Global General

3 accused of exporting nuclear tech to Iran

Updated: 2010-01-14 16:19
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LOS ANGELES: Three men were accused in an alleged conspiracy to illegally export nuclear technology to Iran, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday.

The three suspects, a Los Angeles resident and two Iranians, violated trade sanctions imposed on Iran, according to the US Attorney's Office.

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The technology intended to be exported to Iran could be used to produce nuclear fuel, prosecutors claimed.

An indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles on December 30 charges Jiraiir Avanessian, 56, a Los Angeles resident, and Farhoud Masoumian, 42, of Tehran, with multiple violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Iranian trade embargo, including smuggling, money laundering and other crimes.

The IEEPA prohibits US citizens from exporting such technology to Iran without a license and federal authorization. Also, it is illegal to sell the technology to Iran from the United States.

Avanessian was arrested at his home on Monday and a US magistrate ordered him detained pending trial. An arrest warrant has been issued for Masoumian, according to the US Attorney's Office.

A third man, Amirhossein Sairafi of Iran, was charged on January 4 in a criminal complaint filed in US District Court in downtown Los Angeles for his alleged role in the scheme.

He was arrested earlier this week in Frankfurt by German law enforcement authorities based on a provisional arrest warrant from the United States, the US Attorney's Office said.

The Iran-born Avanessian, owner and operator of the XVAC firm in Los Angeles, is accused of conspiring with Masoumian and Sairafi to arrange the export of vacuum pumps and other sensitive equipment to Iran through a free trade zone in the United Arab Emirates.

The indictment alleges that on various occasions, Avanessian received orders for the products sought by Masoumian on behalf of people in Iran.

Avanessian bought the products and arranged to ship them to the UAE, making it appear the UAE was the final destination, and Sairafi would then send the material from there to Iran, prosecutors allege.

The three men re-labeled the shipments as "spare parts" to mask their true contents and void interception, the US government alleges.

If convicted on all counts, Avanessian and Masoumian face maximum sentences of 615 years and 525 years in federal prison, respectively, prosecutors said.