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Federal Prosecutors Charge Delfin Group Executive with Illegally Exporting Goods to Iran

On Saturday, federal agents arrested the president of Delfin Group USA at Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta on charges of illegally exporting goods to Iran and making false statements to the U.S. government. According to the government, Markos Baghdasarian was attempting to board a flight to the United Arab Emirates at the time of the arrest. He appeared in federal court in Atlanta on Monday but the charges against him were filed in South Carolina, where Delfin Group’s offices are located.

Delfin Group is a Russian-owned company formerly known as Luxoil that has had plants in Russia, Estonia, and Latvia, and opened American offices in 2006 in what was seen as a major economic development for the Charleston area. The company is known for producing synthetic lubricants for automotive, commercial and industrial uses with its primary markets in Europe, Africa, and Asia.

The complaint filed against Baghdasarian claims that from June 2010 until October 2011 he exported $850,000 worth of engine oils and polymer for use in aircraft engines to Iran. To do so, Gaghdasarian allegedly using a business in the United Arab Emirates as a middleman who would then send the shipments to the actual purchaser, Pars Oil, which is owned by the Iranian government. According to the complaint, intercepted emails show conversations between Baghdasarian and business associates in which he discussed how to get shipments to Iran without detection by the U.S. government and conversations between other businessmen implicate Baghdasarian in their efforts to use another UAE front company to get shipments of lubricant to Iran. On at least one occasion federal agents were able to place electronic tracking devices in Delfin’s shipments and were able to track one of eleven containers to Iran.

If true, Delfin’s shipments of aviation lubricants to the Iranian company was in violation of U.S. trade sanctions initially placed on Iran in the aftermath of the 1979 hostage crisis at the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Since then, the sanctions have been expanded and prohibit most economic activity with Iranian companies without permission from the U.S. Treasury department. U.S. sanctions on Iran—as well as similar sanctions by a number of other countries—have been criticized for the harm they have done to the Iranian people and the lack of access to aircraft parts caused by them has been implicated in a number of airline crashes that have killed approximately 1,500 people over the last quarter century. Critics argue that the harm done by such sanctions to the Iranian people is substantial while the diplomatic and political gains have been negligible.

Our firm has assisted a number of businessmen who engage in international trade that the government contends violates federal law. Recently, the government has been prosecuting more of these cases in the Southeast.  Our federal criminal attorneys have extensive experience in defending white collar and international criminal cases like this, and have successfully resolved several allegedly illegal export cases in federal courts across the Southeast.