NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors unveiled criminal charges on Wednesday against four defendants accused of illegally exporting goods to Iran and China, including carbon fiber, which can be used to enrich uranium.
The charges were announced by the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI and other investigators, as federal authorities try to stop the export of technology and goods that could be put to military use in other countries.
Hamid Reza Hashemi, a 52-year-old dual U.S. and Iranian citizen, and Murat Taskiran, a Turkish citizen, were charged over alleged efforts to export carbon fiber to Hashemi's company in Tehran, including through a European intermediary.
Peter Gromacki, 48, a U.S. citizen living in Orange County, New York, was accused in a second indictment of arranging the export of more than 6,600 lbs (roughly 3,000 kg) of carbon fiber to Belgium, which was later shipped by a third party to China.
A fourth defendant, Amir Abbas Tamimi, a 40-year-old Iranian citizen, was accused in a third indictment of attempting to arrange the export to Iran of parts for a helicopter that could be used for military purposes, including reconnaissance and as a military platform.
Lawyers for Hashemi, Gromacki and Tamimi did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A lawyer for Taskiran could not immediately be located.
Each defendant was charged with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and conspiracy to violate that law. Authorities said enforcing that law is vital to protecting U.S. national security.
"Carbon fiber in the wrong hands poses a serious threat to that security," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. "Two of these defendants are charged with arranging its export to Iran, where it most assuredly had the potential to end up in the wrong hands."
Prosecutors said Tamimi was arrested on October 5 and Hashemi on December 1 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, while Gromacki was arrested on Wednesday at his home.
These three defendants were subsequently arraigned and are in U.S. custody. Hashemi faces a maximum of 60 years in prison, Tamimi and Taskiran 40 years each, and Gromacki 30 years, according to prosecutors.
The cases are U.S. v. Hashemi et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-cr-00804; U.S. v. Gromacki in the same court, No. 12-cr-00302; and U.S. v. Tamimi in the same court, No. 12-cr-00615.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Stacey Joyce, Lisa Shumaker and Andre Grenon)
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