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May 20, 2022Chicago, IL, United StatesCounter Proliferation Investigation Unit

Tech executive receives federal sentence for illegally exporting equipment to Pakistan

CHICAGO — A technology executive has been sentenced to a year in federal prison for illegally exporting computer equipment from the United States to a nuclear research agency of the Pakistani government, following a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Chicago-led investigation in conjunction with the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security-Office of Export Enforcement.

“This federal sentencing is a significant victory for HSI in our continuous efforts to prevent the illicit networks behind attempted thefts of our nation’s military assets and sensitive controlled technology,” said Angie Salazar, HSI special agent in charge in Chicago. “Let this be a reminder to our adversaries that the United States will stop at nothing to protect and defend our national security.”

Obaidullah Syed, 67, of Northbrook, pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to export goods from the U.S. without a license from the Department of Commerce and to submit false export information. U.S. District Judge Mary M. Rowland on Tuesday sentenced Syed to a year and a day in federal prison. Prior to sentencing, Syed forfeited $247,000 of criminally derived funds to the U.S. government.

Syed owned Pakistan-based Business System International PVT. LTD., and Chicago-based BSI USA. The companies provided high-performance computing platforms, servers, and software application solutions. Syed admitted in a plea agreement that from 2006 to 2015 he conspired with his company’s employees in Pakistan to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act by exporting computer equipment from the U.S. to the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) without obtaining the required authorization from the U.S. Department of Commerce. The PAEC is a Pakistani government agency designated by the U.S. government as an entity which may pose an unusual or extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.

Syed further admitted that he and the other conspirators falsely represented to U.S.-based computer manufacturers that the illegal shipments were intended for Pakistan-based universities or Syed’s businesses, when, in fact, the conspirators knew that the true end user of each shipment was either the PAEC or a research institute that trained the agency’s engineers and scientists. In so doing, Syed and his company caused the U.S.-based computer manufacturers to submit to the U.S. government shipping documents that listed false end-users for the U.S.-origin goods, thereby undermining the U.S. government’s ability to stop the illegal shipments.

Business System International Pvt. Ltd. was charged in the conspiracy as a corporate defendant. The company has yet to respond to the charges.

HSI is a directorate of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move.

Find us on Twitter @HSIChicago.

Updated: 05/20/2022