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Iranians Indicted for Spying

March 10, 2000

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) _ Eight Iranian Defense Ministry officials are under federal indictment here for trying to obtain military secrets and smuggle them out of the country in 1996, the U.S. Customs Service said.

Special agent Brian Buschini said the indictments, handed up in November 1996 and January 1997, remain sealed.

But he said in today’s Great Falls Tribune that authorities decided to release some information in the hope the public will identify at least one of the eight who is known to travel extensively in the United States and Europe.

Buschini would not say what secrets the Iranians allegedly tried to obtain, but said their success would have significantly compromised U.S. military abilities in the Middle East and enhanced the Iranian military.

He said the Iranians _ including at least one general and one colonel _ live in Tehran and operate under the name ``Engineering Consortium of Iran.″ They were actively recruiting in the United States and Canada to try to get the military items, Buschini said.

One person they contacted notified authorities, and Buschini then worked undercover posing as a corrupt import/export businessman. He met face-to-face with some of the accused, mostly in Calgary, Alberta, but a few times in Montana. He would not say where.

Agents were about to arrest the Iranians, but they failed to show for one final meeting, Buschini said.

Those named in the indictment are a Gen. Manavi, a Col. Najafi, Col. Hassan Gholizadeh, Dawood Adabi-Harahani, Golamreza Mahrabdollahi, Mohanois Assi, Haj Hamid Alami-Nia and Houshang Amir Bagheri.

It is Bagheri that the agency is seeking. Buschini said Bagheri’s position in the Iranian military is not known, but he lived in Washington, D.C., and worked in the Iranian Embassy in the 1970s, when the United States and Iran, under the shah’s rule in the pre-revolution days, were on more friendly terms.

Buschini said the eight are charged with violating the Arms Control Export Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. They also are charged with criminal conspiracy.

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On the Net: Customs Service’s Web site: http://www.customs.ustreas.gov

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