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December 14, 2009 

Iranian Arms Procurement Agent Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on today's sentencing of an Iranian arms procurement agent who was extradited to the United States in 2008 and pled guilty to negotiating the purchase of a number of items on the USML that were destined to Iran:

Under heavy security, an Iranian engineer targeted by Philadelphia-based U.S. Homeland Security agents during an undercover sting in Eastern Europe was sentenced to five years in prison today for trying to buy radar and avionics technology for the Iranian military.
Amir Hossein Ardebili of Sharaz, Iraq had pleaded guilty in federal court in Wilmington to conspiracy, money laundering, munitions export laws and violating the American arms embargo that prohibits most trade with Iran.
Ardebili's arrest in Tbilisi, Georgia in October 2007, his extradition to the United States in January 2008 and his guilty plea in Wilmington in May 2008 were kept secret until early this month. The case remained sealed, U.S. officials said, so that U.S. agents could quietly pursue leads gleaned from Ardebili's laptop computer, which was seized following his arrest in Tbilisi.

Before the sentence was imposed today, Ardebili read a long statement aloud in court, crying often – once so hard that he needed to take a break. He admitted that he broke American law, but begged the judge to consider that he did so in Iran, where his actions where not illegal.

"I don't want to minimize the things I did," said Ardebili, 35. "I'm sorry and I'm looking for your mercy."

U.S. District Court Judge Gregory M. Sleet said that Ardebili "presents somewhat of a paradox" – "motivated by profit and you might say greed" to obtain weapons that may "pose a threat to the national security of the United States.".
Click here for more information on this case, including the indictment and sentencing memorandum.

Update: See Politico story on this case, which discusses some other interesting aspects of this case, here

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