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Iranian CEO sentenced for conspiracy to violate US sanctions

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The founder and CEO of an Iranian financial services firm accused of conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions against Iran was sentenced Thursday to nearly two years in federal prison.

Seyed Sajjad Shahidian, 33, pleaded guilty in June to one count of conspiracy to defraud and commit offenses against the United States. Shahidian, a citizen of Iran, was arrested in London in November 2018 but wasn’t extradited to the U.S. until this past May.

Prosecutors say Shahidian lied to U.S. suppliers, illegally transferred funds from Iran, and used fraudulent passports and other documents, all to circumvent U.S. sanctions and enable others to follow suit.

“In Iran, based on his illegal business, Mr. Shahidian had been a high-profile executive and a millionaire. He is now a convicted felon who has lost everything,” U.S. Attorney Erica McDonald said in a statement.

Court documents show that Shahidian was founder and former CEO of Payment24, an internet-based financial services company with about 40 employees and offices in Tehran, Shiraz and Isfahan, Iran.

Prosecutors alleged that the primary business of Payment24 was helping Iranian citizens conduct prohibited financial transactions with businesses based in the United States, including the unlawful purchase and exportation of computer software, software licenses and servers from U.S. companies.

Shahidian admitted to opening hundreds of PayPal accounts on behalf of his Payment24 customers who resided in Iran and to unlawfully bringing millions of U.S. dollars into the economy of Iran.