Iran General NewsBritons illegally exported fighter jet equipment to Iran, court...

Britons illegally exported fighter jet equipment to Iran, court told

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ImageThe Guardian: Three UK-based businessmen illegally exported equipment to support Iran's ageing squadrons of US-manufactured "Top Gun" fighter aircraft, a London court heard yesterday.

The Guardian

Owen Bowcott

ImageThree UK-based businessmen illegally exported equipment to support Iran's ageing squadrons of US-manufactured "Top Gun" fighter aircraft, a London court heard yesterday.

Customs officers discovered liquid oxygen cylinders – enabling pilots to breathe at altitude – being despatched through Heathrow airport with "bogus paperwork" purporting to show that they were for medical use, the prosecution alleged.

That interception in May 2006 triggered an investigation of Mohsen Akhavan Nik, 58, his son Mohammed Akhavan Nik, 26, and their business contact Nitish Jaitha, 43, prosecutor Mukul Chawla QC told jurors at Southwark crown court.

It was "inconceivable" that the trio were unaware they were breaking the law, Chawla said.

"They were well aware that the equipment they were supplying was military in nature and they knew that they could not legally supply this equipment to Iran and yet … carried on doing precisely that," he said. What was described as just a "fraction" of their company accounts showed deals with Iran worth £1.2m.

The paperwork for the oxygen cylinders had been copied from websites, the jury was told. Nix Aviation Limited would buy parts from Oxford-based Aerospace Support International (ASI), in which Jaitha was a partner.

Iran continues to use American-made aircraft bought before the US embargo came into force in 1979. Tehran makes 15% of the spares itself, but the rest is purchased on the black market.

The Niks allegedly used a US business address to receive parts from American suppliers without needing an export licence. They were then shipped abroad, often via London, using innocent or misleading descriptions.

Chawla said that around 150 American fighter jets were still being operated by Iran, including the F-4 Phantom II and F-5 Tiger II. The country is also believed to have 30 US-manufactured helicopters.

Among the records confiscated from the raided firms was a 2005 letter from Nik Sr to an associate, mentioning an agent in Tehran.

He wrote: "We are specialised in spare parts for the military section. I'll try to help you find any equipment relating to any industry and aviation."

Mohsen Akhavan Nik, Mohammed Akhavan Nik, and Nitish Jaitha deny the charges. The trial continues.

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