- One of the accused was arrested in May; the other remains at large
- Both face one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act
- Western nations suspect Iran wants to build nuclear weapons, an assertion Tehran denies
A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia has indicted two people for their alleged attempts to supply Iran with U.S. materials for gas centrifuges to enrich uranium, the Justice Department said Friday.
The indictment charges Parviz Khaki, an Iranian citizen, and Zongcheng Yi, a resident of China, each with one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) by conspiring to export the goods without the required license.
Both also face 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, the Justice Department said.
The indictment also accuses Khaki of seeking to obtain for customers in Iran radioactive source materials from the United States.
Khaki, 43, was arrested in the Philippines in May. Yi remains at large.
"This new indictment shows that we have no tolerance for those who try to traffic in commodities that can be used to support Iran's nuclear program," U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. said in a statement. "It also underscores our commitment to aggressively enforcing export laws."
As a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran has the right, like other countries, to enrich uranium for commercial and research reactors. But the same facilities that are used for peaceful enrichment can be used to enrich uranium for a bomb. That's what many Western countries suspect Iran is doing.
Iran insists its nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.
Among the materials Khaki and Yi are accused of trying to obtain are measuring instruments, pressure transducers, vacuum pumps and maraging steel, a class of high-strength steel. All can be used in gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment.
The indictment alleges they both also caused the illegal export of lathes and nickel alloy wire to Iran, and it accuses Khaki of trying to obtain radioactive source materials. In 2009 and again in 2011, he allegedly contacted an undercover U.S. federal agent, posing as an exporter, asking the agent to purchase radioactive sources.
A law enforcement official, not authorized to talk to the media, declined to say whether the radioactive and centrifuge materials made it through to Iran. The lathes and nickel alloy wire were shipped from the United States through China to Iran.
If convicted, Khaki and Yi could face up to 20 years in prison for conspiring to violate IEEPA, five years for conspiring to defraud the United States, 10 years for each smuggling count, 20 years for each exporting count and 20 years in prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering.