US & Canada

Mozaffar Khazaee 'tried to ship F-35 documents to Iran'

Workers assemble portions of the the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at Lockheed Martin Corporations' factory in Fort Worth, Texas, on 13 October 2011 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The in-development F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme is believed to have cost $400bn (file photo)

US authorities have arrested an Iranian-American engineer accused of attempting to ship stolen documentation on a high-tech military plane to Iran.

Federal prosecutors have charged Mozaffar Khazaee, 59, with trying to smuggle thousands of pages of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter documents.

Mr Khazaee stole the documents from defence contractors that employed him as an engineer, prosecutors said.

No lawyer was listed for him in US court documents.

Mr Khazaee is an ex-employee of military contractor Pratt & Whitney, US media have reported, and in that capacity was responsible for carrying out strength tests on military engine parts.

He was made redundant from a defence contractor in August, prosecutors said.

He is being held by the US Marshals Service and will be transported to Connecticut for further court proceedings, Thomas Carson, a spokesman for the Connecticut US Attorney's office, told the BBC.

Mr Khazaee was arrested on 9 January at the airport in Newark, New Jersey, on his way to Iran, Deidre Daly, US attorney for Connecticut, said in a statement.

The investigation began in November, when US customs officials and homeland security agents intercepted a shipment Mr Khazaee sent by truck from Connecticut to a freighter in Long Beach, California, bound for Iran, according to court records.

The shipment was marked as containing household goods, but officials instead found boxes of documents containing technical manuals and proprietary material related to the F-35 programme, including diagrams, blueprints, and documents relating to the inner-workings of the jet's engine, prosecutors allege in court documents.

Mr Khazaee, a naturalised US citizen who is also an Iranian citizen, has been charged with transporting, transmitting and transferring in interstate or foreign commerce goods obtained by theft, conversion, or fraud.

If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 (£152,963) fine.

He lived and worked in the US state of Connecticut, and the shipment was bound for the Iranian city of Hamadan, prosecutors said.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter - the most expensive defence programme in history - is estimated to have cost approximately $400bn.

The US military has called the programmed, plagued by problems and delays, the future of American air power.

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