Washington: Two men have been charged with trying to illegally export nuclear-related material to Iran that could be used in gas centrifuges to enrich uranium, the US Justice Department announced on Friday.
A grand jury indictment in the case also charged one of the men with conspiring to procure radioactive material from the United States for customers in Iran.
Parviz Khaki, a citizen of Iran, was arrested in May by authorities in the Philippines on a US provisional arrest request. The other man, Zongcheng Yi, a resident of China, is a fugitive.
The grand jury charged that in 2008 Khaki asked someone in China to obtain 20 tons of C-350 maraging steel from the US for Khaki`s customer in Iran. The enhanced strength of maraging steel is especially suited in gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment. Khaki also communicated with Yi about purchasing 20 tons (18.1 metric tons) of maraging steel from a US company with which Yi was in contact.
In pursuit of maraging steel, Khaki allegedly began communicating with an undercover US federal agent posing as an illegal exporter of US goods.
"You know and I know this material" is "limited material and danger goods”, Khaki told the undercover agent.
Khaki also is accused of seeking to obtain mass spectrometers from the US. In a May 2009 e-mail to the undercover agent, Khaki said one magnetic mass spectrometer he sought was for the isotopic analysis of gaseous uranium hexafluoride, the government said. Uranium hexafluoride is the chemical compound used in the gas centrifuge process to enrich uranium.
In May 2009, Khaki allegedly asked the undercover agent to buy radioactive materials from a US company, including barium-133 and europium-152. In January 2011, Khaki again asked the undercover agent to purchase radioactive sources. Khaki allegedly sent the agent a product catalogue for radioactive materials, including cobalt-57. In another email, he requested that the agent purchase cadmium-109.
Lisa Monaco, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department`s national security division, said the case sheds light on the reach of Iran`s illegal procurement networks and the importance of keeping US nuclear-related materials from being exploited by Iran.
Monaco said Iranian procurement networks continue to target US and Western companies for technology acquisition by using fraud, front companies and middlemen in nations around the globe.