Two men have been charged with trying to illegally export nuclear-related material to Iran, the US Justice Department announced on Friday.
Parviz Khaki, an Iranian citizen, was arrested in May by Philippine authorities at the US’ request. The other man, Zongcheng Yi, a Chinese resident, remains a fugitive.
The grand jury charged that in 2008 Khaki asked someone in China to obtain 20 tonnes of C-350 maraging steel from the US for customer in Iran. Maraging steel is especially suited for use in gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment.
In pursuit of the steel, Khaki allegedly began communicating with an undercover US federal agent posing as an illegal exporter.
In a May 2009 e-mail to the undercover agent, Khaki said he sought a magnetic mass spectrometer for the isotopic analysis of gaseous uranium hexafluoride, the government said. Uranium hexafluoride is a chemical compound used to enrich uranium.
In January last year, Khaki also allegedly asked the undercover agent to purchase radioactive sources cobalt-57 and cadmium-109.
Lisa Monaco, the assistant attorney-general in charge of the US Justice Department’s national security division, said the case sheds light on the reach of Iran’s illegal procurement networks.
The indictment alleges that the efforts of the defendants actually did result in the illegal export of lathes and nickel alloy 120 wire from the US through China to Iran. In February 2009, Khaki asked Yi to contact a US company about procuring two Twister Speed Lathes. Yi allegedly purchased these items and arranged for them to be shipped from the US to Hong Kong and ultimately to Iran in June 2009.
Khaki and Yi are each charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, one count of conspiring to defraud the US, two counts of smuggling, two counts of illegally exporting US goods to Iran and one count of conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
Both defendants face a maximum sentence of 70 years in prison if convicted on all counts.