Iranian Man Sentenced to 46 Months in Prison for Illegally Exporting Nuclear Materials to Iran

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November 14, 2019

An Iranian man convicted of exporting sensitive nuclear-related materials to Iran has been sentenced to 46 months in prison, according to an announcement from the Justice Department.

Behzad Pourghannad was dealt the prison sentence on Thursday for his role in a conspiracy to illicitly export to Iran carbon fiber, a restricted and controlled material that has applications in military and aerospace technologies.

The sentence reflects the Trump administration's commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and the materials necessary to bolster its program.

Pourghannad arranged a scheme to obfuscate the export of these materials to Iran, which is prohibited under U.S. sanctions meant to stop Tehran from obtaining sensitive materials that could be used in its nuclear and military programs. The defendants fooled a U.S. manufacturer of carbon fiber by making it appear as if the materials were not destined for Iran. After channeling the material through a complex network of companies based in Europe and the Middle East, Pourghannad and his associates worked to ensure the carbon fiber ultimately ended up in Iran.

"Pourghannad falsified shipment documents and used front companies to export carbon fiber to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions," Assistant Attorney of National Security John C. Demers said in a statement. "Carbon fiber is used by the Iranian regime to further its nuclear, military, and aerospace programs. We continue to thwart the efforts of the Iranian regime to evade our sanctions and work steadfastly with our international partners to investigate, prosecute, and bring sanctions violators to justice."

Iran has committed in recent months to breaching international bans of the production of weapons-related material, such as highly enriched uranium.

"Behzad Pourghannad conspired to circumvent U.S. export controls on carbon fiber, a substance with numerous military and aerospace applications," U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York Geoffrey Berman said in a statement on the sentencing. "The significant sentence Pourghannad received should send a message that such violations, which threaten our national security, will incur stiff penalties."

Between 2008 and 2013, Pourghannad and two codefendants who lived in Iran worked to obtain carbon fiber in the United States and clandestinely export it to Iran through a series of cutouts in third countries, a violation of U.S. sanctions. In addition to enlisting a network of cutout companies meant to obfuscate their actions, Pourghannad and his associates contacted a U.S.-based carbon fiber manufacturer to provide the materials, which were then channeled through Europe, Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, and, finally, and Iranian-based company.

U.S. sanctions and laws governing sensitive military-related materials prohibit any foreign individuals from exporting controlled materials to countries subject to American sanctions, such as Iran. Pourghannad was extradited to the United States by Germany as a result of the evidence implicating him in the scheme.

Published under: Iran