Two Iranian men living in Canada are accused by U.S. authorities of buying “highly sophisticated” manufacturing and transportation equipment and secretly shipping it to Iran to circumvent strict sanctions.
Using subterfuge, lies and masquerades, they overcame repeated refusals from companies around the world and eventually shipped nine electrical discharge boards, a CPU for a precision fabrication machine, two servo motors and two railroad crankshafts from the United States to Iran, authorities allege.
Along with another Iranian national, they are also accused of international money laundering in a plot spanning 11 countries and stretching over two years.
The charges come amid continuing international tension between Iran and both Canada and the United States.
“Homeland Security Investigations uses export control statutes to ensure sensitive technologies developed in the United States do not fall into the hands of those that intend to harm Americans or our allies,” said Vance Callender, a special agent in charge with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations.
“Iran has been subject to international sanctions for more than 40 years and has continuously and furtively tried to obtain items that could be used against U.S. soldiers in conflict or Americans abroad.”
Authorities allege that Arash Yousefi Jam, 32, and Amin Yousefi Jam, 33, of the Greater Toronto Area, wilfully conspired with a 44-year-old man in Iran named Abdollah Momeni Roustani to skirt international sanctions to export goods to Iran.
The plot started around January 2015, and ran for at least two years, according to an indictment filed in court.
The men placed orders for precision metal fabrication and railway transportation equipment from U.S.-based companies and arranged for them to be shipped to Iran, sending them first to the UAE “to hide the true location and nature of the end users, who were in Iran,” according to the indictment.
On Jan. 9, 2015, Arash Jam emailed a U.S company requesting prices for nine electrical discharge boards. He said he was in Toronto but the boards were being shipped to the UAE, according to the indictment.
When the price list was received, it was forwarded to Roustani who replied in Farsi, saying “God bless you, you really get it at this price.” Arash then asked the company if the parts could be shipped directly from the Spanish manufacturer to save money.
Meanwhile, he sent a similar request from a competing firm in Britain. The British company asked for the serial number of the machine the parts were for, but when Arash sent it the firm refused to assist, stating “the machine is in a prohibited country.”
Arash and Amin Jam exchanged emails that confirmed the machine was in Tehran, Iran’s capital, authorities allege.
The order was then placed with the original U.S. company for the products made in Spain. The bill was sent to Roustani and payment made from a bank in the UAE, according to the indictment.
The U.S. company then insisted on knowing the serial number of the machine the parts were for.
Knowing that when he gave the real serial number to the British company he was refused sale, Arash found a version of the same machine for sale and asked what its serial number was. Arash then gave this new serial number to the U.S. company to trick the firm, according to the indictment.
The Spanish company became suspicious, as the same serial number had been given for a different order, and refused the sale, saying they were concerned the parts were going to Iran.
The U.S. supplier, however, still agreed to the sale and the electrical discharge boards were shipped to UAE and then transhipped to Iran, authorities allege.
A central processing unit for the same machine was then ordered from the same company, using the fake serial number. The CPU was sold and shipped to UAE and then to Iran — but didn’t work properly.
Iran … has continuously and furtively tried to obtain items that could be used against U.S. soldiers in conflict or Americans abroad
When Arash complained to the company, he was told that if the CPU was used in a machine with a serial number different from what he told them it wouldn’t work and there was nothing they could do.
Similar purchase arrangements for servo motors ran into a snag when a shipper refused to take them to Iran without an export license.
Amin asked in an email, if “there is a way without it,” the indictment says. The reply was succinct: “No way around it. I can’t ship it.” Another shipping company agreed to take it to UAE and then reship to Iran.
In 2016, Arash asked a Croatian company a price on railroad crankshafts on behalf of the “ministry of transportation in Iraq,” the indictment says. The company referred them to a U.S. supplier. The U.S. company emailed, saying “I hope that this is not for Iran.”
Arash made a similar request to a French railroad firm, which replied, “we know it is not for Iraq Railways,” and refused to provide a price. Dozens of more emails to railroad companies around the world were sent trying to buy the parts.
When Arash finally found a U.S. company agreeing to the sale, he arranged for a shipper to pick them up and ship them to UAE and then on to Iran, in a process known as “cross-stuffing,” according to the allegations.
When picking up the shipment, Arash told the shipper in an email, do “not mention anything about the cross-stuffing, only that the shipment is being taken to Dubai, UAE,” according to the indictment.
The shipment made it to port in Iran. Payments for the supplies were wired through different countries, including Turkey and Uganda.
“The deeply disturbing allegations in this case are that the defendants conspired to export highly sophisticated American manufacturing equipment and other American-made items into the arms of the Iranians,” said Matthew Schneider, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, where the case is being prosecuted.
Source » thechronicleherald