US prosecutors on Friday charged 10 Iranian nationals over an alleged long-running scheme to escape US sanctions on Tehran by disguising $300 million in transactions, including the purchase of two oil tankers, Reuters reported.
"In a wide-ranging scheme spanning nearly two decades and several continents, the defendants conspired to abuse the U.S. financial system to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions on behalf of the government of Iran," Acting U.S. Attorney Tracy Wilkison said in a statement.
All ten defendants including two women were charged with conspiracy to violate legal sanctions against Iran. The US government has also filed a civil forfeiture action seeking more than $157 million.
According to Reuters, the defendants were outside of the US and has been not arrested.
Prosecutors say the scheme dates back to 1999, when defendants Seyed Ziaeddin Taheri Zangakani, Salim Henareh and Issa Shayegh opened a business called Persepolis Financial Services in Los Angeles, which was used to illegally funnel US dollars to Iran.
“The three men later moved to Canada and the United Arab Emirates where they used Persepolis and a second front company, Rosco, to carry out further transactions, aided by defendant Reza Karimi and others, according to the criminal complaint,” the news agency reported.
The men were also accused of other financial crimes by US prosecutors.
According to the document reviewed by Reuters, “In 2012 Zangakari and another defendant, Abbas Amin, wired $20 million to Malaysia to buy piping equipment for an Iranian oil company.”
“Zangakari, Amin, Salim Henareh and Khalil Henraheh are charged with used a Hong Kong-based front company to quietly buy two $25 million oil tankers from a Greek businessman that same year. The Greek businessman, who is not named in the documents, was later sanctioned by the US government,” it added.