Three Iranian nationals have been charged with illegally smuggling carbon fiber, a crucial component to make a nuclear bomb, announced the U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday.
Behzad Pourghannad was apprehended in Germany in May 2017 on the charges and was extradited to the United States on Monday. The following day, he made his initial court appearance in a federal court in White Plains, N.Y., before U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith McCarthy.
The other two conspirators, Ali Reza Shokri and Farzin Faridmanesh, remain at large.
“Carbon fiber has many aerospace and defense applications, and is strictly controlled to ensure that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Pourghannad and his co-defendants allegedly went to great lengths to circumvent these controls and the United States’ export laws,” said Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. “Together with our law-enforcement partners, we will continue to protect our nation’s assets and protect our national security.”
“Pourghannad is alleged to have sought to procure for Iran large amounts of carbon fiber—a commodity that can be used in the enrichment of uranium. U.S. sanctions exist to prevent behavior, like this, which endangers our country, and the department is committed to vigorously enforcing them,” said John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security. “Pourghannad and others who would attempt to thwart these laws need to know that their actions, which benefit Iran’s destabilizing efforts and make Americans less safe, will not go unpunished.”
Between 2008 and July 2013, the three suspects lived and worked in Iran, apparently first obtaining carbon fiber from the United States to export it through other countries.
Shokri is accused of the acquisition of carbon fiber, while Pourghannad is accused of serving as the financial guarantor for the transactions. Faridmanesh is accused of conducting the transshipment.
“This case shows the FBI aggressively pursues those who allegedly break the law and violate sanctions against Iran. Iran remains determined to acquire U.S. technology with military applications, and the FBI is just as determined to stop such illegal activity,” said John Brown, assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division. “The charges against these three Iranian nationals, and the extradition of Mr. Pourghannad, demonstrate we take Iran’s actions extremely seriously and will work with our partners to defeat them.”
“The U.S. must always remain vigilant against a wide range of threats both at home and abroad, especially when it comes to Iran,” Security Studies Group senior fellow Matthew Brodsky told JNS. “Critics of the Trump administration will undoubtedly point to the fact that in this particular case, these individuals were active in the U.S. from 2008 until 2013 in order to highlight that this activity waned during the nuclear negotiations with the Obama administration.”
He added that “it’s also worth pointing out that while these individuals were active, in 2011 the U.S. broke up an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. by means of a bomb in a popular Washington, D.C. restaurant. Iran exports terror, is active throughout the world, and is seeking nuclear weapons. The U.S. should treat the regime accordingly.”