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Illegal trade charges against Norcross company end 3-year federal investigation

By Michael Weiss
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
December 4, 1998

The indictments against a pair of Norcross-based exporters charged with selling $600,000 worth of car parts to Iran in defiance of a U.S. embargo wrap up one of the biggest cases of its kind in years, officials said.

Federal agents spent three years rooting through garbage in Norcross and poring over bank records in Germany to build the case against Medhi "Michael" Azarin of Atlanta and Farhad Azarin of Norcross, both officials with Federal Parts International Inc.

Investigators say the pair--Michael, 58, owns the company, while nephew Farhad, 33, is a manager there--shipped three huge containers of spare parts to businesses in Tehran and tried to send a fourth that was intercepted at the Savannah port by agents with the U.S. Commerce Department's Bureau of Export Administration, according to the 24-count indictment handed down Wednesday.

The shipments and the return payments were routed through German banks and ports in the United Arab Emirates in an effort to hide the true destination from U.S. officials, according to the indictment.

There's no evidence that the Iranians planned to use the car parts for military use, said Amanda DeBusk, assistant secretary for export enforcement with the Commerce Department. But she said spare parts for American-made products already in Iran, such as cars, trucks and airplanes, are among the most coveted supplies.

Federal agents only handle a few such cases like this per year, Commerce Department officials said. According to the department's Web site, only one matter involving illegal sales to Iran--this one involving computer technology--was settled in 1998.

"It's a big case for us," DeBusk said. "It was very complicated, and our agents had to do very sophisticated work."

An informant tipped federal agents off to Federal Parts International, housed in a red-brick business park on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard. According to Michael Azarin, who was at work the day after the indictment, Federal Parts is a family business with fewer than 10 employees. The company buys goods from wholesalers and manufacturers, then ships them overseas, Arazin said.

The company and both Azarins were charged with violating the embargo, making false statements and money laundering, according to the indictment.

Neither Michael Azarin nor the company's lawyer, Larry Thompson, would say much about the case except that the defendants plan to plead innocent to all charges. "We intend to contest the charges vigorously, I can say that," Thompson said.

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