A Canadian citizen was arrested on arrival at Sea-Tac airport last night, following his indictment on charges of violating U.S. export laws and making false statements to federal investigators, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. MEHRAN GHANOUNI, 29, operated a number of companies in both the U.S. and Canada. The indictment alleges that between 2014 and 2016, GHANOUNI and his coconspirators exported $2.3 million in parts for petrochemical operations, falsely claiming they were destined for companies in Kuwait, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates. In fact, the coconspirators knew the equipment was to be transshipped to oil companies owned by the government of Iran. Such exports are illegal under federal law. GHANOUNI will make his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Seattle at 2:00 p.m. today.
"The violation of export control requirements undermines our national security,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “I commend the investigative work of Homeland Security Investigations and the Office of Export Enforcement that has resulted in this arrest and charges."
According to the indictment, the co-conspirators attempted to illegally export the equipment on 35 different occasions. The indictment describes a February 1, 2014, export where GHANOUNI’s company, Integrated Control Systems (ICS) claimed the parts were for an oil refinery in Kuwait when in fact they were destined for Iran. In May 2014, ICS claimed parts were destined for a company in Iraq, when in fact they were for an Iranian oil company. In December 2014, U.S. Customs and Border protection seized a shipment of parts ICS was sending overseas suspecting they were headed to Iran. The company again falsely claimed they were for repairs to be made in the UAE for a project in Iraq. Other shipments in January 2015 and February 2016 were also destined for Iran, but were represented as being for companies in Iraq and the UAE. When questioned, MEHRAN GHANOUNI told a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations that his company did not do any business with Iran. GHANOUNI knew that statement was false.
Conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act Making a False Statement are each punishable by up to five years of imprisonment.
The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and United States Department of Commerce, Office of Export Enforcement.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Woods with assistance from the Department of Justice National Security Division.