The US State Department has offered a $5m bounty for information leading to the arrest of Chinese businessman Li Fangwei for his alleged role as a major supplier of ballistic missile technology to Iran.
The latest efforts are part of a major push by the Treasury, Justice, Commerce and State departments to get their hands on Li and shut down businesses that they allege are a network of front companies that have been used to move millions through US financial institutions.
This is in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators Sanctions Regulations, according to the State Department.
He’s also being charged with wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering.
The US authorities have been trying to arrest Li, also known as Karl Lee, for years, but very wisely he has not ventured from China or visited any countries with extradition treaties with the States.
“Whether motivated by greed or otherwise, Li Fangwei allegedly ignored sanctions imposed by the United States government and hid behind front companies he developed to engage in a series of illegal transactions, including attempts to acquire ‘dual use’ items on behalf of Iran-based entities,” said FBI director George Venizelos in a canned statement.
“IEEPA makes it a crime to wilfully violate US sanctions on designated countries such as Iran. Individuals and companies who evade US sanctions and misuse our banking system to further their illegal activity not only undermine the integrity of our financial markets but also threaten US national security interests.”
For his part, Li has pleaded his innocence, telling the Wall Street Journal in 2009 that his products are “sold everywhere in the world” and not used to make WMDs or ballistic missiles.
The US is unlikely to get its hands on the businessman, unless Beijing miraculously decides it would like the $5m on offer, but it hasn't been doing a bad job of strangling his business dealings.
The Justice Department claimed it has already managed to seize $6.89m from what it alleges are some of Li's front companies. ®