Trans-Pacific View | Security | South Asia

5 Indicted by US Grand Jury for Facilitating Exports to Pakistan’s Nuclear Program

The five men are all associated with a Rawalpindi-based front company, the U.S. indictment alleges.

5 Indicted by US Grand Jury for Facilitating Exports to Pakistan’s Nuclear Program
Credit: Flickr via Michael Coghlan

Five men associated with a Rawalpindi, Pakistan, based front company were indicted in a U.S. federal court for their alleged involvement in a conspiracy to violate U.S. laws prohibiting commerce with certain entities associated with Pakistan’s nuclear program. The indictment had been returned by a grand jury in October 2019, but it was unsealed on Wednesday.

The five defendants, as named by the U.S. Department of Justice, are “Muhammad Kamran Wali (Kamran), 41, of Pakistan; Muhammad Ahsan Wali (Ahsan), 48, and Haji Wali Muhammad Sheikh (Haji), 82, both of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada; Ashraf Khan Muhammad (Khan) of Hong Kong; and Ahmed Waheed (Waheed), 52, of Ilford, Essex, United Kingdom.”

“The defendants smuggled U.S. origin goods to entities that have been designated for years as threats to U.S. national security for their ties to Pakistan’s weapons programs,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said in a statement released Wednesday.

“This indictment puts the world on notice not to do business with these defendants and demonstrates our commitment to holding them accountable. It also stands as an example of the kind of deceptive behavior U.S. businesses need to watch out for in designing appropriate export control and sanctions compliance programs.”

The U.S. indictment alleges that between September 2014 and October 2019, the five men sought to acquire U.S.-origin technologies and goods for the Advanced Engineering Research Organization (AERO) and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC). Both entities are on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Entity List, which means that they cannot receive certain export controlled goods.

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The Commerce Department’s Entity List bars the export of controlled goods to “organizations whose activities are found to be contrary to U.S. national security or foreign policy interests,” the Department of Justice noted.

Pakistan broke out as a nuclear power in May 1998 alongside India, its neighbor and rival. Currently, open sources estimate that the country may have around 140 to 150 nuclear warheads. PAEC was added to the Entity List in 1998.

“The alleged behavior of these five individuals presented more than a violation of U.S. export laws, it posed a potential threat to the national security interests of the United States and to the delicate balance of power among nations within the region,” Jason Molina, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations said, according to a statement.

“HSI’s Counterproliferation group proactively works investigations into U.S. import-export licensing laws violations because of the threat it can pose to our national security.”

The full grand jury indictment released on Wednesday outlines the details of the alleged conspiracy to violate U.S. export control laws. The indictment also includes a partial list of goods procured and shipped to Pakistan by the five defendants.