By Jubin Katiraie
Federal authorities in the US have accused a man of plotting to export metal-processing machines to Iran, a move that violated the US’s non-nuclear proliferation and terrorism sanctions.
According to the 21-count indictment unsealed Tuesday by federal prosecutors, Mehdi Hashemi, also known as Eddie Hashemi, is accused of taking part in a scheme to export computer numerical control machines, which are used to process raw materials, such as metals that could be used to create nuclear weapons, to precise standards. These machines are export-controlled to Iran for nuclear non-proliferation and anti-terrorism reasons.
The prosecutors said that Hashemi, 46, allegedly purchased the computer numerical control machines and associated material in the United States and Canada. Then, he allegedly arranged for them to be shipped to the United Arab Emirates using false and forged invoices and packing lists.
After that, he allegedly arranged for the machines to be shipped from the UAE to Iran on behalf of a Tehran-based company that claimed to manufacture textiles, medical and automotive components, and spare parts. Federal authorities did not name in the indictment, referring to it only as “Company A”.
The Justice Department said in a statement: The indictment outlines illegal shipments of CNC machines and related equipment to the UAE and alleges that Hashemi knew and intended for them to be forwarded to Iran… Hashemi also is charged with making false statements to federal authorities in 2018 when he lied about his activities, his knowledge of federal export laws and his intention to send the CNC machines to Iran.”
The indictment states that the alleged conspiracy began no later than June 25, 2015, before the strict sanctions imposed by President Barack Obama were lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal, and continued to at least April 9, 2018, by which point Donald Trump was getting ready to pull out of the nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions.
Hashemi, a dual Iranian-American citizen, was arrested on Sunday when he arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on a plane from Turkey. He was arraigned on Monday when he pleaded not guilty to the 21 charges that include conspiring to violate International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEEA), violating the IEEPA, smuggling, money laundering, unlawful export information actives, and making false statements.
He was ordered to be held without bond and a trial date is set for October 15. He could face a statutory maximum penalty of 320 years in federal prison if convicted.
A second defendant, Feroz Khan of the United Arab Emirates, is also charged in the indictment for allegedly helping Hashemi to send the machines to Iran. He is currently considered a fugitive because he is located outside of the US’s jurisdiction.