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US charges Chinese nationals with smuggling US-made electronics to Iran

FILE PHOTO: Illustration shows China's and U.S.' flags

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. authorities have charged four Chinese nationals with crimes related to the smuggling of U.S.-made electronic components, including some with possible military use, to Iran, the Justice Department said on Wednesday.

The Chinese nationals are accused of moving U.S. export-controlled items through China and Hong Kong to sanctioned entities affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its defense ministry, the department said in a statement.

The U.S. alleges that between May 2007 and July 2020, the four used front companies in China to funnel electronics, including some that could be utilized in the production of drones, ballistic missile systems, and other military end uses.

The alleged scheme resulted in the export of a "vast amount" of dual-use U.S.-origin commodities with military capabilities from the United States to Iran, the Justice Department said.

"Such efforts to unlawfully obtain U.S. technology directly threaten our national security, and we will use every tool at our disposal to sever the illicit supply chains that fuel the Iranian regime's malign activity," Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen of the Justice Department's national security division said in the statement.

The U.S. has issued arrest warrants for the accused, who all remain fugitives, according to the statement.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil and Rami Ayyub; Editing by Bill Berkrot)