New York, Nov. 1: A New Jersey engineer was arrested yesterday on federal charges accusing him of illegally sending blueprints for valves to be used in the construction of a North Korean nuclear power plant.
Forty-year-old Sitaraman Ravi Mahadevan of Marleton is of Indian origin and is charged with failing to obtain an export licence as required by federal law. If convicted, he could be sentenced to a maximum term of 10 years in prison.
Mahadevan appeared in Manhattan federal court late last afternoon and was released on a $750,000 bond. Neither he nor his attorney, Gerald Lefcourt, would comment.
According to the complaint, Mahadevan is an engineer at Valcor Engineering Corp. of Springfield, New Jersey, a company that makes valves used in the aerospace and nuclear power industries.
Mahadevan, a Canadian citizen with permanent residency status in the US, is manager of Valcor’s nuclear business unit. A woman who answered the phone at Valcor would not comment or answer any questions about him.
The court papers said Valcor had a contract with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America in New York to supply valves to be used in the construction of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization plant.
The plant has been deemed “unsafeguarded”, meaning it has not complied with International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.
Federal law requires that a licence from the Commerce Department be obtained before items and technology can be exported for use in unsafeguarded nuclear facilities.
The complaint charges Mahadevan with facilitating the shipment of about 90 blueprints to Mitsubishi, knowing they would be exported to North Korea.
Such shipments have been blocked since December 2002, when the North Koreans expelled inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency from its nuclear plants.
According to the complaint, an informant gave federal investigators documents showing that Mitsubishi was to pay Valcor over $200,000 for the valves.
A government investigation led to the seizure of the blueprints while they were en route from Valcor to Mitsubishi and before they left the US.
Last year, according to the criminal complaint, Mahadevan applied for a licence to export similar valves to India. The Commerce Department rejected that application.
Mahadevan’s arrest comes close to three months after Hemant Lakhani, a 68-year-old London-based Indian arms dealer, was picked up in New Jersey in a joint sting operation by the FBI, the CIA as well as Russian and British spy agencies.
Undercover FBI agents had conned Lakhani into thinking they were the al Qaida operatives to whom he was supposed to sell a surface-to-air missile to bring down Air Force One, the official plane of President George Bush.
Lakhani, 68, is a British national and is believed to be prominent in the international arms trade. He was arrested from his hotel near Newark airport shortly after he picked up the missile — disguised as medical equipment — from Baltimore port where it had arrived by ship from Russia.
The sting operation had begun almost a year ago in St Petersburg after the Federal Security Service, successor to the KGB, the Soviet secret service, discovered that Lakhani was in Russia shopping for a missile that could bring down planes.
As part of the operation, the Russians sold Lakhani an inert “Igla” missile, whose explosives had been removed before shipment even though the weapon was under the care of American and Russian agents throughout its journey to the US.