The Manhattan district attorney’s office has smashed a sinister plot to smuggle nuclear weapons materials to Iran through unwitting New York banks, the Daily News has learned.
Officials plan to unseal a 118-count indictment Tuesday accusing a Chinese national of setting up a handful of fake companies to hide that he was selling millions of dollars in potential nuclear materials to Tehran.
“This case will cut off a major source of supply to Iran and it shows how they are going ahead full steam to get a nuclear bomb. Long-range missiles they pretty much have already,” a law enforcement source close to the case said.
“We think it is one of the largest suppliers of weapons of mass destruction to Iran.”
Experts say Iran, under the leadership of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, appears close to amassing enough nuclear material to make an atom bomb. A United Nations embargo bans Iran from acquiring the high-tech metals needed to make a long-range nuclear weapon a reality.
The indictment will outline the financial conspiracy behind 58 different transactions, including shipments of various banned materials from China to Iran between 2006 and late 2008.
* 33,000 pounds of a specialized aluminum alloy used almost exclusively in long-range missile production.
* 66,000 pounds of tungsten copper plate, which is used in missile guidance systems.
* 53,900 pounds of maraging steel rods, a superhard metal used in uranium enrichment and to make the casings for nuclear bombs.
The recipient is believed to have been a subsidiary of the Iranian Defense Ministry.
The suspect, who is not believed to be in the U.S., set up four bogus import-export companies that did business with six Iranian shell firms, one source said.
“They took elaborate steps to conceal the identity of the shipper and the recipient,” the source said.
The deals went through “several” New York banks, which cooperated when the alleged plot was uncovered.
“The New York banks were completely unaware,” the source said.
Authorities first stumbled over the scheme seven months ago in an unrelated probe into Iranian money-laundering through Lloyd’s, a British bank.
In January, Lloyd’s paid a $350 million fine to settle accusations it “stripped” information from Iranian money transfers to New York banks, hiding where the cash came from.
Officials said they suspected that money was also used to finance Iran’s nuke program.
“The important thing is to put sunlight on these deals,” the law enforcement source said.