FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 28, 2013
Contact: Nathan Carleton, [email protected]
Phone: (212) 554-3296
UANI Calls on Italy's SELI to End Business with Iran
Company's Tunnel-Boring Machines Are Prone to Misuse by Regime
New York, NY - On Thursday, as part of its Tunneling & Construction Campaign, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) called on Italian underground excavation company SELI S.p.A. (SELI) to immediately end its business with Iran.
SELI provides tunneling equipment in Iran, and has worked directly with entities affiliated with the blacklisted Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). While SELI has claimed that its equipment and expertise are intended for civilian projects in Iran, the potential for misuse is high and serious given that tunneling is an essential element used by Iran to hide and protect its nuclear sites.
In 2010, SELI President Remo Grandori acknowledged this, telling the Wall Street Journal: "Tunnels are like large mines. Iran can certainly use these tunnels to hide weapons, but I don't know anything about it."
UANI is also calling on SELI to pull out of Iran given that it does extensive business in the U.S. For example, SELI has been active in the East Side Access expansion project in New York, which is the largest transportation project in the country.
In a letter sent to Mr.Grandori, UANI CEO, Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, wrote:
... SELI's ongoing business activities in Iran, particularly vis-à-vis the provision of tunnel-boring machines, raises a number of serious questions and concerns.
As you are undoubtedly aware, providing this type of equipment poses the risk that it will be misused by the Iranian regime. As The New York Times highlighted in a 2010 front-page article, tunneling is an essential element used by Iran to hide and protect its nuclear sites. The Fordow enrichment facility near Qom is one example of this strategy. SELI's activities in Iran could result in the transfer of tunneling equipment to the Iranian regime, which would then facilitate the regime's circumvention of the multilateral sanctions imposed to prevent it from further developing its illegal nuclear weapons program.
SELI's Iran ties have been widely reported. When questioned by The Wall Street Journal in 2010 about his company's activities in Iran, reported to be worth more than €220 million at the time, SELI President Remo Grandori acknowledged that his company's products are possibly being misused in Iran: "Tunnels are like large mines. Iran can certainly use these tunnels to hide weapons, but I don't know anything about it."
The likelihood of such abuse is greatly increased by the fact that SELI has worked directly with entities affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps ("IRGC"). As you may know, the IRGC is the driving ideological, internal security and military force behind the Iranian regime. The IRGC serves as the custodian of Iran's ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs, including the network of tunnels that shield and obscure them. Specifically, SELI has worked on several projects with Ghaem and Sepasad Engineering Company, two IRGC entities that have been collectively sanctioned by the U.S., EU, and UN. In late 2011 at the 9th Iranian Tunneling Conference, SELI presented a paper co-authored by SELI President Remo Grandori, in which it highlighted the progress in its project with Sepasad. Given that by that date Sepasad was already sanctioned by the U.S., UN and EU, SELI has been in direct violation of sanctions law and should be held accountable.
While UANI notes that SELI's tunneling equipment and expertise have ostensibly been used for civilian projects in Iran, the reality is that following the completion of these projects, the IRGC could easily divert this equipment to advance its nuclear program. UANI is concerned that a clear distinction between the civilian and military use of SELI equipment is impossible under these circumstances.
SELI's activities in Iran could cause it to be sanctioned by the U.S. Government and jeopardize its business in the U.S. For example, SELI has been active in the East Side Access expansion project in New York, which is the largest transportation project in the country. Section 302 of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA) prohibits the export to Iran of "goods, services, and technologies that would make a material contribution to Iran's development of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons ...
UANI has proposed model legislation for adoption by the U.S. Congress that would specifically sanction the exportation of equipment and technology to Iran for the development and production of tunnels and related facilities.
UANI has requested a response by March 7, 2013.
Click here to read UANI's full letter to SELI.
Click here to send a message to SELI.
Click here to learn more about UANI's Tunneling & Construction Campaign.
Click here to read UANI's model tunneling legislation, the SPIRIT Act.