BERLIN – German police have arrested four men suspected of delivering valves for a heavy water nuclear reactor to Iran, breaking an embargo on such exports that was imposed due to the Islamic Republic’s disputed nuclear program.
Germany – which has long been a hub of illegal trade between Iran and the Federal Republic, largely because of porous export control polices and enforcement measures – deployed 90 customs officials to arrest the men.
Prosecutors said the authorities arrested a German national and three others with dual German and Iranian citizenship at their homes in the northern cities of Hamburg and Oldenburg and the eastern town of Weimar, and searched flats and offices.
“In 2010 and 2011 the suspects are believed to have helped in the delivery of special valves for the construction of a heavy water reactor in Iran and therefore to have broken the Iran embargo,” prosecutors said in a statement on Wednesday.
To avoid export controls, the men are suspected of having described the customer as a firm based in Turkey and Azerbaijan.
“The deliveries were part of an order worth several million euros which Iran was trying to use to secure the necessary valve technology to make a heavy water reactor,” said the prosecutors.
The men were therefore suspected of breaking Germany’s law on foreign trade and breaching military weapons controls.
Prosecutors named the men only as Kianzad Ka., Gholamali Ka., Hamid Kh.
and Rudolf M. Customs officials also searched the property of another suspect in the eastern town of Halle/Saale as well as that individual’s business.
Iran has been hit with several rounds of United Nations sanctions, plus tougher measures imposed by the European Union and United States – since 2006 – due to its refusal to suspend enrichment of uranium. This process yields fuel for nuclear power stations, but also nuclear bombs, depending on the level of refinement.
Iran, the world’s No. 5 oil exporter, says it does not want to build a bomb, but rather needs nuclear energy for electricity to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding population.
In 2007, German customs police investigated 50 of their country’s industrial firms for illegally supplying nuclear equipment to Iran.
The so-called “Atom Brothers,” Georg and Alex Kruger, illegally delivered vital nuclear technology to Iran’s plant Bushehr. German prosecutors slapped the Krugers with a financial penalty.
Bushehr is now, with Russian assistance, operational and German and Israeli security officials view the plant as threat to regional security because it could shift plutonium into war usage.
The August, 2012 edition of the trade journal World Exports Control Review noted that German-Iranian business is “ still strong.” In an article commenting on The Jerusalem Post’s exclusive report on Germany approving dual-use – military and civilian applicability – merchandise for Iran, a regulatory official told the journal “he believed that the underlying message [of the Post article] was that ‘all trade with Iran is bad.’” This, he said, was a political issue not related to enforcement, pointing out that EU sanctions do not amount to a total embargo on all trade.”
Israeli, German and US critics contend that the Federal Republic’s roughly 4 billion euro annual bi-lateral trade relationship with Tehran is setting back international efforts to isolate Iran and end its nuclear program.
Earlier, Standard Chartered PLC reached a $340 million settlement with New York’s bank regulator for transactions linked to Iran, although the bank may still face investigations into transactions by other US agencies.
Reuters contributed to this report.