Man Busted for Smuggling Nuke Parts to Iran

Tuesday, December 9, 2014 @ 05:12 PM gHale

A Chinese man is facing federal charges after his extradition to Boston for smuggling Massachusetts-made parts to Iran that could end up used to make nuclear weapons, according to the office of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz.

Sihai Cheng arrived at Logan Airport on Friday, after his arrest at the request of the United States by British authorities while he was on a trip to the United Kingdom.

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Cheng is a Chinese citizen who also goes by the names Chun Hai Cheng and Alex Cheng. He ended up charged, along with Iranian national Seyed Abolfazl Shahab Jamili and Iranian companies Nicaro Eng. Co., Ltd. and Eyvaz Technic Manufacturing Company, with smuggling, exporting and conspiring to export American goods with nuclear applications to Iran. The United States has implemented sanctions against Iran, prohibiting the export of anything that can help Iran manufacture nuclear weapons. Jamili remains a fugitive at large.

According to the charges laid out in the indictment, Cheng operated a trading company in China and Hong Kong. Cheng began supplying Chinese parts, which could manufacture nuclear weapons, to Jamili in 2005. Jamili operates the Iranian trading company Nicaro, which supplied parts to Eyvaz – an Iranian company against which the United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions because of its role supplying parts to Iran’s uranium nuclear enrichment facilities.

Jamili told Cheng the parts were going to Iran and were a part of “a very big project and secret one.”

In 2009, Jamili asked Cheng for help procuring pressure transducers – sensors used to measure pressure, which can work in centrifuges to convert natural uranium into a form that could end up used in nuclear weapons.

Cheng then contacted the Shanghai office of MKS Instruments, an American company headquartered in Andover, MA, that manufactures pressure transducers. With the help of unnamed employees at MKS in Shanghai, Cheng and an unnamed co-conspirator set up front companies to disguise the transactions and then fraudulently obtained U.S. export licenses, ordered the transducers from the U.S. to China, then shipped them from China to Eyvaz in Iran, violating U.S. export laws.

Between 2009 and 2011, Cheng ordered more than 1,000 MKS pressure transducers, which had a value of over $1.8 million, according to the indictment. Photographs have shown MKS pressure transducers used at the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran.

Cheng is due in U.S. District Court on Monday. The charges carry maximum sentences of 10 to 20 years in federal prison.

A grand jury issued the indictment in November 2013, and it ended up unsealed in April 2014.

Kathleen Burke, general counsel for MKS, said the company has been cooperating with the United States government since an investigation started in 2012.

“We have cooperated with the government authorities the entire time,” Burke said. Burke said MKS is not the target of the investigation.

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