3 Years Prison for Lube Exec

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The U.S. federal court of Charleston, S.C., sentenced former Delfin Group USA president Markos Baghdasarian to three years in prison for exporting lubricants to Iran and lying to authorities.

In December 2012, Baghdasarian, age 49, pled guilty to exporting more than $2 million worth of aviation oils, lubricants and polymers to customers in Iran – including the Iranian governments Pars Oil – in violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran. On June 12, he was sentenced to three years imprisonment and three years of supervised release.

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Baghdasarian violated the U.S. trade embargo from June 2010 until October 2011, court evidence showed. A whistleblowers alert led to Department of Homeland Security and Department of Commerce investigations, and Baghsarian was arrested in May 2012 at an Atlanta airport as he prepared to fly to the United Arab Emirates.

At the time of the violations, the Iranian native had been the president of Delfin Group USA, a Russian-owned blender of synthetic motor oils, located in North Charleston, S.C. He had been shipping goods from his company to the U.A.E., where they were repackaged and imported into Iran. He falsely asserted that the U.A.E. was the ultimate destination for his exports.

The embargo prohibits U.S. trade with Irans oil industry, in efforts to prevent that nation from obtaining or developing nuclear weapons. However, prosecutors at the hearing noted that Baghdasarians motives were not political, Charlestons The Post and Courier reported June 12.

According to the newspapers report, Baghdasarian worked his way up as an immigrant from Armenia, from being a dishwasher, to getting a doctorate in education, and finally to heading the lubricant blending company. Family and friends testified on behalf of his character at the hearing, and U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said that the three year sentence balances Baghdasarians character traits against the severity of the crime. Prosecuting attorney Rhett DeHart reportedly said in court that the case was hard, and that its much easier to prosecute a bad person than a good person.

Defense attorney Bart Daniel told Lube Report that nothing prohibits Baghdasarian from operating in the lubricants business after his release.

Delfin placed Baghdasarian on administrative leave in April 2012 and terminated him from the company in September 2012.

About a month before Baghdasarians arrest in May 2012, John Gordon succeeded him as head of Delfin Group USA. The company fired Gordon in April 2013. Gordon told Lube Report that Delfin terminated him with no advance notice or reason provided.

In September 2012, the U.S. Commerce Department permitted Delfin to resume normal domestic and international trade, compliant with Export Administration Regulations and other applicable U.S. law.

For more information about the investigation and arrest, read the May 30, 2012 Lube Report article.