BOSTON (AP) — A Chinese man accused of conspiring to export to Iran devices that can be used in nuclear production was held without bail after making an initial court appearance on Monday.
Sihai Cheng agreed at the brief hearing to be detained until his arraignment on Friday.
Cheng is accused of conspiracy, illegal exporting of U.S. goods to Iran and smuggling. He arrived in Boston last Friday after being arrested in Britain earlier this year.
A 2013 indictment accuses Cheng of establishing shell companies in China to receive pressure-measuring sensors known as pressure transducers from the Shanghai subsidiary of Andover-based MKS Instruments Inc. The instruments have commercial applications but also can be used in gas centrifuges to convert natural uranium into a form that can be used in nuclear weapons, but they can't be legally exported to Iran because of a U.S. embargo.
Cheng says he did not know there was anything illegal about what he was selling, said his attorney, Stephen Weymouth.
Cheng, also known as Alex Cheng, is accused of conspiring with a Tehran resident to send hundreds of sensors made by MKS to Eyvaz Technic Manufacturing Co., a Tehran company that has supplied parts for Iran's development of nuclear weapons, the indictment says.
The Tehran resident sent emails to Cheng describing the projects for which he was buying parts for the Iranian government, saying they were needed for "a very big project and secret one," according to the indictment.
The U.S. attorney's office said MKS sent the instruments to China without knowing they were to go to Iran and is not a target of the investigation, which began in 2012. The company said Cheng has never been its employee, and it has assisted the government's investigation.