Security

eBay Parts Plot Kept Iran’s Jets Flying

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

Top Gun machines airborne thanks to auction site

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Three men have been jailed for a conspiracy to send fighter plane parts bought on eBay to Iran, defying an export embargo to keep the state’s F-14 “Tomcat” jets combat ready.

The ageing F-14s, as featured in the 1980s film ‘Top Gun’, form a major part of Iran’s air force, along with F4 Phantoms, F5 Tigers and Cobra attack helicopters. All of them can only be kept in the air with parts from the USA – which it is illegal to ship to Iran, thanks to a ban on military exports to the country.

Iranians Mohsen Akhavan Nik and his son Mohammad Akhavan Nik, who were granted political asylum in the UK in 1995, breached the arms embargo, along with an accomplice, Nithish Jaitha, by acting as middle-men to get military hardware to Iran, using false papers.

Officers uncovered the plot when eight liquid oxygen cylinders – used to help pilots breathe at high altitude – were found at Heathrow, en route to Tehran.

They had been bought in the US, and delivered to a Florida address, then shipped to the UK using false papers. The ring sourced a wide range of military jet parts, including radios and engine transmissions for helicopters, and sent parts through Romania and Hong Kong as well as the UK.

The Niks – who were arrested in 2007 – claimed the oxygen cylinders were for use in ambulance breathing apparatus, but were jailed for five years and two and a half years at Southwark Crown Court. Jaitha has been jailed for two and a half years.