USA v. Syed, Obaidullah
Chicago, IL

Agent of Pakistan

Obaidullah Syed, a Chicago technology executive, pleaded guilty in October 2021 to a federal criminal charge and admitted illegally exporting computer equipment from the United States to a nuclear research agency of the Pakistani government. Syed pleaded guilty to conspiracy to export goods from the U.S. without a license from the Department of Commerce and to submit false export information. Syed owned Pakistan-based Business System International Pvt. Ltd., and Chicago-based BSI USA. The companies provided high-performance computing platforms, servers, and software application solutions. From 2006 to 2015 Syed conspired with his company's employees in Pakistan to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act by exporting computer equipment from the U.S. to the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) without obtaining the required authorization from the U.S. Department of Commerce. The PAEC is a Pakistani government agency responsible for, among other things, designing and testing explosives and nuclear weapons parts. It was designated by the U.S. government as an entity which may pose an unusual or extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States. Syed further admitted that he and the other conspirators falsely represented to U.S.-based computer manufacturers that the illegal shipments were intended for Pakistan-based universities or Syed's businesses, when the conspirators knew that the true end user of each shipment was either the PAEC or a research institute that trained the agency's engineers and scientists. In so doing, Syed and his company caused the U.S.-based computer manufacturers to submit to the U.S. government shipping documents that listed false end-users for the U.S.-origin goods, thereby undermining the U.S. government's ability to stop the illegal shipments.