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South Carolina man arrested for illegal exports to Iran

WASHINGTON — The president of a South Carolina-based firm specializing in synthesized motor oils was arrested Saturday at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Department of Commerce's Office of Export Enforcement.

Markos Baghdasarian, the president of Delfin Group USA, was charged by criminal complaint, issued in the District of South Carolina, with exporting goods from the United States to Iran without the required U.S. Department of the Treasury licenses and with making false statements on official government documents. If convicted of these charges, Baghdasarian could face a maximum of 20 years in federal prison. Baghdasarian made his first appearance before a magistrate judge in the Northern District of Georgia earlier today.

According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Baghdasarian served as president of Delfin Group USA, which is a Russian-owned producer of synthetic motor oils that is located in North Charleston, S.C. From as early as June 13, 2010, until Oct. 12, 2011, Baghdasarian is alleged to have engaged in prohibited transactions with customers in Iran, including Pars Oil, which is an oil company owned by the government of Iran. U.S. persons and companies are prohibited from engaging in commercial transactions involving Iran unless authorized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

As further detailed in the criminal complaint affidavit, in August 2011, Baghdasarian exported aviation engine oils and polymer valued at $850,000 to Iran. Baghdasarian is alleged to have concealed that Iranian customers were the true recipients of the shipment by falsely asserting in an official document that a business entity in the United Arab Emirates was the ultimate consignee for the goods.

This case was the product of an extensive investigation by HSI and the Office of Export Enforcement. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Ryan Fayhee of the Counterespionage Section in the U.S. Department of Justice's National Security Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alston Badger of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of South Carolina, Charleston Division.

Charges set forth in a criminal complaint are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.