U.N. Panel Reports “Drastic” Reduction in Reporting on Illicit Iranian Procurement

No new instances of illicit procurement by Iran have been confirmed over the past year, according to a June 2 report by the U.N. Panel of Experts.  According to the Panel, this lack of reporting “could reflect a general reduction of procurement activities by the Iranian side or a political decision by some Member States to refrain from reporting to avoid any possible negative impact on ongoing negotiations” with Iran.

Still, the report described several confirmed cases of procurement and attempted procurement for Iran’s nuclear program that took place over one year ago.  These cases involved networks relying on well-known methods to evade export control laws and international sanctions, including: transshipment through third countries to mask the final destination; the use of front companies; falsifying shipment statements to remove references to Iranian ports; falsifying the reported end use of controlled goods; seeking goods that are just below control thresholds; the involvement of people of Iranian extraction living overseas; financial transfers through companies and financial institutions located outside Iran; and the misappropriation of funds held in overseas accounts belonging to the Central Bank of the Iran.

The cases highlighted by the Panel included:

  • The attempted procurement of a frequency converter by Farayand Pas Company in Tehran from Finland.  A Finnish manufacturer in 2011 agreed to sell a frequency converter – which (at certain levels) are used as the power supply for gas centrifuges – to a Pakistani engineering company. The Pakistani freight forwarder requested that the consignee on the airway bill be changed to the Iranian company without alerting the Finnish manufacturer.  The shipment was ultimately impounded by Dubai customs authorities for inconsistent documentation.
  • The procurement of items for Iran’s solid-fuel missiles on behalf of Shahid Bagheri Industrial Group (SBIG) by Behzad Sahabi, a German citizen of Iranian background (identified only as “Dr. B.” by the Panel).  Between 2012 and 2013, Dr. B procured non-listed dual-use items – including polystyrene, vacuum pumps, butterfly valves, pressure reducers, flame detectors, and magnetic valves – from Germany and other countries.  The items were first shipped to Dr. B’s company in the United Arab Emirates before being re-exported to a string of SBIG front companies in Tehran.  The front company names include: Aban Commercial and Industrial Group, Mehr Engineering and Industrial Group, Saba Machinery Supply Co., Selm Commercial Co., Tabesh Engineering and Trading Corporation, Alae Industrial Co., Pooya Commercial and Engineering Co., and Kimia Trading Co.  Some of these names have not been included on any national blacklists or warning lists.
  • Two shipments of Nuclear Suppliers Group-controlled carbon fiber to from the United States to Iran (one of which was delivered), and the attempted procurement of a carbon fiber winding machine.  In 2008, Hamid Reza Hashemi, a U.S. national operating a company in Tehran, shipped carbon fiber from the United States to Iran via Luxembourg and Dubai.  A later shipment in 2008 of the same material routed through the United Kingdom was intercepted by British authorities.  In 2011, Hashemi sought to purchase a carbon fiber winding machine from a U.S. supplier.
  • Two shipments of aluminium tubes sent from Malaysia to Iran in 2012.  The Malaysian consignor, NBH Industries SDN BDH of Kuala Lumpur, sent two separate shipments of aluminium tubes with potential use in Iran’s centrifuge program to an Iranian consignee, Automotive Industries Gohar Yaghot Neshan of Khoramabad.

The Panel also cited two recent procurement cases, previously reported by Reuters, about which information was received too late for the Panel to complete an investigation, including: information provided by the U.K. government about “an active Iranian nuclear procurement network” associated with the Iran Centrifuge Technology Company and Kalaye Electric Company; and information about the attempted procurement of compressors in January 2015 from Howden CKD, a U.S.-owned company in the Czech Republic.