Duo charged with illegally procuring US technology for Iranian military

(WASHINGTON) — Two men were charged with illegally procuring American technology for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ drone program, according to court documents unsealed by the Justice Department.

Iranian national Hossein Hatefi Ardakani and co-defendant Gary Lam, who was based in China and Hong Kong, were charged in D.C. federal court with procuring microelectronics for the IRGC’s program from 2014 to 2015, according to court documents.

Ardakani and his co-conspirators used a “web of foreign companies to accomplish their obfuscation and evasion efforts,” the Justice Department alleged. It is unclear how many co-conspirators were alleged to have been involved.

In one instance, according to the charges, Ardakani and Lam “caused an unwitting French company to purchase from a U.S. company several pieces of analog-to-digital converters with applications in wireless and broadband communications, radar and satellite subsystems, multicarrier, multimodal cellular receivers, antenna array positioning and infrared imaging.” The technology was shipped to Hong Kong, then “reexported to Iran,” according to the court documents.

The case was primarily investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, DOJ said.

“Ardakani and his co-conspirators crafted a sophisticated web of front companies to obscure the illicit acquisition of U.S. and foreign technology to procure components for deadly UAVs,” said Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Krol of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New England. “These very components have been found in use by Iran’s allies in current conflicts, including in Ukraine. The disruption of these criminal networks by Homeland Security Investigations means that hundreds of thousands of critical UAV components will never again be used for malign purposes.”

The pair are charged with conspiracy to export U.S. goods to Iran and to defraud the United States, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. They are also charged with unlawfully exporting and attempting to export goods to Iran, as well as conspiracy to engage in international money laundering. Each of those charges carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

In a separate announcement, the Justice Department said officials had seized more than $800,000 from companies tied to the IRGC’s unnamed aircraft program, and the Treasury Department announced Ardakani was hit with sanctions from the department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The two men couldn’t immediately be reached.

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