An Iranian businessman sanctioned in July by the U.S. Treasury Department for his role in a procurement network helping Iran acquire aluminum has spent decades building commercial connections across the globe, starting from his time in the 1980s at an Iranian aircraft manufacturing firm, Kharon found.
Sohayl Talebi helped Iran’s Centrifuge Technology Company (TESA) acquire aluminum as the manager of TAWU Mechanical Engineering and Trading Company (TAWU BVBA), the Belgium-based office of Bakhtar Raad Sepahan, according to the Treasury’s designation statement. He worked with Bakhtar Raad Sepahan to procure material from China-based firms, such as Henan Jiayuan Aluminium Industry Co Ltd., the Treasury said at the time.
The aluminum goods sought by the network of which Talebi is a part are required for use in Iranian centrifuges manufactured by TESA, according to the Treasury. Among them were aluminum products needed to build nuclear centrifuges, which are subject to international export controls. TESA was sanctioned in 2011 for assisting Iran’s uranium enrichment program by producing centrifuges used in facilities belonging to the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI).
But Talebi began his career in metals manufacturing and trading far earlier, interacting with Iranian and Western companies along the way. His business network eventually spanned Europe, the Middle East and China, according to records reviewed by Kharon.
The public nature of Talebi’s commercial activities in the metals business while he acquired materials and technology for Iran through commercial supply chains, highlights the ease with which some proliferation agents can live and work openly abroad.