On Tuesday, the United States Department of State announced a $5 million bounty for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Chinese businessman Li Fangwei. The U.S. is accusing Li of supplying missile parts to Iran and for helping Iran evade weapons and oil sanctions. According to Reuters, “the U.S. Treasury Department said it was sanctioning eight of Chinese businessman Li Fangwei’s Chinese companies for allegedly procuring missile parts for Iran.” Li, also known as Karl Lee, was previously sanctioned by the United States for his alleged role as a principal supplier for Iran’s ballistic missile program.
The State Department, Treasury Department, and Justice Department of the United States are all operating in tandem to coordinate the search for Li. The Justice Department has indicted Li on charges including “conspiracy to commit money laundering, bank fraud, and wire fraud.” In a statement on the indictment, the State Department notes, “According to the Indictment, he (Li) controls a large network of front companies and allegedly uses this network to move millions of dollars through U.S.-based financial institutions to conduct business in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators Sanctions Regulations, which prohibit such financial transactions.”
The U.S. Treasury Department has additionally added eight companies under Li Fangwei’s ownership to its List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Commerce has added nine of Li’s China-based suppliers to its Entity List.
“We will continue vigorously to enforce our sanctions, even as we explore the possibility of a comprehensive deal addressing Iran’s nuclear program,” noted Under-Secretary of the Treasury David Cohen in a statement.
Based on Reuters‘ contact with Li in 2013, he said that he “continued to get commercial inquiries from Iran but only for legitimate merchandise.” Li noted that his metals company, LIMMT, ceased all sales to Iran once the Untied States specifically began sanctioning the firm.
Despite a temporary deal between Iran and the so-called P5+1 group of world powers, the United States continues to follow up on those individuals and institutions which helped Iran evade sanctions. Currently, Iran has succeeded at implementing the terms of the interim deal and negotiations continue between the P5+1 and Iran over a permanent deal on Iran’s nuclear program. The interim deal was reached last November and granted Iran approximately $7 billion in sanctions relief over a six month period. Despite the sanctions relief, Iran continues to lose about $5 billion a month in oil revenue alone.