The FBI and federal prosecutors in Detroit have accused an Iranian national, who is a US permanent resident, of stealing tech secrets from his employer and sending them to his brother in Iran.
The prosecutors claimed that between 2015 and 2016, 42-year-old Amin Hasanzadeh delivered confidential documents while working on a supercomputer at an unidentified Michigan company linked to the auto and aerospace industries.
His brother, in turn, allegedly worked at companies related to the Islamic Republic’s military programmes, including one that “contributes to Iran’s proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities," according to the NPR.
A post-doc researcher at the University of Michigan, Hasanzadeh appeared in court on Wednesday to face charges of fraud and interstate transportation of stolen property. The fraud is specifically related to his lying about having served in the Iranian military.
He was denied bail after a federal judge agreed with prosecutors that Hasanzadeh was a flight risk as Assistant Attorney Michael Martin asserted that he has little family in the US and the lease on his apartment expires in January.
“He has no real reason to stay to face these charges,” Martin told US Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Stafford.
The Detroit News cited FBI special agent Mara Schneider as saying that they “don't have any concerns that there is a current threat to the safety of the United States” over Hasanzadeh’s actions.
Hasanzadeh's next appearance in court is scheduled for November 20.
Tense Relations Between US and Iran
His case comes amid tense ties between Washington and Tehran which have been worsening since US President Donald Trump announced his country’s unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on 8 May, 2018, reinstating harsh economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Exactly a year later, Tehran said that it had reluctantly suspended some of its JCPOA obligations.