PARIS — The Iranian engineer flew to Paris with his wife, intending to see the Eiffel Tower and other tourist sites. Instead, he was arrested at the airport under a U.S. warrant – suspected of evading export controls to buy U.S. technology for Iran’s military.
The case of Majid Kakavand, accused of purchasing American electronics online and routing it to Iran via Malaysia, has shed light on increasing U.S. attempts to crack down on people outside American borders suspected of illegally buying U.S. supplies for Iran military programs.
The case is also pushing the justice system in France, which has grown increasingly tough on Iran’s nuclear ambitions but also has trade and oil interests in the country, toward a stand that could have deep diplomatic and economic repercussions.
Kakavand’s future could be decided at a Feb. 17 Paris hearing on whether to extradite him to the United States.
Iran’s government spoke out about the case for the first time this week, accusing France of linking Kakavand’s fate to that of a young French academic on trial in Iran. It says Kakavand is innocent and suggests he is being used as a bargaining chip in the diplomatic tug-of-war over 24-year-old Clotilde Reiss.
The United States says Kakavand, 37, and two colleagues ordered U.S. electronics – including capacitors, inductors, resistors, sensors and connectors – and had them shipped to Malaysia, from which they were dispatched to Iran without export licenses r…