Last week, Saber Fakih, a 48-year-old individual from the United Kingdom who attempted to export technology, including C-UAS systems, to Iran, received an 18-month prison sentence for breaching the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations. In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney L. Friedrich ordered Saber Fakih to serve three years of supervised release.
According to his plea agreement, Saber Fakih collaborated with Bader Fakih (43, Canada), Altaf Faquih (72, United Arab Emirates), and Alireza Taghavi (48, Iran) to illegally export an Industrial Microwave System (IMS) and counter-drone system from the United States to Iran. This action occurred without obtaining the necessary license from the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
Another participant in the conspiracy, Jalal Rohollahnejad, a 46-year-old Iranian national, is facing charges related to smuggling, wire fraud, and associated offenses stemming from the same illicit scheme. Rohollahnejad was previously included in the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security Entity List in March 2020 due to his actions contrary to U.S. national security or foreign policy interests by procuring goods for a Specially Designated National (SDN).
Saber Fakih’s co-conspirators presented themselves as procurement agents for Rayan Roshd, an entity later sanctioned by the U.S. Government due to its procurement activities associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
Summary of the Scheme to Export Technology
As per the government’s evidence, between 2017 and 2018, Fakih and his collaborators endeavored to export items to Iran with potential applications in civil and military contexts. If modified, the industrial microwave system (IMS) could potentially serve military purposes, including as part of high-power microwave-based Directed-Energy Weapon systems. The counter-drone system, possessing both commercial and military utility, can stop, identify, redirect, land, or take total control of a target unmanned aerial vehicle.
In his statement of offense, Saber Fakih acknowledged being the primary intermediary between the Iranian buyer and the U.S.-based seller of the Industrial Microwave System (IMS). He initiated the bidding process with the Massachusetts vendor, facilitated the machine inspection, and communicated with the vendor on behalf of Taghavi, fully aware that the equipment was ultimately intended for Iran.
Simultaneously, Rohollahnejad orchestrated the transfer of approximately $450,000 from Iran to the UAE, where Altaf Faquih retrieved it and converted it from Emirati currency to U.S. dollars. Faquih then conveyed the funds through three wire transfers to Bader Fakih in Canada. Subsequently, Bader Fakih transferred the money to the U.S. company to acquire the IMS.
Furthermore, Saber Fakih and Bader Fakih conspired on behalf of Taghavi to acquire two counter-drone systems valued at nearly $1 million from a Maryland-based company.
Similar Scheme To Export C-UAS Technology to Libya Uncovered in Spain
Last month, as reported by EuroWeekly News and other outlets, the Spanish National Police arrested multiple individuals in Valencia and Madrid. They are accused of attempting the illicit export of a counter-drone system valued at over €2 million, intended for deployment at Tripoli Airport in Libya.
Some of the arrested individuals were reported as being affiliated with a Madrid-based technology firm specializing in defense material and a Libyan national associated with a paramilitary group. Additional reporting on the arrests identified the individuals as directors at Star Defense Logistics & Engineering (SDLE), a firm routinely engaged in contracts with the Spanish Ministry of Defence.
The investigation by the National Police, initiated in 2020, unveiled a sophisticated network of smugglers engaged in shipping drones equipped with thermal cameras to Libya.
A Libyan individual, identified as the leader of the RADA-SDF paramilitary group, was found to be participating in the illicit drone transactions. Given Libya’s current state of conflict and its adherence to a strict international embargo, the shipment not only violated international law but also constituted the smuggling of prohibited goods.
The operation, led by the General Information Commission and involving the Provincial Information Brigade of Valencia, was conducted under the supervision of the National Court’s Prosecutor’s Office. The entire operation was directed by the Central Court of Instruction number three.
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