Friday, March 07, 2008


I guess half a story is better than none

Newsday - In a case shrouded in secrecy, a U.S. businessman has pleaded guilty to installing a restricted U.S. satellite system on an Iranian government oil tanker and smuggling computer equipment to the Iranian ballistic missile program, court records show.

Mohammad Farahbakhsh, an Iranian national and naturalized U.S. citizen who lived in Los Angeles, pleaded guilty to unlawful export of U.S. commodities to Iran from the United States, records filed last week indicate. He was sentenced to time already served in prison based in part on "extraordinary family circumstances relating to the health of a family member," according to the records.

Court papers do not indicate how much time Farahbakhsh served, when he entered the plea or whether any public hearings were held for his plea and sentencing. The Federal Bureau of Prisons has no record of him as an inmate.

Three other counts alleging Farahbakhsh sent goods to Iran without obtaining a valid export license were dismissed, records show.

A sealing order was entered Tuesday in the case. A transcript also was sealed.

The U.S. Attorney's office, which announced the indictment in 2005 and normally publicizes such cases, declined to comment. The office is led by U.S. Attorney Kevin O'Connor, who is awaiting Senate confirmation to become associate attorney general at the Department of Justice.

Between 1998 and 2000, Farahbakhsh sold computer parts to the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, a branch of the Iranian government "involved in developing and producing ballistic and cruise missiles," prosecutors alleged.

He hid the deal using an Iranian bank with a branch in the United Arab Emirates, according to the indictment.

The satellite communication system is controlled equipment because of terrorism concerns.

But his lawyer has argued that the products Farahbakhsh allegedly shipped were not dangerous and could be purchased off the Internet.

"This is a licensing case, not a case involving weapons and nuclear technology as the government insists," attorney Kristan Peters said in 2005.

Peters has said the satellite equipment was used to get television reception on the oil tanker.

Telephone messages were left Thursday and Friday for Peters. Court officials declined to comment.