American Charged With Smuggling to Aid Iran's Nuke Program

An American businessman installed a restricted U.S. satellite system on an Iranian oil tanker and helped smuggle computer equipment to Iran's nuclear weapons program, federal prosecutors said.

Mohammad Farahbakhsh (search), 43, already faces smuggling charges for allegedly funneling pressure sensors to Iran. He was indicted Wednesday on new charges spelling out a scheme to sell prohibited equipment to his native country.

Between 1998 and 2000, Farahbakhsh sold computer parts from National Instruments (search), based in Austin, Texas, to the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (search), a branch of the Iranian government "involved in developing and producing ballistic and cruise missiles," prosecutors said.

He allegedly hid the deal using an Iranian bank with a branch in the United Arab Emirates.

The indictment was handed up the same day Farahbakhsh's attorney filed documents trying get the original case dismissed.

"I have never seen any documents that would support that allegation," attorney Kristan Peters said.

The indictment alleges that in 2002 Farahbakhsh, of Los Angeles, sold a $60,000 satellite communication system to the Iranian Offshore Engineering and Construction Co. The satellite system is controlled equipment because of terrorism concerns.

Peters said the satellite equipment was used to get television reception on the oil tanker: "This is not against the law."

Since the equipment was sold to the UAE, to whom American exports are allowed, and installed on an oil tanker in the UAE, the sale did not violate export law, she said.

Farahbakhsh is being held pending trial.