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Terrorism


Iranian Sentenced in Delaware for Procuring Military Equipment to Prepare Iran for War Against the U.S.

UPDATE: Ardebili was deported to Iran in March 2012 after completing his sentence. 


Posted: December 16, 2009

An Iranian who attempted to procure a cache of electronics and military equipment to prepare the government of Iran for future conflicts with the United States has been sentenced to five years in prison. 

 

On December 14, 2009, Amir Hossein Ardebili, 36, was sentenced in a Delaware federal court to five years in prison. Ardebili pleaded guilty in May 2008 to smuggling, conspiracy, money-laundering and violating weapons-trafficking laws related to America's trade embargo on Iran. The charges, which were unsealed two weeks before Ardebili was sentenced, followed a three-year investigation led by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that exposed Ardebili as a "prolific arms acquisitions agent" for the government of Iran.

 

Beginning in 2004, Ardebili allegedly solicited American companies, operated by undercover ICE agents, to provide him with military equipment and technology to prepare Iran for future conflicts with the U.S. "If the United States come [sic] to war," Ardebili said, according to court documents, "the government [of Iran] could defend… because they think the war is coming." Prosecutors alleged that Ardebili's activities "directly and adversely affected the national security of the United States" by preparing Iran for war.

 

Prosecutors further alleged that Ardebili negotiated the purchase and illegal export of various military parts, including electronic chips used in military aircraft, phase shifters and devices that help guide missiles to their targets. He allegedly told ICE agents, who manned undercover storefronts in Philadelphia, Boston and overseas, that his "sole client" was the government of Iran. In later conversations with undercover agents, Ardebili allegedly confirmed that he procured equipment on behalf of Iran Electronics Industries, an Iranian-owned subsidiary that develops materials for the Iranian military.

 

The components that Ardebili attempted to purchase from the American-based companies are designated as defense articles on the U.S. Munitions List and therefore may not be exported from the U.S. without a license or written authorization from the State Department. The Treasury Department's trade embargo on Iran, which it describes as "the world's most active state sponsor of terror," also prohibits the exportation of these items to Iran without a license. Ardebili allegedly told undercover ICE agents that these export restrictions could be circumvented by transshipping commodities to Iran through Europe, according to court documents.

 

In July 2007, Ardebili transferred approximately $3000 from Iran to an ICE undercover bank account in Wilmington, Delaware, as a down payment. Three months later, undercover agents arranged a meeting with Ardebili in Tbilisi, Georgia to complete the transactions. After two days of meetings, during which Ardebili told the ICE undercover agents that the payment for the military equipment originated in Iran, American officials took Ardebili into custody and seized his laptop. He was extradited to the U.S. in January 2008.

 

Ardebili's case illustrates Iran's attempts to circumvent U.S. trade restrictions. A month before his arrest, Ardebili allegedly told an undercover ICE agent that Iran's Ministry of Defense conceals the illegal procurement of goods by using independent, subsidiary companies to supply the Iranian government with military equipment.

 

The charges unsealed against Ardebili are the latest in the crackdown against those who illegally funnel goods and military equipment to Iran. Three days after Ardebili was sentenced, his Arizona-based associate James Larrison pleaded guilty to attempting to send electronics to Iran without the required authorization from the Treasury Department. In 2008, more than 30 people were charged, convicted or sentenced in the U.S. for attempting to violate and violating America's trade embargo on Iran, which was instituted by President Clinton in May 1995.

 

The following is a sampling of individuals and companies charged or convicted in the U.S. this year for violating the trade embargo and attempting to illegally transport military parts to Iran.

 

  • International arms dealer Jacques Monsieur pleaded guilty in Alabama on November 23, 2009, to conspiring to export F-5 fighter jet engines and parts from the U.S. to Iran. Court documents have described Monsieur, whose co-defendant, Dara Fotouhi, was indicted in Alabama in August, as an experienced arms dealer who has been working to procure military supplies for the Iranian government.

  • Laura Wang-Woodford, an American citizen who directed Monarch Aviation Pte Ltd., a Singapore-based firm that imported and exported military and commercial aircraft components, was sentenced in a Brooklyn federal court on November 5, 2009, to nearly four years in prison for conspiring to violate the U.S. trade embargo by exporting controlled aircraft components to Iran.

  • Amendments to a civil complaint filed on November 12, 2009, called for the U.S. government to seize a New York skyscraper and four mosques owned by the Alavi Foundation, a self-described "not-for-profit organization devoted to the promotion and support of Islamic culture and Persian language, literature and civilization." The original criminal complaint, filed the previous year, charged the Alavi Foundation with providing services and funds to the Iranian government.

  • Robert Kraaipoel and Robert Neils Kraaipoel, two Dutch officers of a Netherlands-based aircraft parts supply company – Aviation Service International, B.V. – pleaded guilty in a Washington, D.C. federal court on September 24, 2009, to illegally exporting aircraft components and other items from the U.S. to Iran. The men purchased materials from companies in the U.S. on behalf of Iranian customers and later attempted to transship the materials from the Netherlands, United Arab Emirates and Cyprus to Iran in order to conceal their activities from the U.S. government.

  • Baktash Fattahi, an Iranian national and legal U.S. resident, was arrested and charged with ten others in April 2009 for conspiring to send American-made military aircraft parts to Iran.

  • Ali Amirnazmi, a U.S. citizen from Berwyn, Pennsylvania, was convicted in February 2009 for engaging in numerous illegal business transactions and investments with companies in Iran, including ones controlled by the Iranian government, for approximately 12 years.
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