The US has offered a $5m bounty and filed new charges against a Chinese businessman it has accused of trying to sell ballistic missile technology to Iran, allegedly using shell companies to hide millions of dollars in transactions.
Li Fangwei and his LIMMT Economic and Trade Company have been on the US sanctions list since 2009 and 2006, respectively, for alleged business dealings with Iran.
The US attorney’s office in Manhattan announced new charges yesterday against Mr Li accusing him since the 2006 designation, which prohibited him from doing business with US companies, of using a “web” of shell companies to disguise 165 separate transactions totalling $8.5m.
“Previously having been exposed as a violator of those sanctions, Li spun a web of front companies to carry out prohibited transactions essentially in disguise.
He now stands charged with serious crimes, and millions of his dollars have been seized,” said Preet Bharara, the US attorney for Manhattan.
US prosecutors said they had seized $6.8m belonging to the alleged front companies held in correspondent bank accounts at US institutions. They are seeking forfeiture of funds held in Chinese bank accounts. The US banks were not accused of any wrongdoing.
Mr Li, who is also known as Karl Lee, was charged by New York City prosecutors in 2009 with violating US sanctions. He remains a fugitive.
The new charges are part of a concerted drive by the Obama administration to go after Mr Li’s business operations.
The state department issued a $5m reward for information leading to his arrest, while the treasury department placed sanctions on eight Chinese companies it accused of acting as his fronts.
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