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Saturday, December 02, 2023

The Arak Trial in Hamburg: Sanctions against Iran and German Control Authorities

last update: Nov. 16, 2013

STOP THE BOMB Press Release, November 8, 2013


Failure of German Control Authorities: The Arak Case

During the Arak trial in Hamburg it became obvious how easy it is for German businessmen to deliver technology for the nuclear reactor in Arak, which is Iran's most dangerous nuclear weapons project.

Once in full operation, the heavy water reactor produces plutonium; any exports concerning Arak are hence forbidden as they can be crucial for the production of weapons of mass destruction. However, the Arak trial proves that exactly these kind of exports happened right under the eyes of German control authorities.

The Higher Regional Court of Hamburg imposed unexpectedly lenient sentences on the 8th of November 2013 against four traders and entrepreneurs. Despite prison sentences of between 33 months and 4 years, only the accused Ali K. must go to jail, the imposition of the sentence in the case of Rudolf M. and K. Kianzad was suspended; the mediator Hamid Kh was placed on probation. The accused had exported a total of 92 special valves of German production for use in the plutonium reactor Arak in the years 2010 and 2011 to Iran. In addition, they had mediated the delivery of 856 valves from India to Iran. They had falsified documents in order to mislead the regulatory authorities. [1]

US security experts had informed the German administration already in April 2009 that Iran was planning to acquire specialized valves via German companies. They repeatedly informed German authorities about further developments. Meanwhile, the defendant Rudolf M. was contacted several times between April and September 2009 by the BAFA, the German institution for export control. BAFA informed him that the Iranian company MITEC was planning to use him to acquire valves for Arak. [2]

Also members of the German domestic secret service (Verfassungsschutz) contacted the entrepreneur and stated that he would pose a „proliferation threat“. Besides BAFA and the Verfassungsschutz, the German customs authorities and the foreign ministry had been informed. Rudolf M. still had not been under any kind of surveillance and exported his valves in 2011 through front companies in Turkey and Aserbaidschan. This was approved by both the foreign ministry and BAFA.

During the trial it became evident that the foreign ministry had written a letter to the German ministry of economics in June 2010, in which it stated that the concerns with regard to foreign affairs wouldn't be as high as to prevent a delivery of said valves. [3] Following this, the BAFA issued a so-called „Nullbescheid“ (“zero notice”) an official declaration of no objection.

Only in spring of 2012, after the deal had been finalized, the authorities became active. The Federal Court of Justice allowed a surveillance of the suspects, which eventually lead to their arrest. The explanatory statement stated that the German authorities – despite early and clear warnings – had not managed to prevent an export of the valves to Iran. [4]


Turning a blind eye is systematic

The Iranian regime has a special interest in German technology for its nuclear program. This was confirmed by the President of the Customs Criminal Office, Norbert Drude, who voiced concern "about the aggressive acquisition efforts of Iran". Also senior prosecutor Christoph Lange had declared already in 2007, that regarding hightech for its nuclear program the Iranian regime relies on products "made in Germany".[5]

Despite the "aggressive raising efforts", the German supervisory authorities rely on cooperation. First of all, the "principle of free movement of goods" applies, a BAFA brochure states. [6]

BAFA and customs basically assume that firms operate correctly. If the papers of the customs declaration are in order, no control is applied, a customs office manager declared to a team of German state television. [7]

The Arak trial makes clear that effective measures are also not taken when specific indications for proliferation are present. Trial observer Matthias Küntzel quoted an employee of the Customs Criminal Office: "If I get a hint, I'm always first assuming: This German company is clean. Also the BAFA works that way... They assume that firms are innocent." [8]

BAFA sends "warning notices" to companies, were they caution against potential sanctions violations and blacklisted final customers. In the Arak trial it became clear that exports, which at first aroused suspicions at the BAFA, were eventually approved if the name given for the final customer was simply the name of another Iranian company than before. [9]

Besides, for the required declaration of final users and final use original documents were not required, instead scans, screenshots and faxes were accepted, which could be manipulated easily. [10]



That way, sanctions can be circumvented easily and without much effort. This procedure is problematic even for normal sanction violations. But when it comes to a proliferation suspicion , such an approach clearly goes beyond the pale.

Klaus Barthel, Member of Parliament for the Social Democrats and expert on arms control, wrote to the Federal Government and asked about a possible "failure of Federal Authorities". He received a completely insufficient response. [11] With respect to the wall of silence of the authorities he declared: "The comparison with the NSU trial [about Neo-Nazi murders] comes to mind". [12]

STOP THE BOMB had already warned in December 2011 that the BAFA has ignored clear evidence of sanctions violations, as the WALL STREET JOURNAL reported. [13]

STOP THE BOMB had submitted clear indications to the BAFA that the final customer of a business in the energy sector was a front company of the Revolutionary Guards. The BAFA had nevertheless approved the exports. [14]

Only recently the BAFA and the Federal Government had come under fire due to the delivery of 111 tons of chemicals to Syria, which can also be used for the production of the poison gas sarin. [15]

With this practice, the BAFA undermines the international sanctions efforts. When it comes to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as in the case of Arak, but also as in the case of Syria, such a practice is unacceptable. If documents and explicit references to dangerous and illegal deals with Iran are repeatedly ignored, one cannot speak of incompetence anymore. Therefore STOP THE BOMB calls for the establishment of a committee of inquiry and the dismissal of the responsible BAFA president, Dr. Arnold Wallraff .

[1] Matthias Küntzel, Deutsche Ventile im iranischen Atomprogramm, in: Die Welt  27/8/2013,

[2] Federal Supreme Court , decision of 04/01/2013, BGH StB 10/12 and others,

[3] Trial observations by Matthias Küntzel

[4] German state television ARD, see script:

[5] Benjamin Weinthal: The German connection, in: Haaretz 22/11/2007,

[6] BAFA (ed.)„Kurzdarstellung Exportkontrolle“, S. 5,

[7] Customs office manager Martin Lindloff told a German film team: "If we have an application, we first assume that this application is correct.”
See „Dangerous German Business Deals with Iran“

[8] Matthias Küntzel, Deutsche Ventile im iranischen Atomprogramm, in: Die Welt, 27/8/2013,

[9] Federal Supreme Court, decision of 01.04.2013 , BGH StB 10/12 and others,

[10] Trial observations by Matthias Küntzel

[11] Bundestagsdrucksache, 17/14397, PDF here:

[12] Pressemitteilung: „Bundesregierung verweigert Antwort auf Fragen zu Ventillieferung für iranische Atomanlage“, 12/9/2013,

[13] David Crawford: “Sanctions Hit—and Miss—in German Trade With Iran”, in: Wall Street Journal, 17/12/2011,

[14] German export control agency BAFA for months approved Iran deals despite warnings, STOP THE BOMB press release, December 21, 2011,




German federal agency BAFA allowed export of components for nuclear weapons program in Iran

Press Release, November 8, 2013 

STOP THE BOMB criticizes mild sentence, calls for a committee of inquiry and the dismissal of BAFA’s President

Unexpectedly lenient penalties were imposed today against four merchants and entrepreneurs by the Higher Regional Court of Hamburg in the Arak trial in Hamburg. Despite prison sentences of between 33 months and 4 years, only the defendant Ali K. must go to jail, Rudolf M. and Kianzad K. are spared from further imprisonment. The mediator Hamid Kh. received a suspended sentence. The convicts had supplied components for the Iranian heavy water reactor in Arak and falsified documents in order to mislead the regulatory authorities. If the reactor in Arak goes on line as planned next year, plutonium for two nuclear bombs per year would be produced there. [1]

Trial observer and political scientist Matthias Küntzel comments: “This verdict has no deterrent effect because the two defendants from the German mid tier business were freed without further detention. This downgrades the smuggling for Iranian plutonium plants to a trivial offense.”

The trial also revealed a blatant failure of the German supervisory authorities, in particular the Federal Office of Export Control (BAFA). The special components for the nuclear weapons program were delivered to Iran despite repeated warnings and evidence from the U.S., but also from the German intelligence service. While the BAFA issued a so-called “zero notice” clearance certificate, the foreign ministry also restrained concerns about the exports. The judge spoke of “misconduct” by the authorities.

BAFA has been sharply criticized in summer for waving through poison gas components exports to the Assad regime in Syria. [2] In December 2011, STOP THE BOMB pointed out that the authority ignored clear evidence of sanctions violations concerning Iran. [3]

STOP THE BOMB spokesperson Michael Spaney comments: “If documents and explicit evidence of dangerous and illegal business with Iran are ignored time and again, one cannot speak of incompetence anymore. By issuing an export license for the supply of special valves for the heavy water reactor at Arak, BAFA has become complicit in the nuclear armament of the inhuman anti-Semitic regime in Tehran.”

Therefore, the coalition STOP THE BOMB calls for the establishment of a parliamentary investigation committee and the dismissal of BAFA’s President Arnold Wallraff.

Additional background information:  







see more media reports on the German site

Times of Israel (JTA): German men sentenced for smuggling nuclear components to Iran (16.11.2013)

Michael Rubin, Commentary: What a German Trial says about Iran's aims (8.11.2013)

STOP THE BOMB Press Release