I’m about to stop all pretense and call the IAF Chair Emanuele Riva a criminal. And I’ll be correct in doing so. So how did we get here?
The Ukrainian National Standardisation Body offices were bombed by Russian attack forces, as the illegal invasion of Ukraine continues. But even its member bodies face bombing by Russia, ISO continues to turn a blind eye to the war and international sanctions, allowing Russia to continue to participate in ISO standards development committees, including that for ISO 9001.
Meanwhile, the International Accreditation Forum (IAF), which oversees the world’s accredited ISO certification scheme, finds itself in an increasingly difficult position, as its current Chair not only ignores the sanctions against Russia, but is personally violating them
Having the IAF run by an active member of the Chinese Communist Party, while the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) filed their taxes every year, was bad enough and we though it couldn’t get worse. But Italy’s Emanuele Riva then took over the IAF Chair position from China’s Xiao Jianhua, and things have gone downhill, and dramatically. Whereas Xiao was just a puppet for the Xi Jinping regime, using the IAF to promote China’s controversial “Belt and Road” initiative, at least he didn’t openly break any laws.
Remember that Emanuele Riva is also a chief executive with the Italian accreditation body Accredia. Initially, Riva refused to produce any IAF position against Russia or its invasion of Ukraine, but soon faced widespread public condemnation for his inaction, as well as pressure from sitting IAF members. Eventually, Riva and an anonymous IAF “board” caved, and issued a statement claiming it would uphold international sanctions. That statement, published in May 2022, can be found here and says, “if sanctions are violated by an IAF Member … IAF is required to take action, including suspension or withdrawal of the IAF membership.”
But, as suspected, it was just a smokescreen, to trick critics into thinking the IAF had come — however belatedly — to its senses. In reality, it never did. The mandate was never enforced by IAF and — worse — Riva himself then actively worked to violate it. Recently, Riva authorized the re-accreditation of the Russian accreditation body “Test” in St. Petersburg, violating not only international sanctions, but the IAF mandate itself. The image below, taken from the Accredia website as of last week, shows the accreditation for Test was re-authorized on January 1, 2023, a year and a half after the IAF mandate.
But was this a violation of law? Well, yes, in fact. Annex II to Regulation (EC) No 184/2005 expanded sanctions against Russia to include, “Business and management consulting and public relations services cover … management auditing … and advisory, guidance and operational services related to improving the image of the clients and their relations with the general public.”
This means that Riva, Accredia, and the IAF are in violation of EU regulations, and violation of such regulations is deemed “a serious criminal offense.” Per the EU, Riva could face jail for his actions:
…depending on the offence, the individual person could be liable to a maximum penalty of at least five years in prison; companies could be liable to penalties of no less than 5% of the total worldwide turnover of the legal person (company) in the business year preceding the fining decision.
So, not only is Emanuele Riva technically a criminal, but Riva would have to eject his own accreditation body, Accredia, from IAF membership. The IAF has refused to address this problem, and its leadership, including Canada’s Elva Nilsen, has ignored the matter entirely.
Riva faces personal prosecution in Italy, but the Italian government has not shown much stomach for taking anything but symbolic actions against Russia and, as a result, has refused to investigate Accredia to date. But that’s still on the table, and I’m still pressuring the Italian government to take action. So Riva is not out of the woods yet, and his actions in January have worsened his criminal liability … not improved it.
It’s not the first time Riva has shown contempt for the law. Before he caved in and released the IAF statement on the Ukraine invasion, Riva took the insane position that somehow the IAF’s “internal policies” trumped international laws, and that the IAF was somehow not required to abide by them. Riva never spoke to an actual attorney to come to that conclusion, and apparently just made it up based on his own personal God complex.
And so ISO and IAF members continue to profit by selling services in Russia and helping promote the Putin regime and companies under international sanctions — such as Gazprom — despite all sanctions, laws, rules, and ethics.
To be clear: Emanuele Riva had already proven himself to be a largely incompetent, bumbling fool long before the Ukraine scandal (see here and here.) But his wanton and deliberate violation of international law, and the IAF’s own rules, means he must be removed from office. Furthermore, the IAF must eject Accredia immediately, as well as any other AB that continues to do business in Russia.
The IAF should not provide safe haven for criminals, whether they be abstract Russian organizations or the IAF’s own executives.
Or they can wait until he’s arrested and have the Chinese Communist Party guy come back to lead them.
About Christopher Paris
Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 30 years' experience implementing ISO 9001 and AS9100 systems, and is a vocal advocate for the development and use of standards from the point of view of actual users. He is the author of Surviving ISO 9001 and Surviving AS9100. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.