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Dubai firm implicated in Iran 'bomb components' investigation in US

Khaleej Times Scrutiny Investigations Team
Filed on May 12, 2006

DUBAI — A Dubai engineering consultancy is at the center of an international criminal investigation into a scheme to smuggle banned weapons technology from the US to Iran. The scheme aimed to ship 103 Honeywell pressure sensors, which can be used to trigger explosive devices, from an electronics company in Minneapolis, US, to a firm in Isfahan, Iran.

Court documents obtained by the Khaleej Times reveal the Al Turath Engineering Consultancy was used as an 'intermediary address' to disguise the sensors' real destination. Under the US’s International Emergency Economic Act, it is illegal to ship any technology that has weapons-making capabilities to Iran without special government approval.

This week, Mohammad Fazeli, 27, a US citizen of Iranian extraction, pled guilty to attempting to illegally ship the sensors. He faces 10 years in jail.

Federal court documents show Fazeli and an Iranian identified as Majid Samsar conspired to buy the sensors from Gopher Electronics, a distributor of industrial electrical components. Fazeli's mission was to get the sensors from Gopher and have them shipped to his home in Los Angeles, California.

Once there, Fazeli was instructed repackage the sensors and use false shipping documents to send them to the offices of Al Turath Engineering on the 5th Floor of the Al Attar Grand Building on Khalid Bin al Waleed Street, Dubai.

According to the company's web site, Al Turath is 'one of the nation's leading scientific and engineering consulting firms providing

world-class expertise through product development and enhancement, Architectural and structural, Mechanical, Electrical & roads design modeling and simulation, materials engineering and testing.' The company boasts 'over 24 years experience' and says it can help customers 'customers solve their technical problems'.

According to evidence presented to the court, once the sensors were received at Al Turath, Samsar would arrange to have them shipped to their real destination, a company called 'Behpajooh Inc' in Esfahan, Iran. It is not known what was to happen to the sensors after that or, if there was another client standing behind Behpajooh Inc.

The plot began on September 6, 2004, when Samsar emailed Fazeli and instructed him to purchase the Honeywell sensors, which detect pressure changes in gas or liquid. The sensors can be used to make bombs that detonate at specific altitudes

Using his American Express card, Fazeli paid $1,525.43 for the sensors on September 14, 2004.

Using a Yahoo email account of Mo_fazeli@yahoo.com, Fazeli emailed his contact, Samsar, telling him he had bought '103 PCs of the item this morning.' He later emailed Samsar to tell him he was having trouble with Gopher who had phoned him, he said, to say they couldn't ship the sensors to him without knowing where they were going. Fazeli wrote to Samsar that he had convinced Gopher the sensors would be staying in the US ‘I told them OK and it was the whole conversation,’ he wrote.

Samar told Fazeli to print out a fake commercial invoice to make it appear the sensors had not been shipped by Gopher and to declare their value as '$309 only'. Fazeli did as he was instructed an on September 29 mailed the sensors to Al Turath Engineering in Dubai.

However, the sensors were intercepted by US federal agents and, after a joint investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) elite Arms and Strategic Technology Investigations team and, the FBI, Fazeli was arrested and charged.

An ICE spokesperson would not comment on what, if any, actions were currently underway against Al Turath and Majid Samsar.

Majid Samsar works for Turath Engineering Consultancy as a traffic engineer. When contacted by Khaleej Times late last night , he denied knowing Mohammed Fazeli “I don't know him at all,” he said in the beginning also denying any knowledge of the case. But later he admitted that he was approached by his Iranian Friend Saeed Majid, who works as a division director at the Behpajooh INC to receive a shipment for him and forward it to Iran.

“My friend Saeed Majid told me they needed some pressure sensors from Honeywell, because they his company had a contract with Faraz Mehr to upgrade their machines.”

Faraz Mehr, explained Samsar is a detergent manufacturer which needed the pressure sensors to upgrading its old machines. Samsar addded that since there are only two companies in the world which manufacture this type of censors, one of them is Motorolla and the other Honeywell, they could not buy from Motorolla because their machines are German made, the reason why they opted for Honeywell. They had checked the prices of the sensors from different sources and locations but found them expensive. It is then, I think, when they approached their friend Mohammed Fazeli in the US who was willing to make the purchase on their behalf. They transferred the money to him and he bought it for them. But he could not send the sensors because it was considered illegal and Fazeli was caught. My friend Saeed Majid does not have any idea about the court case,”he said.

Asked about the e-mail Fazeli claimed he received from him on September 6, 2004, he said:“I don't think so. But I can check it. I have all records, but it could be that my friend Saeed Majid who was involved with him and me, asked me to check with Fazeli why the shipment was not delivered. They told me they bought the sensors and will send them by post, but when I went to the post office there was no consignment number.”

“I have not done any thing illegal. I have no intention to violate the law. What I did is just a favour for one of my friends. I never thought that it is so important or there is anything illegal in it. I am just an employee doing a friend a favour for nothing in return, I am not a businessman seeking commission. They can check my bank account with the Dubai Islamic Bank to verify that I had not received any amounts from anywhere,”he said.

He also denied any knowledge of any military use or application of these sensors. When asked why the shipment was sent in his company's name and to his address, he first said “I don't know. Was it in my company's name?. Then he said, it might be because at that time i didn't have a P.O.Box of my own. I never imagined that this simple matter could turn into such a serious issue.”


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