AFP: One American and five Iranians have been charged with helping Iran acquire satellite technology that allowed Tehran to launch a camera-equipped satellite in 2005, justice officials said Tuesday.
WASHINGTON (AFP) — One American and five Iranians have been charged with helping Iran acquire satellite technology that allowed Tehran to launch a camera-equipped satellite in 2005, justice officials said Tuesday.
The six, only one of whom is in custody, are accused of creating a front company to circumvent restrictions on providing “satellite hardware and technology” to Iran.
“The indictment alleges that as a result of the conspiracy, an Iranian earth satellite equipped with a camera was launched into space in Russia on October 27, 2005,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
The indictment accuses Nader Modanlo, a naturalized US citizen born in Iran and the only defendant currently in custody, of being at the center of a years-long effort to help Iran construct and launch a satellite.
The Justice Department said Modanlo, 49, set up a company called Final Analysis Inc. (FAI) in 1992, and in 1994 began talks with Russian state-owned aerospace firm POLYGLOT about launching FAI satellites into space.
By 2001, Modanlo had been forced to set up a new firm, New York Satellite Industries LLC (NYSI) that took over the assets of the now-bankrupt FAI. He had also agreed a deal to help “a customer in Iran to construct and launch satellites and a ground station,” the Justice Department said.
Modanlo met with Hamid Malmirian, who described himself as an Iranian government representative, and officials from POLYGLOT to hammer out an agreement for a low-earth orbiting spacecraft and a ground station.
Modanlo, Malmirian and two other co-defendants then set up Prospect Telecom, a company intended “to conceal Iranian participation as an investor/lender in Modanlo’s satellite telecommunications activities,” the statement said.
Once the company was set up overseas, 10 million dollars was wired to NYSI’s account from the sham firm, and Modanlo agreed to help obtain the necessary telecoms licences for the satellite.
Modanlo and another co-defendant, Reza Heidari, are also accused of concealing Iranian involvement in Prospect Telecom during bankruptcy proceedings for the firm.
The indictment seeks 10 million dollars each from the six defendants, and each faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Modanlo also faces 20 years in prison for violating export restrictions, and four defendants, including Modanlo, face another 20 years in prison for money laundering.