On March 16, 2009, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a press release stating that Ali Khoshnevisrad was arrested on March 14, 2009, after he arrived in San Francisco International Airport on a flight from abroad. On March 16, 2009, Khoshnevisrad, a citizen of Iran, and his Iranian company Ariasa, AG (Ariasa) were charged with purchasing helicopter engines and advanced aerial cameras for fighter bombers from U.S. firms and illegally exporting them to Iran using companies in Ireland, Malaysia and the Netherlands. One of the alleged recipients of the U.S. goods was an Iranian military firm that has since been designated by the U.S. as owned or controlled by entities involved in Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile program.
Khoshnevisrad and his company Ariasa are each charged with two counts of unlawful export of U.S. goods to Iran and two counts of conspiracy to unlawfully export U.S. goods to Iran, in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Iranian Transactions Regulations (ITR).
According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint filed in August 2008, Khoshnevisrad and Ariasa instructed a trading company in Ireland to purchase several model 250 turbo-shaft helicopter engines from Rolls-Royce Corp in Indiana. This type of engine was originally designed for a U.S. Army light observation helicopter and is now installed in civil and military helicopters. The Irish trading company purchased 17 of the engines for a total of $4.27 million, falsely stating that the helicopters would be used by the Irish company or by fake companies. The affidavit alleges that these helicopter engines were exported from the U.S. to a company in Malaysia pretending to be a book publisher, at a freight forwarding company address. From there, the engines were shipped to Iran. Among the recipients was the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company, known by its Iranian acronym as HESA. In September 2008, HESA was designated by the Treasury Department as an Iranian proliferator of weapons of mass destruction.
The affidavit further alleges that Khoshnevisrad and Ariasa instructed in 2006 a Dutch aviation parts company to place an order for several aerial panorama cameras from the U.S. The specific cameras were designed for the U.S. Air Force, for use on bombers, fighters and surveillance aircraft. The Dutch company was supposed to place the order with a Pennsylvania company and to ship them to an address in Iran. Khoshnevisrad, knowing that Iranian end user would be prohibited in this case, instructed the Dutch company to "give them an end user by yourself." In August 2006, a representative of the Dutch company notified Khoshnevisrad that the cameras were received and would soon be shipped to Tehran.
The affidavit alleges that neither Khoshnevisrad nor Ariasa ever sought an authorization or a license from the U.S. Department of Treasure to export any goods or technology to Iran. If convicted, Khoshnevisrad faces a prison sentence of up to 20 years for each of the first three counts of the complaint, and a prison sentence of up to five years on the fourth count.