Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is seen speaking to reporters at the White House in Washington, D.C., on October 14. Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 10 (UPI) -- The Trump administration on Tuesday targeted an international network of companies and foreign nationals with sanctions and charges for procuring sensitive goods for the Iranian military as it tightens its economic and legal vises on Tehran.
The Treasury sanctioned six companies and four individuals for procuring sensitive materials, including U.S. electronic components, for Iran Communication Industries, an Iranian military firm the department designated in 2008 and the European Union blacklisted two years later.
"The Iranian regime utilizes a global network of companies to advance its destabilizing military capabilities," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement. "The United States will continue to take action against those who help to support the regime's militarization and proliferation efforts."
Iran-based Hoda Trading, an ICI subsidiary; Hong Kong-based Proma Industry Co.; DES International Co., a company that has offices in the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Taiwan and China; China-based Naz Technology Co.; Brunei-based Soltche Industry Co. and Iran-based computer components manufacturer Artin San'at Tabann Company were the six entities sanctioned Tuesday.
The Treasury also blacklisted dual British and Iranian national Mohammad Soltanmohammadi for owning Naz Technology and serving as the director of Soltech Industry, Shih Mei Sun for owning more than a fifth of DES International and serving as its finance director, Chin-hua Huang who works for DES International and helped it facilitate the sale of U.S. components and Mohammad Banihashemi who has worked with Soltanmohammadi and Sun on the release of shipments of goods from international customs, among performing other services for the companies.
"Today, the United States is sanctioning members of an illicit Iranian procurement network," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. "We remain firmly committed to countering any activity that threatens our national security. Our message is clear: If you do business with Iranian proliferators, you risk U.S. sanctions."
The Treasury accused Hoda of seeking U.S.-origin electronics components from China for ICI since 2008 and has been been working since 2016 with Proma Industry, which has aided it with the sale and shipment of tens of thousands of dollars' worth of goods.
Hoda purchased these goods through Iran- and UAE-based companies, including DES International, the Treasury said, adding that Hoda has also paid tens of thousands of dollars to Soltech for electronics components and delivery services through a forwarder.
Artin San'at Tabann, an Iran-based maker of computer parts under the brand Solemate, was targeted for providing DES International with the use of its brand name.
The Justice Department on Tuesday also filed charges against Huang, a resident of Taiwan, as well as DES International and Soltech Industry for violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations for their involvement in the scheme.
According to the criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Huang ran sales for both DES and Soltech and is accused of working for them and a third unnamed Iranian company to violate U.S. sanctions.
Prosecutors accused Huang of purposely misleading U.S. companies into selling sensitive matters to Iran through disguising the products' final destination. She also aided in hiding the origin of the sensitive materials in order to evade sanctions, the complaint said.
The Justice Department identified some of the goods Huang helped Iran obtain including a power amplifier designed for use in electromechanical devices and cybersecurity software.
"Huang took steps to conceal the U.S. origin of the goods, including by removing serial number stickers with the phrase 'Made in USA' from packages, and by causing the cybersecurity software to be downloaded onto a computer outside Iran," the Justice Department said in a release.
If convicted, Huang faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000 while DES and Soltech would each face a $500,000 fine.
The sanctions applied Tuesday freeze all property and assets of those designated while barring U.S. citizens from doing business with them at the risk of sanctions.
The sanctions and charges are the latest move targeting Iran by the Trump administration, which has been applying an "extreme pressure" campaign against Tehran to force it back to the negotiating table on a new nuclear deal since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from an Obama-era accord and reimposed sanctions in 2018.
Tensions between the two countries have skyrocketed since, reaching their height early this year with the U.S. drone assassination of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Commander Qassem Soleimani.
Iran retaliated by shooting missiles at two U.S. bases in Iraq but also shot down a Ukraine airliner near Tehran shortly after, killing all 176 on board.