U.S. authorities have accused an Iranian man of operating an international smuggling network that illegally exported specialized metals used in rockets from the United States to his home country to support Iran's ballistic missile program.
Milad Jafari, 36, believed to be at large in Iran, was indicted on 11 counts of fraud, illegal export and illegal smuggling by a federal grand jury in Washington on July 21, according to court documents unsealed Monday.
Justice Department officials said Jafari and his associates set up companies outside Iran to provide "direct support" to Iran's missile program by securing metal products such as steel and aluminum alloys. The materials were bound for entities controlled by Iran's Aerospace Industries Organization, a subsidiary of Iran's military that oversees its missile industry and that has been subject to U.S. sanctions since 2005.
Officials say Jafari falsely claimed that shipments were destined for Turkey, then exploited that NATO member's customs controls to send materials on to Iran.
Stuart Levey, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, called the Jafari network "a lifeline for Iran's missile program."
David Kris, assistant, U.S. attorney general for national security, said the allegations "shed light on the reach of Iran's illegal procurement networks and the importance of keeping U.S. materials from being exploited for Iran's weapons development."
In a related move, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that it has listed Jafari, five relatives and associates and five related companies in Iran and Turkey as proliferators of weapons of mass destruction, subjecting them to strict American sanctions.
The Justice indictment said Jafari ran two businesses active in Istanbul and Tehran, called Macpar Makina and Standard Teknik Parca, or STEP. Treasury officials said Jafari was helped by his parents and brother, as well as Turkish nationals and business associates Muammer Kuntay Duransoy and Cagri Duransoy.
Treasury officials named three other Iranian companies in the alleged scheme, Multimat Ltd., Carvana Co. and Machine Pardazan Co.
According to federal prosecutors, between February 2004 and August 2007 Jafari's group responded to direct requests or initiated purchases after hearing of requests issued by subordinates of AIO. The transactions valued more than $7 million.
Some of the shipments involved "dual-use" materials with aerospace applications, such as wiring and alloys used in rocket nose cone assemblies or other missile parts, authorities said. Examples named in the indictment include specialized welding wire, hardened and heat-resistant stainless steel, commercial bronze bars and testing equipment.
The requests came from cover companies for the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group and Sanam Industrial Group, other Iranian entities subordinate to AIO and sanctioned by U.S. and United Nations authorities, prosecutors said.
The investigation was disclosed as the United States has stepped up sanctions across a range of economic fronts in response to Iran's nuclear and missile programs, targeting shipping, trade and financial sectors over the last year.