Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Takin' It to the LIMMT

Those wily Iranians are at it again. The seemingly immortal New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau announced yesterday that the NY DA's has filed an indictment against a Chinese company, LIMMT, that has been illegally selling banned materials to Iran in violation of United Nations bans as well as U.S. law. The 59 page, 118 count indictment can be found here and a New York Times article about the indictment can be found here. It is accused of selling metals that can be used in the production of nuclear weapons to an arm of the Iranian military called the Defense Industries Organization. In the sale of these materials LIMMT used U.S. banks in New York City to transfer money, and that is how the NYC DA got the case.

The question that jumped out at me when I saw this story was, why in the world Iran, or companies trying to do this kind of business with Iran, would use U.S. banks to facilitate these transactions? Seems kind of stupid to me since it is one of the U.S.'s goals in life to stop Iran from developing the bomb or advancing its military in any way. The indictment actually answers that question, and the answer is that due to the shear amount of global commerce that is carried out in U.S. dollars LIMMT had no choice but to go through U.S. banks. This posed a big problem for them because in 2006 the Treasury Department banned LIMMT from using the U.S. financial system in any way. In order to get around the Treasury sanctions, LIMMT simply used false names on its money transfers (a crime called "falsifying business records", and the only crime charged in the indictment) which worked to bypass the countermeasures the banks had in place to stop LIMMT from doing business.

I had an earlier post about financial crimes that were facilitating Iran's quest to acquire advanced military equipment. This one is more disturbing because the transactions involve material that is essential in enriching uranium and building an actual bomb. Further proof that Iran is actively pursuing a military nuclear agenda that needs to be halted because the introduction of more nuclear weapons to the Middle East (it's a not so well kept secret that Israel has nuclear weapons) will add a great deal of fuel to an already raging fire.

Something I found a little funny is the number of aliases the indictment credits to LIMMT's owner Li Fang Wei. He has seven aliases one of which is "Patric" (no "k"; way to disguise the name "Patrick" there Li), and another of which is "Sunny Bai." Listen, if you have seven aliases you are a criminal. I think that creates an unrebuttable presumption that you are up to no good. On top of that one of his nicknames is "Sunny" which is only slightly less criminal sounding than "Snake" or "Knuckles." Li, come up with some respectable nicknames for the next indictment.

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