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Money laundered through Middle East, Africa for Toronto-based scheme to dodge Iran sanctions, U.S. alleges

A Toronto Police Service cruiser. Nick Westoll / File / Global News

A Toronto-based conspiracy to ship goods to Iran in violation of sanctions involved the movement of money through banks in the Middle East and Africa, an indictment unsealed in the United States alleges.

As part of the alleged conspiracy, financial transactions were allegedly routed through the United Arab Emirates, Uganda, China, Turkey and Canada in what U.S. prosecutors said was money-laundering.

Amin Yousefi Jam, 33, and Arash Yousefi Jam, 32, described by U.S. authorities as Iranian citizens living in Ontario, have also been charged with conspiracy to violate sanctions and smuggling.

The younger brother’s lawyer argued in a Jan. 19 court filing that his client was a dental school student who had fled Iran because of his opposition to the regime, and obtained refugee status and citizenship in Canada.

Beginning in 2015, the brothers purchased equipment in the U.S. and Spain, and arranged to ship it while hiding that the end destination was Iran, according to the indictments obtained by Global News.

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Read more: CSIS alleges Iran used Toronto company to wire millions to Canada despite sanctions

Although the charges were filed in November, and Arash Yousefi Jam was arrested last month in the U.S, the case was only made public after Amin Yousefi Jam was arrested this week by Toronto Police.

“Yousefi Jam is wanted in the United States for allegedly assisting his brother with the purchase and delivery of machinery from the U.S to Iran,” said Toronto police spokesperson Meaghan Gray.

“He assisted with circumventing shipping procedures via Dubai to Iran,” she said, adding he faced up to $1,000,000 in fines per offence and up to 20 years imprisonment.

The arrest came after the Canadian Department of Justice asked the Toronto Police Service’s Fugitive Squad to locate Amin Yousefi Jam, Gray said.

Click to play video 'Flight PS752: Loved ones push for justice from Iran' Flight PS752: Loved ones push for justice from Iran
Flight PS752: Loved ones push for justice from Iran – Jan 8, 2021

On Jan. 11, 2021, officers conducted surveillance at an address in Thornhill, Ont.

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The suspect was arrested the next day and is being held at the Toronto South Detention Centre, where he is awaiting an extradition hearing.

He is scheduled to appear in the Ontario Superior Court on Jan. 20.

A man matching Arash Yousefi Jam’s name, age and arrest date was taken into custody in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, according to the local sheriff’s office.

Read more: Iran’s properties in Canada sold, proceeds handed to terror victims

The federal indictment said the brothers worked with a co-conspirator in Iran to purchase electronic and railroad equipment and export it illicitly to Iran through the UAE.

Once in the UAE, the goods were moved into different shipping containers that took them to an Iranian port, according to the indictment.

The United Nations began imposing sanctions on Iran in 2006 in response to its nuclear program. Canada imposed additional sanctions in June 2010.

Stewart.Bell@globalnews.ca