A representative of a Saratoga County turbine parts exporter expressed concern to two German businessmen that they might purchase equipment and illegally transport it to Iran, according to recordings made by federal investigators.
Details of the Oct. 27, 2017, meeting at an unnamed Saratoga County hotel came to light following Friday’s announcement that federal prosecutors had secured guilty pleas from three individuals, including two executives with Energy Republic, a German company that re-exported U.S. turbine parts to Iran in conspiracy with Mahin Mojtahedzadeh, an Iranian citizen.
The two Energy Republic executives are Olaf Tepper, 52, and Mojtaba Biria, 68, who traveled to the Capital Region to meet with a man identified in court papers only as Representative A, who worked for a Saratoga County turbine parts exporter similarly identified as Company A.
The documents suggest, but do not confirm, that the guilty pleas are related to last month’s FBI search of the Wilton offices of Turbine Services Ltd., a turbine parts exporter connected to prominent local businessmen and philanthropists Ronald Riggi and Vincent Riggi. Dozens of federal agents — including FBI as well as officials from the federal departments of Homeland Security and Commerce — hauled out 10 boxes of materials, including electronics, at the conclusion of the June 25 search at the firm’s offices on Old Gick Road.
No local turbine company name is mentioned in the court papers. On Monday, a Turbine Services receptionist said the company would have no comment, and declined to refer the Times Union to any legal representative who could speak on its behalf.
According to the initial federal complaints against Biria and Tepper, the two men arrived in the U.S. on Oct. 26, 2017, at Logan International Airport in Boston. There, in separate interviews with U.S. Customs officials, both men stated that they were not in the country on business and intended to stay in the city for the duration of their visit, according to the complaint. Instead, the government charges, they drove to Saratoga County and met the next morning with Representative A — a meeting that was audio- and video-recorded by FBI agents.
In the meeting, the three men discussed a spreadsheet they had recently exchanged that mentioned Tabriz, a city in northwestern Iran.
“Now, just so we are clear,” Representative A said, according to the transcript included in the criminal complaint against Tepper. “You understand the restrictions that I am under.”
“I know, I know,” Biria said.
“You have been aware of that so, you see these two lines here?” Representative A said. ” … That’s a problem.”
“Why?” Biria asked.
“I know where those, those, those are located,” Representative A said. ” … Where is the power plant? Tabriz is in … Iran. So I can’t, you know, that’s, that’s — ”
After some crosstalk, Tepper said, “So officially we have to stop business on this one, yeah?”
“Don’t write the names,” Biria said in what the transcript says was a comment directed at Tepper.
“Right,” Representative A said, “the the, well, the, you know — ”
“Why is, why is that?” Biria said, again to Tepper. “He is not supposed to — ”
“We understand that, ah, it goes to Germany or an (European Union) country or non-sanctioned countries,” Representative A said.
“Yeah,” Biria said.
“That’s the understanding,” Representative A said, “and that’s how we’ve always worked it.”
Later, Biria appeared to suggest to Representative A that he would be able to simply blame Energy Republic if the company’s parts ended up in Iran.
“If that’s the case, Mr. Biria, if you’re telling me these parts are going to a place that is a sanctioned company,” Representative A said, “then I can no longer — ”
“Yes, I know,” Biria said.
“That is, that is the rule. So you understand the rules,” Representative A said.
“But if … I take these parts,” Biria said, “and I sell it in Europe, and your representation in Europe come and say why you selling this in Europe?”
“I don’t have any representation in Europe,” Representative A said.
“For example,” Biria said.
“For example,” Representative A repeated.
“For example. OK?,” Biria said. “Then you blame us, why are you selling this in Europe?”
“Sure, I would say the same thing, but it’s a different situation,” Representative A said.
A month later, Company A received $400,000 from Energy Republic for the equipment.
On Friday, a news release from the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York stated that Mojtahedzadeh, the president and managing director of an export company with an office in Dubai, admitted that from 2013 through 2017, she worked with companies in Canada and Germany to violate and evade U.S. sanctions against Iran by having these companies first acquire more than $3 million worth of turbine parts from two unidentified distributors in Saratoga County.
Tepper pleaded guilty last August to conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which bars the shipment of such equipment to Iran. U.S. District Judge Mae D’Agostino sentenced him to 24 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. Biria also pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate IEEPA, and is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 14.
Mojtahedzadeh pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to violate IEEPA and the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations. Her company supplies spare and replacement turbine parts for power generation firms in the Middle East, including Iran, authorities said.
“This sort of sanctions violation allows the Iranian government to withstand the pressure of U.S. sanctions — pressure that is intended to end Iran’s malign behavior,” Assistant U.S. Attorney General John Demers said in a statement. “We will continue to hold to account those who aid Iran in evading the United States’ comprehensive embargo.”
Source » timesunion