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American jailed for smuggling controlled tech to Iran

30 months in prison for providing, um... enterprise mobile banking software dev tool

A dual Iranian/US national has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for smuggling export-controlled technology products to end users in Iran.

Kambiz Attar Kashani pled guilty to charges that he violated the International Economic Powers Act by sending hardware and software to Iran through front companies registered in the United Arab Emirates between 2019 and 2021.

In a sentencing memorandum [PDF], the Department of Justice argued that Kashani's illicit operations actually went back as far as 2014, when he allegedly began providing Iran with enterprise software for designing mobile banking applications, along with security and data management software.

By providing such software, the DoJ said, "Kashani and his co-conspirators enabled the Iranian banking system to operate more efficiently, effectively and securely." A crime, mind you, that could also help Iranian civilians.

Per Kashani's indictment [PDF], he and his co-conspirators allegedly sent "two subscriptions to a proprietary computer software program; several fixed attenuators; two subscriptions to operating software; six power supplies; and several storage systems" to Iran.

According to the DoJ, the recipient of the smuggled technology was the Central Bank of Iran, which FBI Counterintelligence Assistant Director Alan Kohler said is linked to the Lebanese Hizbollah and Iranian Qods Force, both US-designated terrorist groups.

You say sanctions, I say evasions

The United States has had sanctions in place against Iran and Iranian entities for years, and as technology has evolved so have the materials being smuggled, and the methods of dodging the rules. 

Last August, for example, Iranian Trade Minister Alireza Peyman Pak said in a tweet that Iran began using cryptocurrency to pay for import orders, potentially as a way to evade sanctions. The US Treasury has advised that Iran has developed a multitude of methods for evading sanctions to not only import, but export things like oil as well, proceeds for which the Treasury alleges goes to support terrorist groups. 

The US's stance softened somewhat at the end of last year when protests erupted across Iran and destabilized the country's government, which continue over the deaths of young activists and the arrest of tens of thousands fighting what they consider to be an oppressive regime. 

The US government loosened some restrictions on Iran and issued a General License that "will authorize technology companies to offer the Iranian people more options of secure, outside platforms and services," the Treasury said. 

Elon Musk, whose SpaceX satellite internet service Starlink was deployed with US government assistance to help Ukraine during its fight against Russian invasion forces, weighed in quickly to say that Starlink service had been enabled in Iran, but Iranian activists have apparently been on their own when it comes to smuggling terminals into their embattled country. ®

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