Five people and four companies have been indicted for allegedly plotting to export 6,000 radio control devices to Iran, including 16 of the items that were found in improvised explosive devices in Iraq, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.
Authorities in Singapore arrested four people in the case Monday. The fifth defendant is a resident of Iran who remains at large.
According to the indictment, in 2008 and 2009, U.S.-led forces in Iraq recovered numerous radio controls manufactured by a Minnesota firm used in a remote detonation system for IEDs. The radio devices can transmit data wirelessly as far as 40 miles with a powerful antenna.
The defendants allegedly made tens of thousands of dollars for arranging the transportation of the 6,000 radio devices in five shipments from June 2007 to February 2008.
Some of the defendants also are accused of conspiracy involving exports of military antennas to Singapore and Hong Kong.
The defendant who is at large, Hossein Larijani, is a citizen of Iran. The four people arrested are all citizens of Singapore. They are Wong Yuh Lan, Lim Yong Nam, Lim Kow Seng and Hia Soo Gan Benson.
Wong, Nam, Seng and Hia allegedly conspired in the shipment of 6,000 of the radio control devices from a Minnesota company through Singapore to Iran.
The indictment in federal court in Washington, D.C., alleges conspiracy to defraud the U.S., smuggling, illegal export of goods from the U.S. to Iran, illegal export of defense articles from the U.S., false statements and obstruction of justice.
Assistant attorney general Lisa Monaco says the charges underscore the ongoing threat posed by Iranian networks seeking to obtain U.S. technology. Monaco runs the Justice Department's national security division.
In a coordinated move, the Commerce Department added the five defendants and 10 other persons and companies associated with this alleged conspiracy in China, Hong Kong, Iran and Singapore to its Entity List. With this move, the Commerce Department required that a U.S. government license be obtained before any item subject to Commerce regulation can be exported to the 15, with a presumption that such a license would be denied.
IEDs caused roughly 60 percent of American combat casualties in Iraq between 2001 and 2007, according to the indictment.
The defendants allegedly communicated with one another about U.S. laws prohibiting the export of U.S.-origin goods to Iran. From October 2007 to June 2009, Nam contacted Larijani in Iran at least half a dozen times and discussed the Iran prohibitions and U.S. prosecutions for violation of these laws, according to the indictment. Nam allegedly told U.S. authorities he had never participated in illicit exports to Iran, even though he had participated in five such shipments.
Larijani, 47, was charged along with his companies Paya Electronics Complex, based in Iran, and Opto Electronics Pte, Ltd., based in Singapore. Wong, 39, was an agent of Opto Electronics; he was allegedly supervised by Larijani from Iran. The indictment also charged NEL Electronics Pte. Ltd., a company in Singapore, along with NEL's owner and director, Nam, 37. The indictment charged Corezing International Pte. Ltd., a company in Singapore that maintained offices in China. Seng, 42, was allegedly an agent of Corezing. Hia, 44, was allegedly a manager, director and agent of Corezing.
In January 2010, the U.S. Commerce Department placed Larijani's company, Opto Electronics, on the list of companies that cannot buy items that have a military use without obtaining U.S. government licenses.
From Iran, Larijani repeatedly asked the Commerce Department to remove his company from the list.
Commerce Department officials replied that Larijani needed to disclose whether he or his firm had any involvement with Majid Kakavand or Evertop Services Sdn Bhd. Kakavand is an accused Iranian procurement agent under indictment in the U.S., along with his Malaysian company, Evertop Services. Kakavand, a fugitive believed to be in Iran, and Evertop are accused of illegally exporting U.S. goods to military entities in Iran for that nation's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
On three occasions, Larijani denied to the Commerce Department that he or his company, Opto Electronics, had done any business with Kakavand or Evertop Services. The indictment says Larijani had been in communication with others about his business dealings with Kakavand on at least five occasions from 2006 through 2009.
In a separate alleged conspiracy, Seng, Hia and the Corezing firm were involved in the illegal export to Singapore and Hong Kong of two types of military antennas used aboard ships and military aircraft such as the F-4 Phantom, the F-15, the F-111, the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the F-16 combat jet. The antennas were shipped from a Massachusetts company to Singapore and Hong Kong without a required State Department license.