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Feds: N.J. man shipped blueprints for use in N. Korea

From Phil Hirschkorn
CNN


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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Federal prosecutors have accused a New Jersey-based engineer of illegally exporting blueprints for valves that were to be used in the construction of a North Korean nuclear power facility.

A criminal complaint filed Friday alleges Sitaraman Ravi Mahedevan mailed the blueprints two weeks ago in violation of U.S. regulations.

The one-count complaint says Mahedevan "violated and attempted to violate" provisions of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

Mahedevan, 40, is a Canadian citizen of Indian descent and is a legal permanent resident of the United States. He was arrested Friday morning at his home in Marlton, New Jersey, and later appeared in U.S. District Court in Lower Manhattan.

Magistrate Andrew Peck granted Mahedevan bail on a $750,000 bond but confiscated his passports and limited his travel to New York and New Jersey.

Defense Attorney Gerald Lefcourt said Mahedevan has excellent roots in his community and has worked for the past eight years for Valcor Engineering in Springfield, New Jersey.

Valcor manufactures valves for use in the aerospace and nuclear power industries, according to the company's Web site.

CNN was not immediately able to reach anyone from the company for comment.

Under Mahedevan's management of the firm's nuclear business unit, Valcor allegedly entered into a $200,000 contract with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America, Inc., to supply valves for a nuclear power plant in North Korea, according to the complaint.

Valcor would have received 15 percent of the purchase price upon receipt of the blueprints, the complaint said.

The order specified "pressure regulator" and "solenoid operated" valves that are used to transfer gases, liquid and hot water, and are needed for the assembly of nuclear reactors, according to the complaint.

Their buyer was the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization -- KEDO -- which is building a light-water nuclear plant in North Korea, the complaint said.

A spokesman for the Japanese-owned Mitsubushi Heavy Industries, Hiro Yamamoto, said in a telephone interview that Mitsubishi manufactures large components for nuclear plants and recently subcontracted for the first time with Valcor, which he described as a "respectable company."

Yamamoto, the corporate secretary for the New York office, said Mitsubishi Heavy Industries manufactures machinery and equipment, water and waste treatment plants, and steel factories, but is independent of the car maker with the same name.

The investigation into the planned shipment to North Korea began with a tip in April from an informant to the Commerce Department, the complaint said.

On October 17, investigators intercepted six packages containing valve blueprints sent via UPS by Valcor to Mitsubishi's office in New York, the complaint said.

"We have not received any blueprints whatsoever," Yamamoto said. "We've been waiting for them."

The packages, according to Commerce Department Special Agent Jonathan Carson, contained "90 separate blueprints for approximately 10 different valves" for the KEDO plant.

"The blueprints were highly detailed and contained significant amounts of technical data on them," Carson said in the complaint.

Under questioning by Carson, Mahedevan admitted that he was responsible for the valve contract and that the valves would have been used for a containment building at the KEDO facility, according to the complaint.

Mahedevan sent them "knowing that the blueprints would be exported from the United States to an unsafeguarded nuclear facility, and without obtaining an export license from the U.S. government as is required by law," Carson said.

North Korea's nuclear power plant operations continue to be a source of worldwide concern.

Under the dictatorship of Kim Jong Il, the country has said it is pursuing development of nuclear weapons, but has also said it needs the nuclear plants to generate electricity.

North Korea has expelled International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and is not a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The criminal complaint also alleges that Valcor last year applied for a license to export more than $3 million of valves to a nuclear plant in India, but the Commerce Department rejected the application.

Mahedevan said no work had been done on those valves, because of a U.S. license denial, according to the complaint.

The court scheduled a preliminary hearing for December 31, but that would be canceled should the government obtain an indictment before then.

CNN Executive Producer Peter Dykstra, Producer Justine Redman and Researcher Abighail Brigham contributed to this report.


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