Iraq Bombs Were Built With Illegal U.S. Exports to Iran, Prosecutors Claim

Iraqi bombs used to attack U.S. troops were traced to an illegal export scheme that routed radio components to Iran from a Minnesota manufacturer, prosecutors said in charges against an Iranian and four Singapore citizens.

The five defendants, whose indictment was made public today in federal court in Washington, are accused of conspiring to smuggle 6,000 radio communication devices bought from the Minnesota company into Iran in violation of U.S. export control laws. “No less than 16” of the radio modules were found in unexploded improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, in Iraq, prosecutors said in an e-mailed statement.

“This case underscores the continuing threat posed by Iranian procurement networks seeking to obtain U.S. technology through fraud and the importance of safeguarding that technology,” Lisa Monaco, assistant attorney general for national security, said in the statement.

The four Singapore citizens -- Wong Yuh Lan, Lim Yong Nam, Lim Kow Seng, and Hia Soo Gan Benson -- were arrested by authorities in their home country yesterday, according a Justice Department statement. Hossein Larijani, the Iranian, remains at large, prosecutors said.

The 12 count indictment includes charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S., smuggling, illegal export of goods from the U.S. to Iran, illegal export of defense articles from the U.S., false statements and obstruction of justice.

Shiite Militias

Last month, Admiral Mike Mullen, then chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, reiterated assertions he and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates had made that Iran, which is predominantly Shiite Muslim, is furnishing new, more deadly weapons to Shiite militias targeting U.S. troops across the border in Iraq, after a lull since 2008.

From June 2007 through February 2008, the defendants used their Singapore-based companies to buy the components from the Minnesota manufacturer, which prosecutors didn’t identify, then sent them to Iran in five shipments. The modules, used to remotely detonate bombs, include encryption capabilities and can transmit data wirelessly as far as 40 miles, according to indictment.

The defendants told the company and the U.S. government that the modules were to be used for a telecommunications project in Singapore, according to prosecutors.

The indictment charges three Singapore companies owned or affiliated with the defendants: Opto Electronics Pte Ltd., NEL Electronics Pte. Ltd., and Corezing International Pte. Ltd. Paya Electronics Complex, an Iran-based company owned by Larijani, was also charged in the indictment.

In addition to the radio modules, Benson and Hia are accused of illegally exporting 55 military antennas from a Massachusetts company to Hong Kong without a required State Department license.

The case is U.S. v. Larijani, 10-174, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

To contact the reporter on this story: Tom Schoenberg in Washington at tschoenberg@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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