Chinese National Pleads Guilty to Passing Iran Nuke Material

Nuclear power plant near Bushehr, Iran / AP

A Chinese national pled guilty to scheming to supply Iran with sensitive nuclear technology from 2009 to 2012, according to the FBI.

The transfer of this technology shows that Iran has been interested in pursuing nuclear weapons grade material in recent years during the same period when it claimed its nuclear program was purely for peaceful purposes.

Sihai Cheng, a 35-year-old Chinese national, pled guilty last week in U.S. district court to two counts of conspiring to commit export violations in order to "smuggle goods from the United States to Iran," according to the FBI.

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Cheng pled guilty to four additional counts "of illegally exporting U.S. manufactured pressure transducers to Iran."

Cheng was initially charged in 2013 of conspiring to export "highly sensitive U.S. manufactured goods with nuclear applications to Iran," the FBI said in a statement. Cheng was charged along with an Iranian national and two Iranian energy and manufacturing companies, Nicaro Eng. Co., Ltd. and Eyvaz Technic Manufacturing Company.

The Iranian national Seyed Abolfazl Shahab Jamili, remains a fugitive and "the U.S. government, through Interpol, has requested his arrest to face prosecution in the United States," the FBI said.

The nuclear technology was exported from the United States to China, where Cheng then removed U.S. markers in order to conceal his crime.

"Jamili advised Cheng that the Iranian end-user was Kalaye Electronic Company, which the U.S. Government designated as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction in 2007 for its work with Iran’s nuclear centrifuge program," according to the FBI.

Pressure transducers are used to enable centrifuges to enrich uranium to a level required to fuel a nuclear weapon. It is illegal to ship such materials to China without special licenses and illegal to ship such materials at all to Iran.