WASHINGTON – Five Pakistani businessmen have been indicted in the United States for operating an international network of front companies to export U.S.-origin goods to Pakistan for use in that country’s nuclear weapons program, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday.
The defendants bought and exported U.S.-origin items for Pakistan’s Advanced Engineering Research Organization and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission without export licenses, according to a federal indictment unsealed on Wednesday.
In all, the indictment identified 38 illegal nuclear-related exports from the U.S. to Pakistan involving 29 different companies around the United States between September 2014 and October 2019. None of the U.S. companies was found complicit in the unlawful exports.
The defendants, all associates of a Rawalpindi, Pakistan-based front company called “Business World,” were charged in federal court in New Hampshire with conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Export Control Reform Act.
They were identified as Muhammad Kamran Wali, 41, of Pakistan; Muhammad Ahsan Wali, 48, and Haji Wali Muhammad Sheikh, 82, both of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada; Ashraf Khan Muhammad of Hong Kong; and Ahmed Waheed, 52, of Ilford, Essex, United Kingdom. None of them has been arrested although arrests warrants are pending.
The two Pakistani entities — AERO and PAEC — are on the U.S. Commerce Department’s list of companies required to hold export licenses because their activities are deemed contrary to U.S. national security or foreign policy interests.
PAEC was added to the list in 1998 after Pakistan carried out a series of underground nuclear tests. AERO was included in 2014 after the U.S. found that it had used intermediaries and front companies to acquire goods for Pakistan’s cruise missile and strategic UAV programs, the Justice Department said.
“This indictment puts the world on notice not to do business with these defendants and demonstrates our commitment to holding them accountable,” said John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement.
“It also stands as an example of the kind of deceptive behavior U.S. businesses need to watch out for in designing appropriate export control and sanctions compliance programs.”