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Two named in Iran uranium export scheme

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** FILE ** Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents take a suspect into custody.

Two foreign nationals have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington on charges of attempting to obtain and illegally export to Iran materials that can be used to construct, operate and maintain gas centrifuges to enrich uranium.

Parviz Khaki, 43, a citizen of Iran, and Zongcheng Yi, a resident of China, are each charged with conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) by conspiring with others to cause the export of U.S. goods to Iran without the required U.S. Treasury Department license. They also are charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, smuggling, illegally exporting U.S. goods to Iran and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Mr. Khaki also is accused of conspiring to procure radioactive source materials from the United States for customers in Iran.

“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,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. “It also underscores our commitment to aggressively enforcing export laws.”

Mr. Khaki was arrested May 24 by authorities in the Philippines on a U.S. provisional arrest request stemming from a March 8 indictment in the District. Mr. Yi, who purported is to be the managing director of Monalila Co. LTD, a company in China, remains at large.

According to the indictment, from October 2008 through January 2011, Mr. Khaki, Mr. Yi and others conspired to cause the export of goods from the United States to Iran in violation of the embargo. At no time did the two men have a license or authorization from the Treasury Department to export U.S. goods to Iran.

In carrying out the conspiracy, the indictment said Mr. Khaki directed Mr. Yi and others to contact U.S.companies about purchasing U.S.-origin goods. Mr. Yi and other conspirators then placed orders, purchased goods and sought to have them exported from this country through China and Hong Kong to Mr. Khaki and others in Iran. It said Mr. Yi and others made false statements to U.S. companies to conceal that Iran was the final destination and end-user of the goods and to convince U.S. companies to export these items to a third country.

“By dismantling this complex conspiracy to deliver nuclear-related materials from the United States to Iran, we have disrupted a significant threat to national security,” said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton.

According to the indictment, Mr. Khaki asked “an individual in China” on Dec. 6, 2008, to obtain 20 tons of C-350 maraging steel from the United States for Mr. Khaki’s customer in Iran. In the months that followed, it said, Mr. Khaki also had communications with Mr. Yi about purchasing 20 tons of maraging steel from a U.S. company with which Mr. Yi was in contact.

Maraging steel is a special class of high-strength steel known for possessing superior strength without losing malleability. The enhanced strength of maraging steel makes it particularly suited for use in gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment.

The indictment also said Mr. Khaki contacted an undercover U.S. federal agent posing as an illegal exporter, who told him U.S. companies could not sell maraging steel because doing so was illegal, but the agent could help for a fee. It said Mr. Khaki then questioned the agent about price and payment, and negotiations continued between the two for for several months.

According to the indictment, Mr. Khaki sought to obtain for export 40 tons of aluminum alloy rods, along with mass spectrometers, radioactive source materials, lathes and nickel alloy wire and other items that can be used for gas centrifuges, including measuring instruments, pressure transducers and vacuum pumps.

The investigation was conducted by ICE, with assistance from authorities in the Philippines. The prosecution is being handled by Mr. Machen’s office and Trial Attorney Brandon L. Van Grack of the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

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