Recently, two Iranian citizens were arrested and indicted for allegedly smuggling items from America to Iran in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, 50 USC 1701 (see press release here). That law grants the President of the United States the authority to deal with unusual threats to national security and permits the President to issue Executive Orders with respect to national security issues. Between 1995 and 1997, the President issued several orders making it illegal to export certain items to Iran without a license. See 31 CFR 560. It is thus a crime to violate these executive orders. 50 USC 1705.
The aforementioned Iranian citizens, Abolfazl Bazzazi and Mohammad Resa Bazzazi, allegedly arranged for shipments of items and technology to Iran from the United States. These items included technology which could purportedly serve military purposes. It is not clear from the indictment whether the defendants allegedly knew that their shipments were in contravention of U.S. law, though they are also charged with attempted smuggling in violation of 18 USC Section 554(a). This latter charge generally requires a showing that the items being smuggled were deliberately concealed or sent fraudulently.
The defendants currently face a possible maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The prosecution’s case may rely on suspicious informant testimony, or the cooperation of co-conspirators. The matter is nonviolent and may be resolved without significant jail time for the defendants, but the recent increases in tensions between the U.S. and Iran sparked by violence in the Middle East may prove to have serious negative consequences for these defendants.