US charges French, UAE firms over Iran exports

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US authorities Thursday charged firms in France and the United Arab Emirates for conspiring to export components for attack helicopters and fighter jets to Iran without a license.

The Justice Department said that among the individuals and five corporate entities charged were Aerotechnic, based in Pinsaguel, France, its president Philippe Sanchez and sales manager Luc Teuly. They remain fugitives.

"The indictment alleges that they were involved in the financing of such illegal arms deals and that they helped purchase and route US military components they received from the United States to Iran in violation of the Iran embargo and various US export laws and fraud laws," the Justice Department said in a statement.

Officials said two defendants based in the UAE have also been indicted: Aletra General Trading, a company in Dubai doing business as "Erman & Sultan Trading Co;" and Syed Amir Ahmed Najfi, an Iranian national and purchaser for Aletra. Najfi remains a fugitive.

Three defendants based in Iran have also been charged in the case including Sabanican Company, its president Hassan Seifi, and managing director Reza Seifi.

"The defendants in this case are alleged to have conspired to defraud the United States by illegally acquiring and exporting fighter jet and attack helicopter components," said Todd Hinnen, acting assistant attorney general for national security.

"Keeping such advanced weaponry, which is designed to protect the men and women of our armed forces and to defend our national interests, from falling into the hands of state sponsors of terror has never been more important."

Four US-based defendants have also been charged in the investigation. They are The Parts Guys LLC, a company in Port Orange, Florida, and the company president Michael Edward Todd, who is a US national. Also charged were Galaxy Aviation Services, a company in St. Charles, Illinois, and its president, Hamid Seifi, an Iranian-born US national.

Hamid Seifi is a brother of Hassan Seifi, one of the Iran-based defendants.

Todd was arrested last year in Atlanta based on the original indictment in the case. Todd and his company The Parts Guys pleaded guilty to federal charges, and Hamid Seifi and his company pleaded guilty on February 24.

On Wednesday, Seifi was sentenced to 56 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. Todd is awaiting sentencing.

The new charges filed include violations of the US Arms Export Control Act (AECA), the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Iranian Transactions Regulations, as well as conspiracy to defraud the United States, money laundering and false statement violations.

Some of the charges call for up to 20 years in prison.

© 2011 AFP

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