Two men have been charged with trying to illegally export nuclear-related components that can be used in gas centrifuges to enrich uranium, the Justice Department announced last week.
A federal grand jury in Washington indicted Parviz Khaki of Iran and Zongcheng Yi, a resident of China, for conspiring to export U.S. goods to Iran without the required Treasury Department licenses, in violation of the International Economic Powers Act. They were also charged with attempting to defraud the United States, smuggling, and money laundering. Khaki is also accused of trying to procure radioactive source materials from the United States for customers in Iran.
The United States has imposed sanctions on Iran because it suspects the nation is trying to develop a nuclear bomb.
Khaki, 43, was arrested on May 24 in the Philippines at the request of U.S. authorities. Yi remains at large.
They face up to 125 years in prison if found guilty on all counts.
“Today’s indictment sheds light on the reach of Iran’s illegal procurement networks and the importance of keeping U.S. nuclear-related materials from being exploited by Iran. Iranian procurement networks continue to target U.S. and Western companies for technology acquisition by using fraud, front companies and middlemen in nations around the globe," Lisa Monaco, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement July 13.
According to the indictment, from about October 2008 through January 2011, Khaki and Yi conspired to export high-strength iron alloys, aluminum alloys, mass spectrometers, vacuum pumps and other items in violation of the U.S. embargo on Iran. Yi and others, operating under the instructions of Khaki, placed orders for the goods with various U.S. companies and had the goods exported through China and Hong Kong to Iran. Yi and his co-conspirators allegedly made false statements to U.S. companies to conceal that Iran was the final destination and end-user of the goods.
In 2009, special lathes and nickel alloy wires were shipped via Hong Kong to Iran.
Khaki began working with an undercover U.S. federal agent posing as an illegal exporter of U.S. goods in an effort to obtain specialty maraging steel, mass spectrometers and radioactive material.
At one point Khaki told the agent regarding the maraging steel, "you and I know this material are [sic] limited material and danger goods." Khaki also discussed his desire to make money from the transaction.
In another e-mail, Khaki allegedly sent a product catalog for radioactive sources, including cobalt-57, and later requested the agent purchase cadmium-109.
According to federal law enforcement officials, as reported by the Associated Press
, the probe began in 2008 when the Homeland Security Investigations unit in Immigration and Customs Enforcement engaged in routine outreach to the business community in the Pacific Northwest and one U.S. company relayed a suspicious event. A supposed Chinese toy company wanted to place an order for 20 tons of maraging steel.
ICE used an undercover agent to contact the Chinese company, which didn't respond. But the U.S. company was subsequently received an identical request for the special steel from Yi, who eventually referred the undercover agent to Khaki.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing criminal case, the wire service said.
“By dismantling this complex conspiracy to deliver nuclear-related materials from the United States to Iran, we have disrupted a significant threat to national security,” ICE Director John Morton said. ICE investigators "will continue to pursue those who exploit U.S. businesses to illegally supply foreign governments with sensitive materials and technology that pose a serious risk to America and its allies.” - Eric Kulisch