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Iranian-American arrested for violating sanctions

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An Iranian-American businessman from the southern US state of Alabama has been arrested on federal charges of violating US sanctions on Iran.

Ray Hunt – also known as Abdolrahman Hantoosh, Rahman Hantoosh and Rahman Natoosh – is accused of exporting oil and gas industry parts through his Alabama-based company to companies in Iran, according to a 15-count indictment released Tuesday.

To evade US sanctions on Iran, Hunt reportedly shipped the goods via Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

The indictment charges Hunt with conspiracy to defraud the United States, sanctions violations, smuggling goods from the United States, and submitting false or misleading export information.

The 69-year-old Iranian-American made his first appearance in court in Alabama earlier on Tuesday.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines for violating US trade sanctions against Iran, the Justice Department said in a statement. Additionally, Hunt faces up to five years for the conspiracy charge, 10 years for the smuggling offense and up to five years for the false information offense, the department said.

According to the indictment, Hunt operated a company called Vega Tools LLC, which resold industrial parts for the industrial and energy sectors, including US-origin items, to customers outside the United States.

Hunt’s alleged involvement in the export scheme dates back to at least 2015, according to the indictment, which lists two unnamed Tehran-based industrial companies as his clients.

Among other things, in 2017 Hunt exported a Ranger Hydro-Chem firefighting nozzle to an Iranian industrial equipment importer via Turkey, incorrectly stating on the commercial invoice that the end user was in Turkey, according to court documents.

In 2019, Hunt allegedly organized the export of control valves to a second Tehran-based company via the UAE, wrongly underestimating their value and destination as a free trade zone in the UAE, according to court documents.

Longstanding US sanctions on Iran prohibit US companies from doing business with the Islamic republic or investing in its energy sector.

Hunt’s arrest comes as the Biden administration has expanded the sanctions regime amid heightened concerns over Iran’s nuclear program and other policies.

In September, the Treasury Department sanctioned an international network of companies involved in the sale of hundreds of millions of dollars of Iranian oil and petrochemicals to buyers in South and East Asia.

Hunt could not be reached for comment. No attorney is listed for him in the court records.

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