Los Angeles man convicted for nuclear conspiracy with Iran
The U.S. District Court on Wednesday sentenced a Los Angeles man to 18 months in federal prison for shipping specialized vacuum pump equipment to Iran, Xinhua reported.
Jirair Avanessian, 59, corresponding with two co-defendants via email for at least two years, arranged shipping specialized vacuum pump equipment with potential nuclear applications to Iran through a free trade zone in the United Arab Emirates, according to court papers.
The vacuum pumps and related devices in the case can be used in the enrichment of uranium for nuclear fuel, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
Avanessian pleaded guilty a year ago for conspiracy to export the equipment. He was also ordered to pay a fine of 10,000 dollars and serve three years under supervised release after his time behind bars.
The four-year criminal conspiracy was "not short-lived" and involved a "significant amount of money," U.S. District Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank said.
Co-defendant Amirhossein Sairafi was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison in March and Farhad Masoumian remains at large, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Sairafi's attorney previously told the court that the equipment was used by dentists around the world and was "harmless -- unless you want to hit someone over the head with it. This case has nothing to do with weapons."
Prosecutors in Los Angeles declined to comment on vacuum pump technology or its potential uses.
Iran is under U.N. Security Council and unlateral U.S. Congress and EU sanctions imposed on Tehran for refusing to halt a nuclear enrichment program that Western powers fear is aimed at producing bombs.
Iranian nuclear program has caused concern since 2003, when the IAEA became aware of its concealed activity. In late 2003, Iran signed the Additional Protocol to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons and voluntarily announced about the suspension of uranium enrichment. However, it returned to this activity.
Resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council, as well as additional unilateral sanctions approved by the U.S. Congress and the foreign ministers of all EU countries, were primarily directed against the banking, financial and energy sectors of Iran.
Restrictions imposed by the EU include the ban on the sale of equipment, technologies and services to Iran's energy sector; the same measure refers to the refining industry.