Behzad Pourghannad pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to export carbon fibre from the United States to Iran between 2008 and 2013. While in Iran the businessman worked to obtain carbon fibre from the United States against U.S law labelling the carbon fibre as acrylic to get it past U.S. export controls.
Mr Pourghannad was extradited from Germany to face charges in July and was charged with violating United States sanctions by circumventing export control orders on carbon fibre.
Between 2008 and July 2013, Pourghannad and his two codefendants, Ali Reza Shokri and Farzin Faridmanesh lived and worked in Iran. During that period, they worked together to obtain carbon fibre from the United States and surreptitiously export it to Iran via third countries. In particular, Shokri worked to procure many tons of carbon fibre from the United States; Pourghannad agreed to serve as the financial guarantor for large carbon fibre transactions, and Faridmanesh agreed to serve as the trans-shipper. Carbon fibre has a wide variety of uses, including in missiles, aerospace engineering and gas centrifuges that enrich uranium.
In or around late 2007 and early 2008, Shokri and a Turkey-based co-conspirator successfully arranged for the illegal export and transhipment of carbon fibre from the United States to an Iranian company associated with Shokri. They contacted a United States supplier of carbon fibre, who in turn enlisted a third individual for assistance with the transaction. Through this individual, they purchased carbon fibre from the United States supplier and arranged for the shipment of the carbon fibre from the United States, through Europe and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to the Iranian company, operated by Shokri, in Iran.
In May 2009, Pourghannad and Shokri attempted to arrange another illegal purchase and transhipment of carbon fibre from the United States to Iran however the carbon fibre shipment was intercepted before it could be trans-shipped to Iran.
The US department of justice did not specify how much of the carbon fibre actually made it through to Iran, or what would become of the co-defendants Faridmanesh and Shokri. Pourghannad , 65, who is an Iranian citizen, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. He will be sentenced by Judge Briccetti on Dec. 13, 2019.