Fraud Office detailing his allegations of Amazon’s illicit activities.

The outcome of the employment tribunal and the potential investigation by UK authorities remains to be seen. However, the accusations raise critical questions regarding Amazon’s adherence to international sanctions and employee treatment, raising concerns about potential legal violations.

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