After a lengthy investigation by ICE and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), a federal grand jury handed down an indictment accusing Chinese and Iranian nationals of trying to illegally purchase and export materials used to enrich uranium.
The superseding indictment charges Parviz Khaki, an Iranian, and Zongcheng Yi, a Chinese national, for trying to export U.S.-origin materials used to construct, operate and maintain gas centrifuges for the enrichment of uranium for Iranian officials. In addition, Khaki is accused of conspiring to purchase radioactive source materials from the U.S.
Court papers charge Khaki, age 43, aka Martin, and Yi, aka Yi Cheng, aka Kohler, with one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) by conspiring with others to illegally export U.S. goods to Iran. Both defendants are 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 IEEPA; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Khaki was arrested May 24, 2012, by authorities in the Philippines, however Yi Cheng remains at large. Authorities believe the fugitive may be hiding in Guangzhou City, China.
“By dismantling this complex conspiracy to deliver nuclear-related materials from the United States to Iran, we have disrupted a significant threat to national security,” said Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton. “Homeland Security Investigations will continue to pursue those who exploit U.S. businesses to illegally supply foreign governments with sensitive materials and technology that pose a serious risk to America and its allies.”
With tension’s running high in the Middle East the superseding indictment represents the constant threat foreign nationals can pose to U.S. companies who manufacture products used for enriching uranium and other atomic sensitive products.
“The 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,” said Assistant Attorney General Monaco. “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.”
According to the indictment, from 2008 through 2011, Khaki, Yi and others conspired to export goods from the United States to Iran in violation of the embargo.
Materials used for gas centrifuges to enrich uranium
The government’s case asserts that Khaki began communicating with an undercover U.S. federal agent who was posing as an U.S. exporter in March of 2009. The agent explained to Khaki that under U.S. law his company could not legally sell maraging steel, but the undercover officer explained he could be convinced to bend the rules if the price was right. The government also said Khaki asked about the price and payment options. Federal agents explained that the intricate negotiations unfolded over several months and Khaki never wavered throughout their investigation. Khaki even told federal agents that “you know and I know this material are [sic] limited material and danger goods…”
Not only did Khaki try to dupe American companies, but the indictment alleges in late 2008, he tried to involve a Chinese individual by getting 20 tons of 7075-O aluminum alloy 80mm rods and 20 tons of 7075-T6 aluminum alloy 150 mm rods smuggled through the United States or Europe.
According to the court documents, Khaki also sought to obtain mass spectrometers from the United States. One 2009 email request specified Khaki was after a magnetic mass spectrometer to be used for isotopic analysis of gaseous uranium hexafluoride.
Uranium hexafluoride is the key chemical compound used for the enrichment of uranium.
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