Documents show US has arrested Iranian scientist

January 26, 2012

The Associated Press (AP) on January 26, 2012 released the following:

“By DOUGLAS BIRCH and PAUL ELIAS
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States has arrested and charged an Iranian semiconductor scientist with violating U.S. export laws by buying high-tech U.S. lab equipment, a development likely to further worsen Iranian-U.S. tensions.

Prison records show the U.S. is holding Seyed Mojtaba Atarodi, 54, a microchip expert and assistant professor at Tehran’s prestigious Sharif University of Technology, in a federal facility in Dublin, Calif., outside San Francisco. The Iranian interest section in the Pakistani embassy in Washington said it was aware of the arrest.

Atarodi arrived at a bond hearing in federal district court in San Francisco Thursday wearing a green jump suit and bowed to his attorney. Before the hearing began, the judge closed the courtroom except to attorneys and members of the family. According to friends, Atarodi was detained Dec. 7 after stepping off a plane in Los Angeles.

Dr. Fredun Hojabri, a former vice chancellor of Sharif University who now lives in the U.S., said he was aware of the case and noted that friction between the U.S. and Iran has long posed problems for Iranian researchers.

U.S. law enforcement officials have declined to discuss any aspect of Atarodi’s case, and records indicate the charges have been sealed.

But a Sharif University spokesman said he has been charged with buying instruments from the United States. The university official spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the potential repercussions of the case.

The arrest comes as the U.S., Israel and their allies are using diplomacy, sanctions and intelligence efforts to try to cripple what they suspect is Iran’s drive to lay the foundations of a nuclear weapons program.

Atarodi is listed as the author or coauthor of dozens of scientific papers dealing with microchip technology, though none appears to be explicitly related to military work. U.S. officials in the past have targeted suspected export control violators dealing in so-called dual-use technology, which can have both civilian and military applications.

The Sharif University spokesman said Atarodi was engaged only in civilian research. “The fact of the matter is that he was just a professor, and he was trying to buy some equipment for his lab, and the equipment was very, very simple, ridiculously simple stuff that anybody can buy,” the spokesman said.

The arrest of an Iranian scientist in a U.S. embargo case is rare, with most cases focusing on low-level middlemen living in the U.S. recruited to act as fronts for purchasers in Iran. But Iranian researchers in recent years have become central figures in the struggle between Tehran and the West over the country’s extensive nuclear programs, which the International Atomic Energy Agency says has included arms-related research.

At least four Iranian scientists have died under mysterious circumstances over about the past two years, and Israel is suspected of playing a role in the attacks.

In the most recent incident, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a chemist and official at Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant, was killed by a car bomb Jan. 11, reportedly while on his way to a memorial service for a scientist slain a year earlier.

For years, Iran has insisted it is only interested in the peaceful uses of atomic energy and has resisted United Nation demands that it abandon its extensive uranium enrichment efforts. Enrichment technology can be used to make fuel for nuclear reactors or fissile material for bombs.

The U.S. and Israel, meanwhile, are believed to have recruited Iranian scientists as agents or encouraged them to defect.

A friend of Dr. Atarodi’s, John Choma, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Southern California, said he learned of the arrest from Atarodi’s brother, who lives in the Los Angeles area. The brother did not respond to requests for an interview.

Hojabri cited an incident in 2006 when more than 50 Iranian scientists, executives and engineers headed for a forum on disaster management in Santa Clara, Calif., were detained and expelled after their arrival because their visas were revoked. The event was organized by a Sharif University alumni group.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Former Managing Director of PPG Paints Trading (Shanghai) Co., Ltd., Charged with Illegally Exporting High-Performance Coatings To Nuclear Reactor in Pakistan

July 10, 2011

The U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Columbia on July 8, 2011 released the following:

“WASHINGTON – Xun Wang, a former Managing Director of PPG Paints Trading (Shanghai) Co., Ltd., a wholly-owned Chinese subsidiary of United States-based PPG Industries, Inc., has been indicted on a charge of conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Export Administration Regulations, and other related offenses, announced Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, and Eric L. Hirschhorn, U.S. Department of Commerce Under Secretary for Industry and Security.

Wang, 51 made her initial appearance on July 7, 2011 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. On June 7, 2011, a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned a sealed indictment charging her with one count of conspiracy and three counts of violating export laws under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). The indictment was unsealed following Wang’s arrest.

She is accused of conspiring to export and reexport, and exporting and reexporting specially designed, high-performance epoxy coatings to the Chashma 2 Nuclear Power Plant (Chashma II) in Pakistan, a nuclear reactor owned and/or operated by the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, an entity on the Department of Commerce’s Entity List.

Wang was arrested on the indictment on June 16, 2011, at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and transferred to the District of Columbia on July 6, 2011. Wang remains in custody pending a detention hearing on July 12, 2011 before United States Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson. She is a Chinese national and lawful permanent resident of the United States. The United States is seeking to have her held without bond pending trial.

The indictment is related to the December 21, 2010, guilty plea of PPG Paints Trading (Shanghai) Co., Ltd. (“PPG Paints Trading”), to a four-count information in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Together, PPG Paints Trading and its parent company, PPG Industries, Inc., paid $3.75 million in criminal and administrative fines and over $32,000 in restitution. The combined amount of criminal and civil fines represented one of the largest monetary penalties for export violations in the history of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security.

The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission is the science and technology organization in Pakistan responsible for Pakistan’s nuclear program, including the development and operation of nuclear power plants in Pakistan. In November 1998, following Pakistan’s first successful detonation of a nuclear device, the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security added the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, as well as its subordinate nuclear reactors and power plants, to the list of prohibited end users under the Export Administration Regulations.

As a restricted end-user, a United States manufacturer seeking to export or reexport any items subject to the Export Administration Regulations to the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, or its nuclear power plants or reactors, would first need to obtain a license from the Department of Commerce in the District of Columbia.

According to the indictment against Wang, in January 2006, PPG Industries sought an export license for the shipments of coatings to Chashma II. In June 2006, the Department of Commerce denied that license application. Following that denial, Wang and her co-conspirators agreed upon a scheme to export and reexport the high-performance epoxy coatings from the United States to Chashma II, via a third-party distributor in People’s Republic of China, without first having obtained the required export license from the Department of Commerce.

The indictment further alleges that from around June 2006 through around March 2007, Wang and other co-conspirators intentionally concealed from PPG Industries that the paint would be delivered to Chashma II. Specifically, they falsely stated that the coatings were to be used at a nuclear power plant in China, the export of goods to which would not require a license from the Department of Commerce. The indictment alleges that, through these means, Wang and her coconspirators took part in three shipments of coatings from the United States to Chashma 2 without the required Department of Commerce license.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal law and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.

This case is being investigated by the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement, New York Field Office, and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys G. Michael Harvey and John Borchert.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Arizona Aviation Company and CEO Indicted for Alleged Violations of the Arms Export Control Act

November 1, 2010

A federal grand jury in Phoenix returned a two-count indictment against Floyd D. Stilwell, of Phoenix, Arizona, and Marsh Aviation Company, of Mesa, Arizona, for a violation of the Arms Export Control Act and Conspiracy.

The indictment alleges that beginning on and before November 2005 and continuing up to February 5, 2008, Stilwell, Marsh Aviation, and others contributed to the export of T-76 military aircraft engines from the United States to Venezuela for use by the Venezuelan Air Force. The T-76 engines are a designated item on the United States Munitions List which under the Arms Export Control Act makes it illegal to export without a license or written authorization from the Department of State. The T-76 aircraft engine was designed for the OV-10 Bronco Aircraft which is a Light Armed Reconnaissance Aircraft specifically suited for counter-insurgency missions.

Additionally, the indictment alleges that Stilwell and Marsh Aviation Company furnished assistance to members of the Venezuelan Air Force, including training in the assembly, testing, repair, maintenance, modification, operation, and use of the T-76 military aircraft engine, without having obtained the necessary license or written authorization from the Department of State. As a result of the indictment, Stilwell and Marsh Aviation were summoned to appear in court.

It seems that the violations in this case stem from the lack of a proper license. Unfortunately, Stilwell and the Company cannot claim lack of knowledge as a defense. The law in this area, specifically export licensing, is very strict on imposing licensing requirements. If the government can prove failure to acquire a license beyond a reasonable doubt, it will result in a violation. The Company will most likely receive a fine, however, Stilwell may be facing a fine and/or a prison sentence.

It is also unfortunate that the government is legally permitted to include a conspiracy charge against an individual and a corporation. Because a corporation is considered a legal entity, an individual can be held liable for conspiring with it, regardless of the fact that it seems counter-intuitive.

A conviction for a violation of the Arms Export Control Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years, a $250,000 fine, or both. A conviction for conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of five years, a $250,000 fine, or both.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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