The US Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday unsealed a federal criminal complaint charging 10 Iranian nationals with conspiracy to evade US sanctions on Tehran.
The complaint, which was filed on October 16 in the US District Court for the Central District of California, alleges that the 10 people disguised more than $300 million worth of transactions on Iran’s behalf through the use of more than 70 front companies located in Hong Kong, Canada, the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere. This, it says, was in violation of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 31 CFR Part 560, the Iranian Financial Sanctions Regulations, 31 CFR Part 561, and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, 50 USC Section 1705 (a), (c). Under subsection (c) of the last act, if found guilty, the defendants could be sentenced to imprisonment of up to 20 years.
In a DOJ press release Friday, acting US Attorney for the Central District of California Tracy Wilkison said:
In a wide-ranging scheme spanning nearly two decades and several continents, the defendants conspired to abuse the US financial system to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions on behalf of the Government of Iran. … Today’s indictment is an example of the will of federal law enforcement to bring to justice those who violate our sanctions and laws designed to strengthen our national security.
In addition to the criminal charges laid, a civil complaint was filed on Friday in the US District Court for the Central District of California, launching a substantial civil forfeiture action in which a money laundering penalty of $157,333,367 is sought. According to Assistant Attorney General of the National Security Division John Demers, a forfeiture order of that amount is “only right.” He added that “the Department of Justice will continue to deploy all tools necessary to curb the Iranian regime’s ability to use the US financial system to support its malign endeavors.”