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Chinese ‘weapons proliferator’ indicted for Iran sales

A China national used a web of overseas front companies and U.S. financial institutions to sell nuclear-weapons-related items to Iran in violation of trade sanctions, the DOJ said Tuesday.

“As alleged, Li Fangwei has used subterfuge and deceit to continue to evade U.S. sanctions that had been imposed because of his illicit trade in prohibited materials with Iran,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

Li, who’s also known as “Karl Lee,” is currently at large.

The DOJ said he has been “a principal contributor to Iran’s ballistic missile program.”

The U.S. State Department referred to him a “weapons proliferator.” It is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest or conviction.

An indictment filed in Manhattan federal court said Li controlled a network of industrial companies based in eastern China. The companies allegedly did more than $8.5 million of business with Iran, including selling items that could be used to produce or deliver weapons of mass destruction.

The U.S.  International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) prohibits using U.S. financial institutions to transact business with Iran-controlled entities in violation of economic sanctions. The IEEPA also makes it a crime to willfully violate U.S. sanctions as applied to designated countries like Iran.

The DOJ has seized about $6.8 million attributable to Li’s front companies.

He faces up to 30 years in jail for conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, and up to 20 years for violating and conspiring to violate the IEPPA and money laundering conspiracy.

The DOJ’s April 29 release is here.


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

Julie DiMauro is the executive editor of FCPA Blog and can be reached here.

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