U.S. Businessman and Five Iranian Nationals Indicted for Conspiring to Violate U.S. Sanctions on Iran for Activities Involving Launch of Iran's First Satellite
The U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland announced yesterday that a federal grand jury in Maryland has indicted an American businessman and five Iranian nationals on charges of conspiring to illegally provide satellite hardware and technology to Iran resulting in the launch of Iran's first satellite, the Sinah-1, in 2005.
Charged in the indictment are Nader Modanlo of Potomac, Maryland and five Iranian nationals: Hamid Malmirian; Reza Heidari; Mohammad Modares; Abdol Reza Mehrdad; and Sirous Naseri.
Mr. Nader Modanlo, is a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Iran and according to the Washington Post is a former NASA scientist. Mr. Modanlo was arrested yesterday and was scheduled to appear in court today. The five Iranian nationals remain at large.
Mr. Modanlo was the principal owner, chairman and president of Maryland-based Final Analysis, Inc. (FAI). Beginning in 1994, FAI contracted with Polyot, an aerospace enterprise company owned by the government of the Russian Federation, to provide launch services for satellites for purposes of providing data and non-voice communications that had been licensed by the FCC.
According to the indictment, beginning in 2000 Modanlo brokered an agreement between Polyot and a customer in Iran to construct and launch satellites and a ground station. The indictment charges that Modanlo met with Malmirian, who held himself out as an Iranian government representative, and Polyot officials to discuss a Russian-Iranian satellite agreement, reaching an agreement for the design, development, assembly, integration, test and launch of a small low-earth orbiting spacecraft and the installation of a ground station in December 2001.
According to the U.S., in 2001 and 2002, Modanlo, Naseri, Heidari and Malmirian traveled to a third country to seek an intermediary to form a company called Prospect Telecom in order to conceal Iranian participation as an investor/lender in Modanlo's satellite telecommunications activities.
The indictment further alleges that Heidari, Modares, Naseri, and Mehrdad caused $10 million to be wired from Prospect Telecom's bank account overseas to a bank account in Maryland, in consideration for Modanlo's assistance to Iran and the Iranians in brokering the satellite agreement with Russia and for Modanlo's company providing telecommunications services in support of that agreement.
In October 2005, Iran's first satellite, the Sinah-1 was launched into orbit from Russia. According to the Iranian Government, the satellite was launched for telecommunications and research purposes. The satellite is still in orbit.
The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of $10 million from each of the defendants, which is alleged to be the proceeds of the offense.
The five defendants face a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy. Mr. Modanlo also faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each of three counts of violating the U.S. embargo on Iran. Messrs. Modanlo, Heidari, Modares and Mehrdad each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for alleged money laundering.
It is not clear at this time why the indictment was being brought at this time, given that the alleged activities involving Iran took place several years ago.
Labels: Sanctions; Iran