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US charges men 'plotting to smuggle weapons to Iran'

Zargarian tried to help Iranians purchase over $3 million worth of fighter jet parts [AFP]

Date of publication: 29 October, 2016

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Two California men were charged with conspiring to smuggle more than $3 million worth of military aircraft parts and other defence items to Iran, US federal prosecutors said on Friday.
Two California men were charged on Friday with conspiring to smuggle fighter-jet parts to Iran in a scheme US federal prosecutors allege dates to 2009.

The pair worked with two Iranian nationals to break laws that restrict exports to the longtime US adversary, prosecutors said.

Zavik Zargarian, 52, and Vache Nayirian, 57, were arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations.

"The crimes charged in this indictment are very serious threats to our national security," Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary McCord said.

"As a nation, it is vital that we protect our military technology and prevent it from getting into the hands of other countries without proper authorisation."

A nine-count federal indictment unsealed earlier this week alleged that Zargarian tried to help one of the Iranians purchase more than $3 million worth of parts for fighter jets, including F-15s and F-18s.

The indictment also named Zargarian's Glendale-based company, ZNC Engineering, as well as Iranian nationals Hanri Terminassian and Hormoz Nowrouz.

Prosecutors also said that Nayirian exported more than 7,000 fluorocarbon rubber O-rings, which could have military uses, including for aircraft landing gear.

To evade detection, the shipments went to other destinations in the Persian Gulf before being routed to Iran, where the national air force received them, prosecutors said.

Both men pleaded not guilty on Wednesday.

The attorney representing Nayirian questioned the strength of the government's case, given that it began seven years ago and a grand jury produced the indictment in 2014.

"Any time you have this huge delay, you wonder what's the reason," attorney Michael Shannon said.

If convicted, Zargarian faces a maximum sentence of 115 years in federal prison and a $4,770,000 fine, while Nayirian faces a maximum sentence of 95 years in prison and a $3,770,000 fine, prosecutors said.

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