Reuters: Austrian police have arrested one man and are seeking the head of a firm suspected of exporting to Iran components that could be used in nuclear weapons, a state prosecutor said on Friday. By Michael Weinmann
GRAZ, Austria (Reuters) – Austrian police have arrested one man and are seeking the head of a firm suspected of exporting to Iran components that could be used in nuclear weapons, a state prosecutor said on Friday.
Iran covered up sensitive atomic activity from the U.N. nuclear watchdog, IAEA, for almost 20 years and has a history of acquiring components on the black market and other unregulated channels to outwit export curbs, diplomats and analysts say.
Prosecutor Manfred Kammerer said a three-man import-export firm, Daniel Frosch Export, was suspected of having supplied capacitors and accelerators to Iran which can be used in civilian industry but also for atomic weapons.
Kammerer, confirming a report on Friday in a regional newspaper, said Erich Frosch, father of the company director, had been arrested and some electronic parts seized in August in the southern Austrian city of Graz.
Kammerer said police also wanted to detain company director Daniel Frosch but he had moved to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) before August following repeated warnings from Austria’s economics and labor ministry, which oversees exports controls, to stop the deliveries to Iran.
Daniel Frosch’s lawyer said he had done nothing illegal.
“The accusations against my client are baseless. Business with Iran was done, but the devices and parts delivered were for civilian use … in accordance with Austrian export law,” lawyer Gerald Ruhri told Reuters.
Kammerer said capacitors and accelerators were on a list maintained by industrialised nations of parts and technology of potential use in nuclear arms and restricted for export to Iran.
“They seem to be dual use items. I don’t know the specifications but the capacitors are normally for more military applications,” a senior IAEA diplomat said.
IRAN IN SPOTLIGHT
Austria has no extradition agreement with the UAE and Kammerer was not aware of requests to Dubai to hand over Frosch. Frosch could not be contacted under the phone number listed on his firm’s Web site, which still names Graz as its headquarters.
The third man who worked at the firm was not detained because he had cooperated with prosecutors, Kammerer said.
A prosecutors’ investigation would be concluded in the coming weeks, Kammerer said.
World powers are nearing agreement on U.N. sanctions against Iran over its refusal to stop enriching uranium, a program they suspect is producing building atom bombs rather than civilian nuclear energy as Tehran maintains.
“What you would be worried about is the capacitors since they are used in firing circuits of nuclear weapons,” U.S. nuclear non-proliferation expert David Albright told Reuters by telephone from Washington.
Albright said Iran tended to prefer dealing with firms which specialize in “used machinery” where regulation was less tight and harder to enforce.
“Proliferators often trawl the used machinery market because export controls aren’t policed as well here,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Boris Groendahl, Mark Heinrich and Alexandra Zawadil)