Newly unsealed indictments allege Iran’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction
Stars and Stripes March 23, 2023
The U.S. government unsealed two previously secret indictments this week against people that it says aided Iran’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction by exporting nuclear, ballistic missile and aerial drone technology.
“These defendants sought to obtain valuable U.S.-origin goods that could assist Iran’s military and WMD aspirations, and in some instances, they were successful,” Matthew Graves, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said in a statement Wednesday.
The unsealing of the indictments comes in the same week that the Treasury Department levied sanctions on three of the people indicted. They were sanctioned for their role in separate schemes, which included shipment of aerial drone engines from Europe to Iran.
The two unsealed indictments are from 2011 and 2018. They accuse three Iranians, a Turk and a man from the United Arab Emirates of conspiring to illegally export U.S. technology between 2005 and 2013.
The Turkish man, Murat Bukey, was sentenced Monday to a little more than two years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to violate the Arms Export Control Act and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
The other four men remain at large. They are Amanallah Paidar, Agshar Mahmoudi and Bahram Aran from Iran and Shahin Golshani from the UAE.
The U.S.’s inability to capture the other four men since their indictments prompted prosecutors to petition to unseal the case Monday in the hope that the move will help lead to arrests, Graves wrote in a court document filed March 16.
Paidar is the commercial manager of an Iranian company called Defense Technology and Science Research Center, which is owned by Tehran’s military, the Treasury Department said.
U.S. federal agents said Paidar is at the center of a procurement network established to export goods related to biological, chemical and nuclear technologies to Iran, a court filing from 2015 said.
The Justice Department says Paidar conspired with Bukey in efforts to ship a device associated with germ warfare used to detect biological pathogens through Turkey during 2012 and 2013.
Bukey at one point sold more than $1 million worth of aerial drone engines from Europe that likely ended up in Iran, the Treasury Department said.
Paidar also worked with Mahmoudi to procure thermal imaging cameras, computer systems and marine electronics, the Treasury Department said.
One of the unsealed indictments also accuses Mahmoudi of working with Aran and Golshani to illegally export advanced technology to Iran.
The exports included a high-speed camera that has known nuclear and ballistic missile testing applications, a nose landing gear assembly for an F-5 fighter jet and a meteorological sensor system.
A thermal imaging camera was tracked as it traveled from the U.S. to Canada to the UAE and finally to Iran, the indictment said.
The Iranian companies listed in Tuesday’s sanctions are Defense Technology and Science Research Center, Farazan Industrial Engineering and Selin Technic. A defunct Turkish company, Ozone Aviation, also was blacklisted. The people added to the sanctions list were Paidar, Bukey, and Mahmoudi.
The listings mark another round of U.S. financial action against Iran’s drone program, after five Chinese companies selling parts to an Iranian drone firm were added to American blacklists in early March.
Sanctions impose financial penalties on companies or private citizens, as well as any bank that works with them.