WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Four companies and five people have been charged with illegally exporting high-tech microelectronics, uninterruptible power supplies and other products to Iran through Taiwan and Turkey, the U.S. Justice Department said on Friday.
The charges come as Iran and six major powers, led by the U.S., are set to resume talks on April 21 on securing an agreement that would curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting international sanctions.
According to the 24-count indictment unsealed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, from July 2010 onwards the five people charged obtained approximately 28 million military grade parts, worth $24 million, from companies across the world.
They evaded U.S. controls banning the export of the technologies to Iran under a broad array of U.S. sanctions, by shipping the parts via Taiwan and Turkey, the indictment said.
The technologies can be put to use in various military systems, including surface-air and cruise missiles, according to the indictment.
Bahram Mechanic, 69, and Tooraj Faridi, 46, both of Houston; and Khosrow Afghahi, 71, of Los Angeles, are claimed to have been members of an Iranian procurement network operating in the United States. All three men are in U.S. custody. Houston-based Smart Power Systems Inc (SPS) was part of the same network, the indictment said.
Also charged are Arthur Shyu, and Hosoda Taiwan Limited Corporation, the Taiwanese trading company where he is a senior manager. Matin Sadeghi, 54, and Golsad Istanbul Trading Ltd, a shipping company in Turkey that employs him were also indicted, as was the Iran-based Faratel Corp, co-owned by Mechanic and Afghahi.
Both Shyu and Sadeghi are believed to be outside the United States and remain at large.
The U.S. has cracked down in recent years on companies, banks and individuals that have flouted U.S. sanctions.
In March, Commerzbank AG agreed to pay $1.45 billion to U.S. authorities to resolve an investigation of its financial dealings with Iran and oilfield services company Schlumberger agreed to pay a $232.7 million fine for facilitating the export of drilling equipment to Iran.
Faratel and its Houston-based sister company SPS both design and build uninterruptible power supplies for clients including the Iranian Ministry of Defense, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran and the Iranian Centrifuge Technology Company.
Faratel is alleged to have received at least 250 shipments to Iran.
If convicted, the corporations face fines of up to $1 million for each U.S. sanctions violation, and the defendants face up to 20 years in prison.
Additional reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Susan Heavey, Ted Botha and Christian Plumb