German businessman admits selling rocket material to Iran | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 30.04.2009
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German businessman admits selling rocket material to Iran

A German businessman on trial for selling graphite to Iran to make rocket nozzles has admitted the offense.

Iranian rocket testing showing rockets shooting into the air

German intelligence thinks the graphite was for Iran's missile program

At the opening of his trial on April 8, the 63-year-old businessman on trial for selling Iran 16 tons of graphite to make rocket nozzles initially rejected all 12 counts of the indictment.

However, in a statement read out by his lawyers, he has now admitted to the offense.

The man is accused of breaking laws preventing illicit arms exports by declaring the graphite exported from 2005 to 2007 to be low-grade. This would have avoided the need to apply for a government clearance which would almost certainly have been refused.

German intelligence suspects the graphite was bought for Iran's missile program. Tehran is suspected of secretly developing nuclear weapons which could be delivered as the payload of the missiles.

The accused is the former chief executive of Carbon-Industrie-Produkte GmbH, a firm that specialized in trading graphite.

In 2007, Germany imposed a ban on exports of any graphite, even the low-grade type, to Iran.

Plan involved transit through Turkey

Technical books say rocket nozzles are often made of graphite, which is a form of carbon.

According to the website of the German newspaper Rhein Zeitung, the businessman met an Iranian man in 2003 who suggested the idea of smuggling. In 2005, the defendant began shipping graphite, which he declared as low-grade, into Turkey via truck. From there, a contact person would bring the graphite into Iran.

He sold the graphite for four times the purchase price. The money was wired to an account in the Seychelles Islands.

The man, whose name has been withheld under German media privacy guidelines, has been in custody since last June. Company workers knew nothing of the scheme, he asserts.

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