Residents inspect a damaged church after a bomb attack in central Kirkuk, 250km north of Baghdad, Iraq. Four Singapore citizens and an Iranian have been accused by the United States of illegally exporting radio equipment to Iran from the United States, for use in bombs attacks in Iraq. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
WASHINGTON: The United States charged four Singaporeans and an Iranian on Tuesday with illegally exporting US-made radio equipment to Iran that ended up in roadside bombs targeting coalition forces in Iraq.
The United States has requested the extradition of the Singaporeans, who were arrested on Monday in Singapore, but the Iranian is still at large and lives in Iran, the Justice Department said.
Three Singapore-based companies and an Iranian company were also charged in the indictment, which accuses Iranian national Hossein Larijani of masterminding the illegal export of 6,000 radio frequency modules from a Minnesota-based company to Iran.
The modules have encryption capabilities and a range that allows them to transmit data wirelessly as far as 40 miles (65 kilometers) when configured with a specialized antenna.
At least 16 were discovered by US forces in Iraq being used in remote detonation systems for IEDs (improvised explosive devices), which, according to the indictment, caused roughly 60 percent of American combat casualties in Iraq between 2001 and 2007.
"Yesterday, authorities in Singapore arrested Wong Yuh Lan (Wong), Lim Yong Nam (Nam), Lim Kow Seng (Seng), and Hia Soo Gan Benson (Hia), all citizens of Singapore, in connection with a US request for extradition," the Justice Department said.
"The remaining individual defendant, Hossein Larijani, is a citizen and resident of Iran who remains at large."
Charges include conspiracy to defraud the United States, smuggling, illegal export of goods from the United States to Iran, illegal export of defense articles from the United States, false statements and obstruction of justice.
Some of the defendants were also charged in a separate fraud conspiracy involving the export of sensitive military technology to Singapore and Hong Kong -- radio antennas for use in fighter jets.
US Attorney Ronald Machen said the defendants misled US companies into exporting parts that ended up in IEDs on the battlefield in Iraq. "We hope for a swift response from Singapore to our request for extradition," he added.
"In each transaction, the defendants allegedly told the Minnesota firm that Singapore was the final destination of the goods," the indictment said. "The defendants also caused false documents to be filed with the US government, in which they claimed that a telecommunications project in Singapore was the final end-use for the modules.
"In reality, each of the five shipments was routed from Singapore to Iran via air cargo. The alleged recipient of all 6,000 modules in Iran was Larijani, who had directed Wong, his employee in Singapore, to order them."
Assistant Attorney General for National Security Lisa Monaco said the case "underscores the continuing threat posed by Iranian procurement networks seeking to obtain US technology through fraud and the importance of safeguarding that technology."
US officials regularly accuse Iran of meddling in the politics of Baghdad's Shiite-led government, and training and backing militant groups that target US troops in the south of Iraq.
Admiral Mike Mullen, then the top US military officer, said in July that Iran was stepping up its support for Shiite militants in Iraq, supplying them with more sophisticated weapons that were being used against American forces.
Analysts have voiced concern that Tehran's ability to interfere could increase as a result of President Barack Obama's announcement last week that all US troops will be pulled out of Iraq by the end of this year.
"These cases are the product of vigorous, cooperative law enforcement focused on denying to Iran items that endanger our coalition forces on the battlefield in Iraq," said Under Secretary of Commerce Eric Hirschhorn.
"We will continue aggressively to go after such perpetrators -- no matter where they operate -- to guard against these types of threats."
US Ambassador to Singapore, David Adelman, praised the cooperation of different departments both within the United States and with the Singaporean authorities.
"Twenty-first century law enforcement is most effective when countries work collaboratively as evidenced by this strong, cooperative effort between the US and Singapore," he said.
The Singapore embassy in Washington declined comment on the matter.