Monday, August 27, 2007

Iran's Nuclear Threat Aided by Fake Firms, Rome Bank, U.S. Says

By Vernon Silver


Aug. 23 (Bloomberg) -- On Dec. 23, 2006, the United Nations Security Council slapped economic sanctions on Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group for its role in weapons proliferation as Iran's maker of liquid-fueled ballistic missiles.

Known as SHIG, the Iranian firm produces the Shahab III rocket, which has a range of at least 800 miles, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. That radius puts downtown Tel Aviv, Saudi Arabia's oil fields and India's financial center, Mumbai, within reach.

Three days after the Security Council ordered a freeze on SHIG's assets to help block Iran from developing nuclear weapons, the maker of the country's longest-range missile was ready to go shopping in Europe.

It turned for help to state-owned Bank Sepah, Iran's fifth- biggest lender. On Dec. 26, a Bank Sepah branch in Tehran issued a 28,845 euro ($39,255) letter of credit on behalf of Sabalan Co. -- a front company for SHIG that shares the address and phone number of the missile maker, according to a person with access to details of the transaction. The letter of credit was forwarded to Bank Sepah's branch in Rome, where Sabalan paid its supplier -- Behringer GmbH, the Kirchardt, Germany-based maker of drills and metal-cutting tools.
Thomas Braun, Lima, Peru.

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