OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian police, acting on a tip from the United States, charged an Iranian-born man on Friday with trying to illegally export nuclear technology to Iran.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Toronto resident Mahmoud Yadegari had obtained several U.S.-made pressure transducers, which are used to make enriched uranium but can also have military applications.
“The declared point of destination was Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. However, we have evidence to support the fact that its ultimate destination was Iran,” RCMP Inspector Greg Johnson told a televised news conference in Milton, Ontario.
He said Yadegari -- who also holds Canadian citizenship -- had been charged under a United Nations act limiting exports to Iran, which is under heavy international pressure to halt its nuclear program.
Foreign analysts believe Tehran has yet to prove that it has mastered industrial-scale enrichment of uranium, the key to making fuel in large, usable quantities.
Iran has slowly expanded its Natanz uranium enrichment plant in defiance of United Nations resolutions demanding it stop over concerns that Tehran’s goal is the production of atomic bombs.
Iran denies it wants to make nuclear weapons and says the nuclear program is aimed at power generation.
The RCMP said Yadegari obtained the transducers from a firm located just outside Boston and attempted to conceal the fact he planned to ship them to Iran without a permit. The devices are controlled items and there are restrictions on where they can be exported.
“We seized two of them being shipped out and others at a search that we executed subsequent to that ... in Toronto,” Johnson said.
Asked whether the transducers could be used to make a nuclear weapon, he replied: “They are critical components used in a larger device in order to enrich uranium for a weapons grade product, so I guess the answer to that would be yes.”
Yadegari, who is in jail pending a bail hearing, was arrested after a two-month joint operation of Canadian and U.S. authorities.
He was initially charged on Thursday, and Johnson said he was likely to face additional charges under various Canadian statutes in the near future.
The office of Iran’s ambassador to Canada said it was not aware of the story and asked Reuters to send the envoy a fax with questions about the case.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said in February it could not verify Iran’s planned Arak heavy water reactor was being designed only for peaceful uses because Tehran had been denying visits by IAEA inspectors since August.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway and Rob Wilson