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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Indictment and Guilty Plea Entered in Iranian Export Case

Defendants Attempted to Procure High-Powered Microwave System for Iran

A U.K. man pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in the District of Columbia to violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations. At the same time, an indictment was unsealed charging four individuals with the same offense, as well as related offenses.

According to his plea, Saber Fakih, 46, of the United Kingdom, conspired with Bader Fakih, 41, of Canada, Altaf Faquih, 70, of the United Arab Emirates, and Alireza Taghavi, 46, of Iran, to export and attempt to export an Industrial Microwave System (IMS) and counter-drone system from the United States to Iran, without first obtaining the requisite license from the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Saber Fakih pleaded guilty to count two of the indictment.

“Fakih and his coconspirators attempted to evade U.S. sanctions and obtain highly sensitive pieces of equipment for Iran from unwitting U.S. suppliers,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “In doing so, Fakih jeopardized not only U.S. national security, but the national security of any other nation Iran decides to target. The Department of Justice can and will act to disrupt and prosecute such criminal conduct.”  

“This indictment and guilty plea demonstrate the United States’ commitment to preventing U.S. technology with military applications from falling into the hands of the Iranian government, and it demonstrates the effective results generated by the partnership between the Justice Department, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Commerce,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves for the District of Columbia.

“This investigation illustrates that our adversaries are willing to utilize complicated procurement networks and blatantly disregard U.S. export control laws to acquire sensitive dual use items for potential military purposes, such as counter drone technology, industrial microwave systems, and directed-energy systems that would undermine U.S. national security,” said Special Agent in Charge Nasir Khan of the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Export Enforcement, Washington Field Office. “The Office of Export Enforcement and our partner agencies will aggressively target and dismantle those illicit networks that seek technological advantages that can be used against us.”

“Mr. Fakih’s guilty plea shows the lengths he went to in order to attempt to procure U.S. technology with military uses; it also shows the lengths the FBI and our federal partners will go to in order to stop these technologies and materials from getting into the wrong hands,” said Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the FBI Baltimore Field Office. “Those who are working domestically and abroad to undermine American interests will be held accountable.”

“The FBI remains committed to protecting U.S. technology and ensuring it does not fall into the hands of anyone intending to use it for harm,” said Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. “For over 40 years, Iran has continuously attempted to obtain sanctioned items that could be used against Americans or our allies. This indictment of Fakih and his coconspirators sends a clear message: The FBI, along with its federal partners, will persist in thwarting these attempts and do its part to keep our democracy safe.”

“Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) remains committed to safeguarding sensitive U.S. technology and ensuring it does not fall into the hands of our adversaries,” said Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso of HSI’s Baltimore Field Office. “This investigation highlights HSI’s global investigative capabilities, and we will continue to work with our federal partners to protect the safety and security of the United States.”   

In addition, a related indictment was unsealed in the District of Columbia charging Iranian national Jalal Rohollahnejad, 44, with smuggling, wire fraud and related offenses arising from the same scheme. Rohollahnejad was previously added to the Department of Commerce’s, Bureau of Industry and Security Entity List in March 2020, for acting contrary to U.S. national security or foreign policy interests by procuring goods on behalf of a Specially Designated National (SDN).

According to the indictments, in 2017 and 2018, the co-conspirators attempted to export to Iran items that had potential civil and military uses. Potential military uses of the IMS (with some modification) include high-power microwave based directed-energy weapon systems. The counter-drone system, which has both commercial and military uses, can be used to stop, identify, redirect, land or take total control of a target unmanned aerial vehicle.

The indictments allege that Rohollahnejad and Taghavi hold themselves out as representatives of Rayan Roshd Asfzar, which has been linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

According to court documents, Taghavi informed Saber Fakih that he could not purchase the IMS because he is an Iranian national. Saber Fakih then arranged the purchase of the IMS on Taghavi’s and Rohollahnejad’s behalf, knowing it was ultimately destined for Iran.

Rohollahnejad caused the equivalent of $450,000 to be sent from Iran to the United Arab Emirates, where Faquih picked it up and converted it from Emirati currency to U.S. dollars. Faquih then transferred the money to Bader Fakih in Canada via three separate wire transfers. Bader Fakih then transferred the money to the U.S. company for the purchase of the IMS.

In addition to the IMS, Saber Fakih and Bader Fakih conspired to purchase two counter-drone systems worth nearly $1 million on behalf of Taghavi.

Saber Fakih faces up to 20 years of incarceration and/or a fine of $1 million for violating the IEEPA. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office, HSI’s Baltimore Field Office, and the Washington Field Office of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Department of Justice National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Topic(s): 
Counterintelligence and Export Control
National Security
Press Release Number: 
22-70
Updated January 28, 2022