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Iranian CEO sentenced in US for firm’s sanctions-evading activity

Gavel (Brian Turner/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The founder and CEO of an Iranian financial-services firm has been sentenced to nearly two years in prison for running a business that helped people in Iran evade U.S. sanctions, the Justice Department said.

Seyed Sajjad Shahidian, 33, pleaded guilty to a charge related to running Payment24, an Internet-based company that the Justice Department said charged a fee for providing services that enabled Iranians to make online purchases from the United States.

“Shahidian was the founder and CEO of a financial services firm that employed fraudulent tactics designed to circumvent United States sanctions lawfully imposed on the Government of Iran,” said U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald in a news release. “Such actions are criminal and threaten our national security interests.”

U.S. law bans unauthorized exports by American businesses to Iran. The Justice Department said Payment24 helped Iranian citizens conduct such financial transactions, including the purchase of computer software, software licenses, and computer servers.

Shahidian pleaded guilty in June to one count of conspiracy to defraud and commit offenses against the United States.

Shahidian admitted to using forged passports to set up hundreds of PayPal accounts that appeared to belong to people outside of Iran.

Prosecutors said Shahidian lied to U.S. suppliers, illegally transferred funds from Iran, and used the forged passports and other documents to circumvent sanctions.

Shahidian was arrested in London in 2018 before being extradited to the United States this year.

“In Iran, based on his illegal business, Mr. Shahidian had been a high-profile executive and a millionaire. He is now a convicted felon who has lost everything,” MacDonald said.

Payment24 had about 40 employees and offices in Tehran, Shiraz, and Isfahan in Iran, according to the Justice Department.