A federal grand jury has indicted an Iranian and a Chinese citizen on charges of trying to illegally export U.S. material to help Tehran enrich uranium, American officials said Friday.
One of the men, Iranian citizen Parviz Khaki, was also accused of conspiring to send radioactive material from the United States to customers in Iran, according to a superseding indictment returned late Thursday.
The materials that Khaki and Yi Zongcheng allegedly sought to obtain and export to Iran included maraging steel, aluminum alloys, mass spectrometers and vacuum pumps used to build, operate and maintain gas centrifuges to enrich uranium.
Khaki, 43, who also goes by “Martin,” and Yi, known as “Kohler” were each charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act by conspiring to export U.S. goods without a proper license.
They were also charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, two counts of smuggling, two counts of illegally exporting U.S. goods to Iran in violation of the IEEPA and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Khaki was arrested in May by authorities in the Philippines on a U.S. provisional arrest request, while Yi remains at large.
If convicted, they each face up to 20 years for the IEEPA violations, five years for conspiring to defraud the United States, 10 years for each of the two smuggling counts, 20 years for each of the two IEEPA counts and 20 years for money laundering.
In December 2008, Khaki asked someone in China to obtain 20 tons of C-350 maraging steel, known for its superior strength suited for use in gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment, from the United States for his customers in Iran.
He then communicated with Yi in the following months about purchasing 20 tons of maraging steel from a U.S. company with which Yi was in contact, according to the superseding indictment.
As he sought more maraging steel, Khaki was also said to have communicated with an undercover U.S. federal agent who was posing as an illegal exporter of U.S. goods in March 2009.
“You know and I know this material (is) limited material and danger goods,” Khaki told the undercover agent. He also discussed his goal to make money from the transaction.
In late 2008, Khaki got in touch with someone in China about obtaining 20 tons of 7075-O aluminum alloy 80mm rods and 20 tons of 7075-T6 aluminum alloy 150 mm rods from the United States or Europe.
During one exchange, Khaki explained to the individual that the aluminum alloy had to be made in America because his Iranian customer had found that Chinese aluminum alloy was of poor quality.
In addition, the indictment found that Khaki had tried to obtain radioactive source materials from the United States, asking the undercover agent to namely procure barium-133 source, europium-152 source, cobalt-57 source and cadmium-109 source from a U.S. firm.
“Today’s indictment sheds light on the reach of Iran’s illegal procurement networks and the importance of keeping U.S. nuclear-related materials from being exploited by Iran,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security Lisa Monaco said in a statement.
“Iranian procurement networks continue to target U.S. and Western companies for technology acquisition by using fraud, front companies and middlemen in nations around the globe.”