A Swedish man has been charged with breaking international sanctions against Iran after allegedly trying to export advanced technical material typically used in uranium enrichment activities, officials said Tuesday.
Police did not disclose the identity of the 31-year-old, who is accused of attempting to sell 11 state-of-the-art valves to Iran in February and April last year. A court document claims the man lacked permission to export such valves and violated international sanctions.
The alleged attempt was discovered when Swedish custom officials made a random check of a shipment that contained dual-use products - material that can be used for civilian functions as well as for the production of weapons of mass destruction and other weaponry - and seemed to be destined for Iran.
According to national broadcaster SVT, the cargo's official destination was labeled as Dubai, but a closer look showed that the final destination was Iran.
Customs alerted the Swedish Agency for Nonproliferation and Export Controls, which quickly determined that the shipment was illegal and that no export permits had been sought for it.
Amid fears that Iran is aspiring to make atomic arms, the United States and the European Union have imposed tough sanctions on the country.
Iran insists that it has never tried to develop nuclear weapons. The country claims it is producing enriched uranium for nuclear fuel and research purposes and denies it is attempting to make weapons-grade uranium.
Swedish nonproliferation expert Daniel Nord said the equipment in this case could be used in the oil and gas industry and other sectors but that "the properties of the materials are so advanced that it would be overkill to use them" for such purposes, especially because of their cost.
Because of their corrosive resistance, Nord said, the valves are typically used for uranium enrichment activities. "They are very special," he said.
Prosecutor Agnetha Hilding Qvarnstrom said sanction-violation crimes of this kind are extremely unusual in Sweden and that this is the first of its kind "as far as Iran goes."
The suspect's lawyer, Ulf Frisell, did not immediately return phone calls.
The suspect, who allegedly operated out of a small company in Lund in southern Sweden, has denied any criminal charges, prosecutors said.
The trial is expected to start in January.