The Manhattan district attorney's office Tuesday announced it had thwarted a plot to smuggle nuclear weapons materials to Iran. Prosecutors unsealed a 118-count indictment accusing Li Fangwei, a Chinese national, of settling up a number of companies to conceal the fact that he was selling millions of dollars worth of illicit nuclear materials to Tehran.
Also on Tuesday, the Treasury Department (which worked closely with the Manhattan DA to unravel the alleged plot) announced it was designating Lee and six Iranian entities under federal Executive Order 13382, which freezes the assets of weapons of mass destruction proliferators and those who support them. It also identified eight aliases used by LIMMT Economic and Trade Company Ltd., a Chinese company designated in 2006 for providing material support for Iran's missile program.
"This case will cut off a major source of supply to Iran, and it shows how they are going full steam to get a nuclear bomb," a law-enforcement source close to the case told the New York Daily News. "We think it is one of the largest suppliers of weapons of mass destruction to Iran." In all, according to the indictment, the financial conspiracy involved more than 58 different transactions that occurred between 2006 and late 2008, including the shipment of numerous banned items between China and Iran.
In all, the government alleges, more than 150,000 pounds of material used in uranium enrichment, missile guidance systems and the production of long-range missiles went to a recipient who is believed to have been a subsidiary of the Iranian Defense Ministry.