Iranian Citizen, U.S. Citizen Living in Kentucky and Holding Iranian Passport Plead Guilty in Plot to Export Aircraft and Aircraft Parts to Iran
Conpsired to Violate the U.S. Embargo Against Iran
|U.S. Attorney’s Office December 03, 2012|
LOUISVILLE, KY—Two men pleaded guilty today to charges related to the unlawful export of aircraft and aircraft parts from the United States to Iran, announced David J. Hale, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky; Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; and Perrye Turner, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Louisville Division.
One of the defendants, Hamid Asefi, 68, is a citizen and resident of the Republic of Iran. The other, Behzad Karimian, also known as Tony Karimian, 53, is a U.S. citizen living in Louisville who holds a valid Iranian passport and is employed as a Mesaba Airlines pilot. The guilty pleas were entered today in Louisville before Magistrate Judge James D. Moyer. The two-count indictment was returned by a federal grand jury in Louisville on August 2, 2012, and was unsealed before the hearing today.
Asefi and Karimian were both charged with conspiracy to violate and violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act for exporting, selling or causing the export or sale of aircraft and aircraft parts without first having obtained the required license from the U.S. Department of Treasury. Asefi made his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Louisville on June 1, 2012. Karimian was arrested and made his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Louisville on June 6, 2012.
Asefi is the principal officer of Aster Corp Ltd., an Iranian company with offices in both Iran and the United Kingdom. The indictment charges that, beginning as early as August 2007 and continuing through April 2011, Asefi used the U.K. office of Aster to serve as a transshipment point to facilitate shipment of goods from the United States to Iran and that Asefi used Aster to facilitate the shipment of goods from the United States to Iran through third party countries. The indictment further charges that Asefi sent requests on behalf of Iranian entities to Karimian for purchases of aircraft and aircraft parts located in the United States or owned by U.S. persons; and that Karimian knowingly and willfully made inquiries, placed orders, and attempted to facilitate the purchase of aircraft and aircraft parts located in the United States and owned by U.S. persons on behalf of Asefi and persons in Iran.
The indictment also asserts that Asefi and Karimian acted with knowledge and intent to violate the Iran embargo when on September 27, 2007, Asefi sent an e-mail to Karimian regarding Karimian’s interest in establishing a “profitable business collaboration” for the purpose of procuring aircraft and aircraft components for end-users in Iran. The indictment further alleges that on or about October 1, 2009, Asefi sent an e-mail to Karimian which outlined the terms of delivery and payment on future transactions with Iran Air and stated, “…remember that, only U.S. Embargo has brought this chance and benefit to us, to get involved in these deals….”
According to count two of the indictment, beginning in September 2009 and continuing through April 2010, Asefi and Karimian violated the embargo against Iran by exporting and causing the export of services related to the sale of a G.E. Aircraft Engine Model CF6-50C2, as well as the procurement of helicopters manufactured by Bell Helicopter, from the United States to Iran, without first having obtained the required authorizations from the U.S. Department of Treasury. All of the aircraft and aircraft parts involved in this case were intended for civilian use.
“The investigation and prosecution of national security cases is the top priority of the Department of Justice and my office,” said U.S. Attorney Hale. “We view the circumvention of Iranian export control laws as a very serious matter. The FBI should be commended for its excellent work in disrupting this international scheme and bringing these men to justice.”
The International Emergency Economic Powers Act authorizes the President to impose economic sanctions on a foreign country when the President declares a national emergency with respect to a national security threat. On March 15, 1995, the president issued an executive order declaring the actions and policies of the government of Iran constituted a national emergency. On May 6, 1995, the president issued an executive order imposing the Iran trade embargo. On June 23, 2011, the U.S. Department of the Treasury imposed sanctions on Iran Air after designating it as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction for providing material support and services to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
At sentencing, Asefi and Karimian face a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, a fine of $500,000, and a three-year period of supervised release on each count. Sentencing is scheduled before Chief District Judge Joseph H. McKinley, Jr. on March 4, 2013 at 2 p.m. in Louisville.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Calhoun of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky, and Trial Attorney Casey Arrowood of the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. The case was investigated by the FBI.