Japanese carbon fiber bound for Iran seized: U.N. report

Kyodo

An Iran-bound ship from China intercepted in late 2012 was found to be carrying a pile of carbon fiber made by Toray Industries Inc. and likely earmarked for use in Iran’s nuclear program, a U.N. report said.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has been attempting to procure high-grade carbon fiber for use in the manufacturing of some of its centrifuge rotors,” according to the report, released Friday and prepared by a panel of experts who investigated 30 cases involving inspections of a variety of dual-use items.

The ship was loaded with 1,800 bobbins weighing around 7,200 kg of the synthetic fiber, according to the report. Carbon fiber has multiple industrial uses from clothing to aircraft components and is considered essential in building high performance centrifuge devises to produce enriched uranium.

Although Toray exported the carbon fibers through appropriate channels to China, the shipment was apparently resold to Iran and discovered aboard the Shahraz in December 2012, sources said.

The U.N. Security Council has banned the export of high level-grade carbon fibers to Iran. They would include the Toray fibers that were seized on route to Bandar Abbas in Iran.

“Japan maintains an edge in such technology and Iran could still attempt to gain access to Japanese products through a third country,” a source warned in an interview.

The panel, which monitors Tehran’s compliance with Security Council resolutions imposed on it for its nuclear enrichment program, produces an annual report of its findings. Western countries and their allies have long suspected Tehran’s program is being used to build nuclear weapons but Iran denies the allegations.

“All of these items are dual use in nature, and were interdicted by states on the basis of intelligence information that they were intended for use in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s prohibited activities,” the document said of the 30 cases, including the Toray carbon fibers.

According to shipping databases, the Shahraz’s registered owner is listed as Kish Roaring Ocean Shipping Co. While the consignee was registered under an individual’s name, the address and other information provided matched that of South Shipping Line Iran. The company is designated under a Security Council resolution and is said to be affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard.

The report also documented other cases of sanctions evasions. Not only did Iran use its petrochemical industry to obscure the end use of items for a heavy water reactor in Arak, western Iran, it also hid 10 titanium tubes inside a shipment of stainless steel pipes manufactured in and shipped from China.

While violations were reported, the panel noted that the procurement of Iran’s prohibited activities “appears to have slowed over the past six to nine months,” according to reports they received from several countries.

The slowdown was attributed to several factors. Tehran was using “more opaque means of procurement” or “Iran has deliberately slowed the pace of procurement, possibly coinciding with a change in the political climate” under the current president.

The panel of experts was formed in 2010 and is currently composed of eight members.