Five Charged in Iranian Smuggling Network Linked to Iraq IEDs

The Justice Department has charged five people, including an Iranian man, and four companies with illegally exporting specialized transmitters from a U.S. company to Iran that later were found in unexploded improvised explosive devices in Iraq.

The indictment charges Hossein Larijani, an Iranian citizen, with illegally exporting the radio frequency transmitters through companies and individuals in Singapore who then forward the items to Iran.

Police in Singapore arrested four others who have been indicted in the case — identified as Wong Yuh Lan, Lim Yong Nam, Lim Kow Seng and Hia Soo Gan Benson — for their alleged role in conspiring with Larijani to obtain the transmitters from the Minnesota wireless company Digi.

The indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy, smuggling, false statements, obstruction of justice, aiding and abetting,  and violations of the Arms Export Control Act and Iranian Transaction regulations.

According to the indictment unsealed today, between August 2007 and February 2008 the transmitters were sent to Singapore and then sent to Iran by Larijani’s company, Opto Electronics Ltd.  The indictment alleges that U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq recovered unexploded IEDs in Iraq in May 2008, December 2008, April 2009 and July 2010.

“These defendants misled U.S. companies in buying parts that they shipped to Iran and that ended up in IEDs on the battlefield in Iraq,” Ronald Machen, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, said in a statement.

The indictment filed at U.S. District Court in Washington alleges that Ling Yong Nam’s company, NEL Electronics, and Lim Kow Seng and Hia Soo Gan Benson, from a firm called Corezing International, made false statements to Digi about obtaining 6,000 of the transmitters claiming they would be used for a “telecom project” in Singapore.

According to Digi’s website, the transmitters can carry signals as far as 40 miles away with specialized antennas.  Calls to Digi asking about the case were not returned.

Iranian influence in Iraq has been a concern for several years now, especially when U.S. officials noticed that Iran was providing insurgents in Iraq with explosively formed projectile devices.

In an interview with Bloomberg in June 2011 before he retired, then Defense Secretary Robert gates said Iran is “facilitating weapons, they’re facilitating training, there’s new technology that they’re providing… They’re stepping this up, and it’s a concern.”

The Justice Department also alleges that Seng and Benson, through Corezing, illegally exported from the United States antennas used on U.S. military aircraft from a firm in Massachusetts. In total about 55 of the antennas were exported to Singapore and Hong Kong after they allegedly made false statements and avoided filing shipping declarations.

The United States is seeking the extradition of the four defendants from Singapore. Larijani is believed to currently be in Iran.

The indictment also alleges that Larijani made false statements to the Commerce Department when he contacted them about removing his firm Opto Electronics. Larijani allegedly lied about his connections to an Iranian named Majid Kakavand, who was was indicted by the United States in April 2009 for allegedly illegally exporting items from the United States to Iran for Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile program.  Kakavand is a fugitive believed to be in Iran.

“”This case underscores the continuing threat posed by Iranian procurement networks seeking to obtain U.S. technology through fraud and the importance of safeguarding that technology,” Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division Lisa Monaco said in a statement.