Toronto

2 GTA men indicted in U.S. for allegedly trafficking items for Pakistan nuclear program

Two Mississauga, Ont., men have been indicted for allegedly helping to run an international network to traffic materials such as aircraft parts and satellite communications equipment to support Pakistan's nuclear program.

Father, son accused of helping to ship materials using front companies

During a 2016 rally attended by several thousand people, Pakistan displayed nuclear-capable weapons, tanks, jets, drones and other weapons systems. (Anjum Naveed/The Associated Press)

Two Mississauga, Ont., men have been indicted for allegedly helping to run an international procurement network over a five-year period to traffic materials such as aircraft parts and satellite communications equipment to support Pakistan's nuclear program.

Father and son Muhammad Ahsan Wali, 48, and Haji Wali Muhammad Sheikh, 82, are among five men accused of being associated with an alleged front company called Business World, based in Rawalpindi, a city in northern Pakistan, according to the United States Department of Justice. 

The other three charged include another one of Sheikh's sons in Pakistan, as well as one man in Hong Kong and one in the United Kingdom. None of the allegations have been proven in court. 

The group was indicted in October in a U.S. federal court for conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Export Control Reform Act. The indictment was unsealed this week.

"The defendants smuggled U.S.-origin goods to entities that have been designated for years as threats to U.S. national security for their ties to Pakistan's weapons programs," said U.S. Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers in a news release Wednesday.

"This indictment puts the world on notice not to do business with these defendants, and demonstrates our commitment to holding them accountable. It also stands as an example of the kind of deceptive behaviour U.S. businesses need to watch out for in designing appropriate export control and sanctions compliance programs."

$140K in wire transfers

In its news release, the Department of Justice said the accused worked from September 2014 to October 2019 to acquire materials from the U.S. for the Advanced Engineering Research Organization (AERO), which supplies weapons to Pakistan's armed forces, as well as to the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC).

Those materials included airplane and engine parts, power sensors, semiconductors and satellite communication equipment, among other items.

The U.S. lists both AERO and PAEC as contrary to its national security or foreign policy interests. AERO was added to the list in 2014 after the U.S. government said it found the group used front companies to obtain materials for Pakistan's cruise missile and drone program.

The indictment claims the accused tried to conceal the actual intended destinations of the materials obtained from the U.S., which were allegedly paid for by the Pakistani entities.

The Mississauga men allegedly received over $140,000 in wire transfers from a Pakistani bank account controlled by AERO and held in the name of a Rawalpindi branch of the supposed front company Business World. Those funds were then allegedly used to pay U.S. companies to export the goods from a Business World account in Canada.

The men also allegedly failed to apply for an export licence from the U.S. Department of Commerce to export the goods to Pakistan.

"Federal export control laws are vital tools that help prevent items from being exported overseas where they could be used in ways that can jeopardize our national security," U.S. Attorney for the District of New Hampshire Scott W. Murray said in the release.

The indictment says the accused have been connected to 38 separate exports from the U.S., involving 29 different companies around the world, including three in New Hampshire.

Each of the five men has been charged with two counts of conspiracy, the news release said.

None have been arrested.