October 25th, 2011
02:33 PM ET

Alleged conspiracy that sent bomb components from U.S. to Iran is cracked

By CNN Senior Producer Carol Cratty

An alleged conspiracy that sent components from the United States to Iran, which eventually ended up in explosives in Iraq, has been cracked and five men charged, the U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday.

Four of the men are citizens of Singapore and were arrested there on Monday. The United States is seeking the extradition of Wong Yuh Lan, Lim Yong Nam, Lim Kow Seng and Hia Soo Gan Benson. The fifth man is an Iranian citizen and resident named Hossein Larijani who remains at large.

The five men and four companies they are involved with were named in an indictment handed down in September of 2010 which has just been unsealed.

The indictment charges the men conspired to buy 6,000 radio frequency modules from a company in Minnesota and ship them through Singapore to Larijani in Iran. Prosecutors say at least 16 of the modules turned up in unexploded improvised explosive devices in Iraq in 2008, 2009 and 2010. U.S. officials say they do not know what became of the thousands of other modules shipped to Iran.

Prosecutors allege the defendants told the Minnesota company Singapore was the final destination for the components and also filed false paperwork with the U.S. government saying the parts would be used in a Singapore telecommunications project.

Prosecutors say some of the men discussed breaking export laws. "Between October 2007 and June 2009, Nam contacted Larijani in Iran at least six times and discussed the Iran prohibitions and U.S. prosecutions for violation of these laws," according to a Justice Department news release. "Nam later told U.S. authorities that he had never participated in illicit exports to Iran, even though he has participated in five such shipments, according to the indictment."

The radio frequency modules can be used in non-lethal civilian settings including for wireless connections between computers and printers. But in this case the government says the parts were used to fashion remote detonation systems for bombs.

"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," said Lisa Monaco, assistant attorney general for National Security.

Larijani and the others face charges including conspiracy to defraud the United States, illegal export of goods from the United States to Iran, illegal export of defense articles from the United States, smuggling, false statements, and obstruction of justice.

In addition to the alleged scheme involving the radio frequency modules, the indictment charges Seng and Hia with the illegal export of two types of military antennas from the United States to Singapore and Hong Kong without a State Department license. The antennas are used in various military capacities including in aircraft such as the F-4 Phantom, the F-15, the F-111, the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the F-16 combat jets.

The Justice Department said the investigation was conducted or assisted by various agencies including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the FBI, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, the Department of Treasure, and the Department of State. The government of Singapore has agreed to work to extradite to the United States the four suspects arrested there, said the Justice Department.

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Filed under: Iran • Iraq • Technology • weapons
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