Accused in the United States of having illegally exported to Iran, in 2016, machines that can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons, the Montreal businessman Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani maintains his innocence.
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“There is no proof… there are no documents [qui prouvent] that I made an agreement with Iran,” said Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani in an interview with The newspaper.
According to him, he did nothing wrong because he only resold material that did not suit his needs.
“This material in particular is very common for lab testing,” he explains. Mass spectrometers purchased in the United States in the fall of 2016 are used to test mineral concentrations in water and food, he said.
However, the US government accuses him of having sent controlled equipment to Iran, without the necessary permits, since it can also be used to determine the level of uranium enrichment.
“I will sue the government later, I did nothing wrong. All that, these declarations, it is nonsense”, says Mr. Kafrani.
According to the prosecution, Mr. Kafrani and an accomplice bought and received this equipment before sending it to the United Arab Emirates and before other accomplices transported it to Iran.
Remember that Mr. Kafrani has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial. He says he has not had contact with his alleged accomplice, Seyed Reza Mirnezami, for five years.
When asked about the very close dates between the receipt of the equipment and its shipment to the United Arab Emirates, Mr. Kafrani explains that “after assembling them, [les équipements] were not correct. I sold them to a company in the Emirates”.
The special agent who interviewed him during his arrest asked him why he hadn’t simply returned them to the United States when he realized that it was not suitable. “Used equipment is not refundable,” replied Mr. Kafrani. He paid around US$110,000 for this equipment.
In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Mr. Kafrani disputed the figures presented by the trustee MNP in the context of the bankruptcy of his company Avi-Life Lab. Trustee documents show she has approximately $4.3 million in debt.
Radio silence from the authorities
The Sûreté du Québec, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have not wanted to say, in recent days, whether an investigation had been opened concerning Mr. Kafrani.
At Global Affairs Canada, an official pointed out that the ministry was aware of information circulating concerning the arrest of Mr. Kafrani.
“Consular officers are ready to provide consular assistance and are gathering additional information. For confidentiality reasons, no other information can be disclosed,” spokesperson Jason Kung said.
Mr. Kafrani is expected to return to court in two months.
Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani in short
- Born in Iran
- In 2014, he arrived in Montreal
- In 2016, he founded his company Avi-Life Lab
- In 2016, he bought the laboratory equipment targeted by the lawsuit
- At the beginning of July 2021, he was arrested at the American border
He should be able to continue his studies at McGill
Assigned to house arrest in the United States, Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani will be able to pursue his doctorate at McGill University pending his trial.
On Thursday, Mr. Kafrani’s lawyer asked the court to authorize certain changes in the conditions of his client’s detention.
Among these, the accused wanted to be able to use a laptop computer to access his McGill email inbox as well as sites related to the university.
It is under the supervision of his thesis supervisor, Hosahalli S. Ramaswamy, professor in the Department of Food Sciences and Agricultural Chemistry at McGill University, that he will likely be able to continue his studies.
The court accepted these various requests.
Mr. Kafrani explained, in an interview on Wednesday with The newspaper, that if he had not been arrested, he would have normally defended his thesis in September.
In August, Professor Ramaswamy had written a letter to the American justice to confirm that Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani had indeed been his doctoral student since 2017.
According to this letter, Mr. Kafrani is interested in food allergies, particularly “the detection and quantification of allergens using sophisticated analytical equipment”.
In recent days, McGill has chosen to remain silent on the case of Mr. Kafrani, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of illegally exporting equipment to Iran.
The University would not say if an investigation had been opened internally or if he was still a student.
“The University is not legally authorized to share information of a personal nature,” replied in an email sent to the Journal McGill spokesperson Cynthia Lee.
According to documents filed in court, the man who has lived in Montreal with his family since 2014 had collected nine credits out of the 90 necessary to complete his doctorate last summer.
He has also set up two companies in recent years, including Avi-Life Lab, which is currently bankrupt.