Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Germany arrests Germans, Iranians for Iran exports

A group of Iranian and German businesspeople have been arrested on suspicion of helping Iran try to get technology useable in war drones and Czech fighter planes, German customs authorities said on Wednesday.

Customs police raided 10 business and residential premises on Tuesday in the cities of Essen, Hanover, Munich and Stuttgart and arrested two Germans and two Iranians, a spokesman for the Cologne customs office said.

Another suspect in the case is abroad, he said.

During the raids, the police seized navigation equipment that was intended for Iran and accompanying documentation.

"In addition to the items whose delivery we were able to prevent, there were some deliveries made to Iran," he said. READ MORE

The police are still trying to determine how many dual-use items -- items useable for both military and civilian purposes -- the group successfully supplied to Iran.

German export rules forbid the sale of dual-use items to Iran without an export license.

The arrested Iranians were a businessman who has lived for a long time in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia and his son.

They are suspected of buying and delivering navigation devices that could be used in Iranian drones -- unmanned aircraft -- with the help of an engineer from Baden Wuerttemberg.

The two Iranians are also suspected of trying to arrange the purchase of 30 Czech fighter planes for the Iranian air force.

German authorities have made a number of seemingly unrelated arrests in recent months for similar export control violations.

German officials familiar with the investigations say that the prosecutors believe in some cases Iranian intelligence agents were involved in attempts to procure weapons and missile technology in Germany for the Islamic republic.