April 9, 2010:
German prosecutors have indicted two Iranians for buying, and smuggling to Iran, a special furnace (costing over a million dollars) for making materials needed for ballistic missile warhead heat shields (to prevent the warhead from melting on reentry into the atmosphere.) The two were caught when they had to get in touch with the manufacturer for help in assembling the furnace. The manufacturer alerted the German government. Only one of the two was arrested, the other man is still being sought.
Germany was once a favorite place for Iran to buy equipment for their ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs. No longer. Two years ago, a German citizen was prosecuted for running a weapons related smuggling operation. The defendant shipped 16 tons of high-grade graphite, used for making rocket nozzles, to Iran in 2005-7. The defendant mislabeled the graphite as low-grade, which was legal to sell to Iran. Another ten tons of the high-grade graphite was caught by Turkish customs officials. Germany adopted stricter export rules for Iran three years ago, and promptly began seeking out and prosecuting those who ignored the ban.
Ever since the U.S. embargo was imposed in 1979 (after Iran broke diplomatic protocol by seizing the American embassy), Iran has sought, with some success, to offer big money to smugglers who can beat the embargo and get needed industrial and military equipment. This is a risky business, and American and European prisons are full of Iranians, and other nationals, who tried, and often failed, to procure forbidden goods. The smuggling operations are currently under more scrutiny, and attack, because of Iran's growing nuclear weapons program. But the Iranians simply offer more money, and more smugglers step up to keep the goodies coming.