- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Pennsylvania chemical engineer who holds Iranian citizenship was indicted Friday on charges of doing business with Iran and lying to U.S. authorities about it.

Ali Amirnazmi, 64, is being held without bond pending a detention hearing Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.

Mr. Amirnazmi, of Berwyn, Pa., is accused of making hundreds of thousands of dollars through business dealings over at least a decade with four Iranian business, two of which are controlled by the Iranian government.

The transactions would violate economic sanctions that bar Americans from doing business with the Islamist regime, but a government official said the software involved in the transactions is not military in nature.

The Justice Department has prosecuted a string of export-related criminal cases in the past month.

On July 17, a Chinese-born U.S. citizen pleaded guilty to taking part in scheme to illegally export thermal imaging cameras to China; two days earlier, a Colorado company was charged with illegally selling computer software to Cuba; and, on July 10, a retired Indonesian Marine Corps general was sentenced to more than two years in prison for selling weapons to Sri Lankan rebels who are considered terrorists by the U.S.

“In recent months, there have been a growing number of criminal prosecutions nationwide involving prohibited transactions with embargoed nations as well as illegal exports of sensitive American technology. Today’s sanctions case is the latest,” said Dean Boyd, a Department of Justice spokesman.

“Keeping sensitive U.S. technology from falling into the wrong hands and enforcing sanctions against embargoed nations are priorities for the Justice Department and its law-enforcement partners,” he said.

A dual citizen of the U.S. and Iran, Mr. Amirnazmi was educated at the University of Tehran in Iran and Stanford University in California before starting a company in 1981 called TranTech, according to the company’s Web site. He faces decades in prison and millions of dollars in fines if convicted.

In the 1990s, the indictment said, Mr. Amirnazmi sold a proprietary software system to the National Petrochemical Company of Iran (NPC), which is controlled by the Iranian government. The program is a database that helps companies choose the chemical supplier that would best meet its needs.

Mr. Amirnazmi traveled to Tehran this spring and met with NPC officials who agreed to pay him at least $270,000 each year for the continued use of his software system.

In a separate instance, according to the indictment, Mr. Amirnazmi represented the Iranian-controlled Research Institute of Petroleum Industry during negotiations in 2007 that aimed to form an alliance with a Danish chemical company.

The indictment said Mr. Amirnazmi’s efforts earned him a 10 percent share of the proceeds of the partnership.

Authorities said Mr. Amirnazmi has lied about his involvement with Iran.

In 2004, according to the indictment, Mr. Amirnazmi told the government that he had only attempted two transactions with Iran - neither of which was successful - since sanctions were imposed in the 1990s.

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