Monday, December 14, 2009

Feds Ground Helicopter in Dallas Bound for Iran

Federal agents say they have grounded a helicopters in Arlington, Texas, just outside Dallas, bound for Iran.

According to this report, Italian aircraft brokers were shipping the craft from North Texas to Iran "in violation of U.S. trade sanctions."

The fate of the $8 million chopper, sitting in a Bell hangar in Arlington, is in limbo while federal agents untangle an international web of circumstances that has already resulted in two other U.S.-manufactured helicopters entering Iran.

Agents believe that the aircraft are being used for civilian purposes – to ferry offshore oil workers around – but at least one of them is equipped with sensitive night vision and autopilot capabilities, which are subject to strict U.S. controls.

Both helicopters were bought from a Mexican company and made pit stops in North Texas before heading to Italy, then Iran, documents show.

But investigators have found no evidence that any Americans had a hand in the final leg of the helicopters' trip, so no criminal charges have been filed. 
Tiber Aviation, an Italian company, purchased three Bell 412 helicopters from Helivan, a Mexican company for $22 million. Foreign countries operating inside the U.S. are not bound by U.S. law and use the loopholes available to them - even though Italy also honors the U.N. ban against arms sales to Iran. The U.S. has banned trade with Iran since 1995:
"We don't want technology to go to Iran regardless of whether it will be used militarily or by civilian businesses," said Kenneth Wainstein, the Justice Department's former assistant attorney general for national security in Washington. Wainstein initiated a crackdown on export violations in 2007.

"We don't want American businesses engaged in trade with a regime whose policies are antithetical to our national interests," he said.
Read the entire story here. Thanks to Planet Iran.

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