- International Enforcement Actions
Mentioned Suspect Entities & Suppliers:
German authorities sentenced four men to punishments ranging from four years in prison to 18 months’ probation for illegally supplying Iran with over one thousand valves for its Arak heavy water reactor. The case began in 2007, when Iranian national Hossein Tanideh contacted Rudolf Mayer, the owner of a German custom fittings company called MIT-Weimar. Tanideh was seeking to purchase valves on behalf of Modern Industries Technique Company (MITEC), an Iranian firm responsible for the design and construction of the Arak reactor. MITEC has been sanctioned by the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States. After successful negotiations between Tanideh and Mayer, a first shipment of valves was sent from Germany to Iran via Turkey in October 2010. Mayer reportedly created a fictitious customer for the goods in Azerbaijan in order to conceal this transaction.
Procurement continued in 2011, when Tanideh reportedly sought over 600 valves from Halle-based Bekasar Industrietechnik GmbH, with help from Gholamali Kazemi and his son Kianzad. The Kazemis supported Tanideh’s procurement efforts from their base in Germany, where Gholamali Kazemi reportedly ran a company specialized in exporting valves and pumps. Fifty-five valves from this order are believed to have reached Iran, again via Turkey.
Also in 2011, the Kazemis reportedly facilitated an order for 856 valves that were forged and cast in India, and then sent to Iran via Turkey. This third shipment of valves was reportedly supplied by an Indian firm called “Bell-o-seal,” and met the material and design standards necessary for use in a heavy water reactor.
German authorities licensed the export of the valves to Tanideh despite concerns raised on several occasions by U.S. authorities since at least 2009. Specifically, in both April and September of that year, the State Department warned the German government about MITEC’s attempts to procure valves from German companies, including MIT-Weimar. 1,163 of the 1,767 valves ordered by Tanideh were reportedly delivered to MITEC. The nearly 1,800 valves ordered were reportedly worth $7.7 million and would have been enough to equip the entire Arak reactor.
Tanideh was sanctioned by the United States in July 2012 for procuring distillation columns that were probably intended for use in the Arak reactor. He reportedly posed as a “refinery manager” in Germany, as valves often have applications in the petrochemical industry. Tanideh has served on the Board of Directors of Pentane Chemistry Industries and as Managing Director of the Sherkate Sakhtemani Rahtes Sahami Company (also known as the Rahtes Company). Pentane was also sanctioned by the United States in July 2012 for its role in building the Arak reactor.
In January 2013, Tanideh was arrested by Turkish authorities acting on an Interpol Red Notice. Documents seized from the Istanbul office of Tanideh’s IDI trading company revealed that Tanideh and an accomplice, Mesut Atasoy, had sent nuclear materials from Germany and India to MITEC in Iran and declared them as plumbing fixtures. German authorities requested Tanideh’s extradition in 2013. Turkish authorities denied Germany’s extradition request and also declined to prosecute Tanideh in Turkey, instead releasing him from custody in 2014. Western governments believe that Tanideh has returned to Iran.
In November 2013, Tanideh’s four German accomplices were sentenced in a German court. Rudolph Mayer, the owner of MIT-Weimar, received a three-year suspended sentence and a fine of 106,000 euros. Gholamali Kazemi received a four-year prison sentence and a fine of 250,000 euros. His son, Kianzad, received a two-year, nine-month suspended sentence. Hamid Khouran, who acted as a middleman between the Kazemis and Mayer, was given 18 months probation.
“German Men Sentenced for Smuggling Nuclear Components to Iran,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, November 15, 2013.
“Turkey Halts Iranian Spy's Extradition to Germany,” Today’s Zaman, August 6, 2013.
Daniel Salisbury, “Illicit Procurement of German and Indian Valves for Iran’s Arak Heavy Water Reactor,” Project Alpha, June 20, 2013.
"Final Report of the Panel of Experts Established Pursuant to Resolution 1929 (2010)," S/2013/331, U.N. Security Council, June 3, 2013.
“Covert Iranian Nuclear Dealings via Turkey Revealed,” Today’s Zaman, March 12, 2013.
Cathrin Gilbert, Holger Stark, and Andreas Ulrich, “Nuclear Technology for Iran: German Investigators Uncover Illegal Exports,” Spiegel Online, October 1, 2012.
“Increasing Sanctions Against Iran,” Fact Sheet, U.S. Department of the Treasury, July 12, 2012.
“Council Regulation (EU) No 267/2012 of 23 March 2012 concerning restrictive measures against Iran and repealing Regulation (EU) No 961/2010,” Official Journal of the European Union, March 24, 2012.
“E.O. 13382 Designations on Iran,” Fact Sheet, U.S. Department of State, November 21, 2011.
“U.N. Security Council resolution 1929 (2010),” S/RES/1929, U.N. Security Council, Annex I, June 9, 2010.
Huseiyn Ozkaya, “Spy Crisis With Germany,” Taraf Online, August 5, 2013.
Mark Hibbs, “Turkey’s Interests and Tanideh,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, February 23, 2015.
“Haftstrafen fuer Embargo-Verstoss: Gericht verurteilt vier Geschaeftsleute,” Die Welt, November 9, 2013.