In a significant development, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has unsealed charges against a Chinese citizen, XiangjiangQiao, for his alleged involvement in operating a network that facilitated the supply of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) components to Iran. The charges, which include sanctions evasion, money laundering, and bank fraud, were unveiled by authorities in New York on May 16. The indictment claims that Qiao played a key role in a scheme that utilized a sanctioned Chinese company to provide Iran with materials crucial for the production of WMDs, particularly for its ballistic missile program.
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, emphasized the severe threat posed by the Iranian regime and its facilitators to national security. Williams stated, “This office will continue to work relentlessly to bring to justice those who advance the interests of the Iranian regime and thereby threaten the safety and security of the American people.”
According to charging documents, Qiao, a Chinese citizen, allegedly collaborated with the China-based companySinotech Dalian Carbon and Graphite Manufacturing Corporation (Sinotech Dalian) from 2019 to 2022 to supply isostatic graphite to Iran. This material is vital for the production of rocket nozzles and nose tips in intercontinental ballistic missiles. The alleged assistance primarily targeted Iran’s ballistic missile program, raising concerns about the country’s military capabilities.
The indictment reveals that Qiao attempted to orchestrate the sale of isostatic graphite through Chinese companies that had been previously sanctioned by the U.S. for supporting Iran’s ballistic missile program. Sinotech Dalian, a part of a network of Chinese entities involved in proliferating WMDs and aiding Iran’s ballistic missile procurement, had already faced sanctions in 2014.
Qiao has close ties to Li Fangwei, who managed the network of Sinotech Dalian companies. In 2014, Li was charged with sanctions evasion and other offenses for his alleged role as a key contributor to Iran’s ballistic missile program through Chinese entities. Both Qiao and Li, who are believed to be in China, are currently at large.
The DOJ asserts that Qiao conspired to send isostatic graphite to Iran, in violation of U.S. sanctions. To conceal Sinotech Dalian’s involvement in these transactions, Qiao reportedly established a bank account in the name of a front company, which subsequently received two transfers totaling over $15,000 from a U.S. bank.
The charges against Qiao were announced as part of a broader set of actions initiated by the Disruptive Technology Strike Force, a joint program led by the Commerce and Justice Departments. This program aims to counter efforts by hostile nations to unlawfully acquire sensitive U.S. technologies. Alongside Qiao’s case, charges were also unveiled against Greek national NikolaosBogonikolos for smuggling U.S.-origin military and dual-use technologies to Russia, and against Russian nationals Oleg SergeyevichPatsulya and VasiliiSergeyevichBesedin for conspiracy to commit international money laundering and smuggling aircraft parts to Russian airline companies. Additionally, charges were filed against Chinese individuals Liming Li and Weibao Wang for their alleged involvement in stealing sensitive technologies from American companies for use in China.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew Olsen highlighted the broad range and complexity of the threats faced by the United States, underscoring the significance of the ongoing efforts to prevent advanced tools from falling into the hands of adversaries. Olsen stated, “We are committed to doing all we can to prevent these advanced tools from falling into the hands of our adversaries, who wield them in ways that threaten not only our nation’s security.
The charges against Qiao and Li are a reminder that China is a major supporter of Iran’s WMD program. China has provided Iran with billions of dollars in economic assistance, and it has also sold Iran a number of weapons and military technologies. China’s support for Iran’s WMD program is a serious threat to the United States and its allies. It is important to remember that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism, and the country has a long history of using its WMD program to threaten its neighbors.
The charges against Qiao are a positive development, but they are not enough to stop Iran’s WMD program. The United States and its allies must continue to pressure Iran to abandon its nuclear program. The United States must also work to increase pressure on China to stop its support for Iran’s WMD program. China’s support for Iran’s WMD program is a serious threat to the United States and its allies, and it is important to take action to stop it.