Md. man accused in scheme to smuggle restricted items to Pakistan

Indictment claims Akhtar arranged to ship materials, equipment used in nuclear processing to blacklisted agencies

March 10, 2011|By Yeganeh June Torbati, The Baltimore Sun

A Pakistani man living in Maryland has been charged with scheming to smuggle materials and equipment used in nuclear processing to agencies in his home country, federal officials announced Wednesday.

Nadeem Akhtar, 45, of Silver Spring is accused in a grand jury indictment of buying the materials from U.S. companies and shipping them to blacklisted Pakistani agencies by lying to shipping companies about what the packages contained between 2005 and 2010.

Some of the goods Akhtar and an unnamed co-defendant arranged to ship to sites in Pakistan, prosecutors said, include radiation-detection equipment, resins used to purify coolant water in nuclear power plants, calibration devices and selector switches, which fall under Department of Commerce rules that closely regulate the export of "dual-use items," or materials that potentially have both commercial and nuclear purposes.

To get around those federal regulations, prosecutors allege, Akhtar falsified invoices and purchase orders and lied about to whom the materials were being shipped. Prosecutors say he received his instructions for what to purchase and how to hide the smuggling operation from a co-defendant who received orders from Pakistani agencies. The co-defendant's name was redacted in the indictment.

Many of the materials were allegedly smuggled to the Chasma Nuclear Power Plant I in Kundian, Pakistan, and the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission, the country's space agency. In December, the United States fined a Chinese subsidiary of PPG Industries Inc. for illegally exporting materials to another plant at the Chasma site, according to news reports.

Because Pakistan has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the sale of nuclear materials to the country is heavily restricted. Tensions have arisen in the past year between the United States and China over the latter's proposed sale of equipment to Pakistan.

In return for his services, Akhtar received a commission of between 5 percent and 7.5 percent of the cost of each item, according to prosecutors. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison for the unlawful export of goods and for conspiracy to commit money laundering, with shorter potential sentences for other charges.

The grand jury indictment was returned in March 2010 but only unsealed Wednesday. Akhtar was scheduled for a detention hearing Thursday in federal court in Baltimore.

jtorbati@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jtorbati

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