Germany probes 50 firms that sold nuclear equipment to Iran
By Benjamin Weinthal
German customs police have uncovered in recent years 50 German companies that sold Iran equipment to finish building its nuclear reactor at Bushehr.
Coordinating this smuggling operation was a Berlin-based front company called Vero, headed by Dimitry Solotarev, an Armenian Jew with dual German and Russian citizenship. The value of the equipment transfered to Iran is estimated at $150 million. And that, Potsdam’s public prosecutor told Haaretz, is evidently “just the tip of the iceberg.”
Iran claims that the Bushehr power plant it is building with the help of Russian engineers is intended for civilian purposes. However, Western intelligence agencies suspect Iran is planning to manufacture nuclear weapons there. Iran’s continued uranium enrichment to be used in the reactor was among the reasons the United Nations imposed economic sanctions.
Iran is on Germany’s list of countries to which it is illegal to export nuclear know-how. Solotarev’s company disguised the sale to Iran by claiming it was supplying the equipment to a Russian nuclear reactor in Rostov.
Customs investigators discovered that between 10 and 12 German companies knew they were transfering equipment to Iran. In 2005, a German court sentenced three directors of a company that supplied a unique crane for the reactor’s construction to three years’ probation.
Solotarev was in Russia when customs officers raided Vero’s offices in 2004, and has not returned to Germany since.