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Dutch man accused of exporting u.s. aircraft parts to Iran says he followed regulations

A Dutch man accused by Americans of illegally trading U.S.-made aircraft parts to Iran said Wednesday that he scrupulously followed regulations in the Netherlands and has received no word of charges.

Robert Kraaipoel said he is hiring a lawyer after learning from news reports that the Department of Justice in Washington has accused him of violating the U.S. trade embargo against Iran through his company in the Netherlands.

"It's true that we source parts from the United States, among others, and it's true that we sell to Iran, among others," Kraaipoel told The Associated Press.

Kraaipoel said he had begun specifically seeking - and receiving - approval from the Dutch Economic Affairs Ministry for all shipments his company made to Iran since October 2006, when the European Union began seriously discussing economic sanctions against Tehran. The EU action was in response to Iran's pursuit of plans to enrich uranium.

Economic Affairs Ministry spokesman Ruud Stevens said Kraaipoel was specifically warned about differences between European law and U.S. law in regard to exports to Iran in December 2005.

"He was told U.S. restrictions go further than European laws," he said. "Namely, that the U.S. had a complete ban."

Stevens confirmed that Aviation Services had applied for export permits to Iran, "some of which were granted, others of which were denied."

Kraaipoel said sales to Iran were not the biggest part of his business, Aviation Services International B.V. He gave no figures for Iran, but said the company had annual sales of from US$3 million to $4 million (EUR2.16 million - EUR2.9 million).

"We believe this case reflected a rather large procurement effort by Iran," said U.S Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd.

The Justice Department said Tuesday a warrant was issued for Kraaipoel's arrest, but it did not say where.

Dutch customs officials were unable immediately to confirm a Justice Department statement that the two agencies were working together on the case. Spokesmen for the Dutch justice and foreign ministries said they were unaware of any extradition request or criminal investigation.

U.S. prosecutors allege that Aviation Services and Kraaipoel made false statements in November 2005 and January 2006 certifying that U.S.-origin aviation communications equipment with potential applications in unmanned aerial vehicles was being sent to the Poland Border Control Agency.

The equipment was actually being sent to Iran, U.S. authorities said. In all, Kraaipoel made 290 shipments to Iran the Justice Department said.

Kraaipoel said he could not immediately address those allegations, but denied falsifying documents.

Several Dutch businessmen have been prosecuted for violating international embargoes in recent years.

Henk Slebos, whose case most closely resembles that of Kraaipoel, was sentenced to a one-year jail term in 2005 for selling dual-use nuclear technology to Pakistan.

In 2006, Guus Kouwenhoven was sentenced to eight years in prison for breaking a U.N. weapons embargo by selling arms to Charles Taylor's regime in Liberia. He was acquitted of war crimes charges.

And in May 2007, Frans van Anraat was sentenced to 17 years by an appeals court after being convicted of war crimes for selling chemicals to Saddam Hussein's regime in the 1980s that were used for mustard gas.

All those cases were tried in Dutch courts.

In the U.S., the maximum personal penalty for violating the trade embargo on Iran is 20 years' imprisonment, a $250,000 (EUR180,284) fine or both. Corporations face a maximum $500,000 (EUR360,568) fine.

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