Iran's nuclear web....
A nice look at how they procure nuclear technology...
When Mahmoud Yadegari became the first man in Canada convicted of supplying nuclear equipment to Iran two weeks ago, his lawyer was quick to downplay his importance. The 36-year-old Iranian-born Canadian was nothing more than a “rube” caught up in Tehran’s global smuggling operation, said lead counsel Frank Addario, noting that, before his landmark conviction under UN special regulations and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Act, Yadegari was merely a truck driver in desperate need of a dollar. “I think if he could redo it,” said Addario, “he would have continued driving a truck.”
The depiction required a certain leap of imagination. In the six months leading up to his April 2009 arrest, Yadegari had contacted 118 companies across North America and sent more than 2,000 emails to suppliers in hopes of getting his hands on parts used in the enrichment of uranium for nuclear fuel. Several firms warned him that his activities ran afoul of international law, while his “handler” in Tehran—a man named Nima Tabari— instructed him on how best to avoid attracting the attention of authorities. Yet the hapless Torontonian pressed on, and in March 2009 was caught trying to ship devices called pressure transducers to Iran via the United Arab Emirates. He now faces up to 10 years in prison.
Still, there was truth buried somewhere in Addario’s spin. As Yadegari prepared for sentencing last week, unanswered questions swirled around that “handler”—a mysterious figure who had steered Yadegari, marionette-like, through the forest of manufacturers, suppliers and middlemen capable of providing the parts Iran so desperately seeks. Based in Tehran and seemingly undaunted by the world’s disapproval of his activities, Nima Alizadeh Tabari is a living symbol of the Islamic republic’s indifference toward UN sanctions, and domestic criminal laws intended to stop it from getting the bomb. Investigators believe he had as many as a dozen agents working around the world at the time of Yadegari’s arrest, including more in Canada, while an investigation by Maclean’s reveals Tabari had close ties to companies known to have supplied nuclear parts to Iran. “It’s safe to say that the loss of Yadegari didn’t put a dent in Tabari’s business,” says Cpl. Pete Merrifield, the RCMP officer who led the investigation into Yadegari. “He had a lot more irons in the fire.”
Certainly all roads during the Yadegari probe led back to the 37-year-old businessman who, until recently, ran a trading company out of an office building in central Tehran. Tajhiz Sanat Ideal, or TSI Co., bills itself as a dealer in all manner of material, from wood and leather to—strikingly—equipment for the “nano and nuclear industries.” But if the Yadegari case is any guide, Tabari spends most of his time looking for so-called “dual-use” parts that can be put to work in nuclear centrifuges—machines used to enrich uranium into weapons-grade nuclear fuel. Starting in November 2008, he kept Yadegari on the run seeking an array of transmitters and valves that special regulations of the UN act forbid to be shipped to Iran. The handler seemed as consumed by the task as his agent: when police opened Yadegari’s email inbox in April 2009, they found some 28 messages from the Iranian, bearing instructions such as, “The below part [numbers] must be exactly conﬁrmed . . . USD25,500 will be sent to you . . . please acknowledge the order.” Said one U.S. investigator familiar with the emails: “I don’t think there’s any doubt about who was directing whom.”
High on Tabari’s shopping list were pressure transducers, instruments that translate pressure measurements into electronic signals that can be displayed and recorded on a computer. Though widely available for use in everything from oil refineries to medical labs, the devices are on the UN’s list because they are a key component in centrifuges. Yadegari’s conviction stemmed from his purchase of 10 transducers from a company based in Markham, Ont., two of which he tried to send to Iran by way of Dubai.
What seems increasingly clear now is that the Yadegari case was no one-off. Through online inquiries, and interviews with authorities in both Canada and the U.S., Maclean’s has established not only that Tabari is still in business, but that he is linked to other suspected nuclear traffickers. Speaking on condition of anonymity, one law enforcement source said TSI is believed to be a front firm for the Kalaye Electric Company, an arm of the state-controlled Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, which appears on a UN Security Council list of entities involved in Iran’s nuclear proliferation activities. According to the security council and numerous NGOs, the company has acted as procurer for fuel enrichment sites, including a formerly secret facility in Natanz that first came to light in 2002.