The former head of TVA's biggest nuclear power construction program pled guilty today to illegally shipping money to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.
Masoud Bajestani, the 58-year-old Iranian-born nuclear engineer who previously served as a TVA vice president in charge of finishing the Unit 2 reactor at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, agreed to forfeit the $600,000 authorities said he illegally sent to Iran from 2008 to 2010. Bajastani faces up to five years in prison for conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. He will be sentenced in January in federal court in Knoxville.
U.S. Attorney William Killian said between February 2008 and May 2010, Bajestani conspired with an Iran-based co-conspirator to invest in Iran in violation of U.S. law. In a statement today, Killian said Bajestani used an informal value transfer system known as "hawala" to transfer money to Iran. Bajestani also falsely reported on his income tax returns that he did not have an interest in a foreign bank account.
The TVA vice president was fired by TVA after an investigation showed that he also lied about a financial hardship claim he made to make an early claim on his retirement bonus.
Bajestani was a key leader in the refurbishing of the newest reactor at TVA's Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant and initially led the efforts five years ago complete a second reactor at the Watts Bar plant near Spring City, Tenn.
TVA failed to finish the original 5-year, $2.5 billion program at Watts Bar on time and the utility has had to allocate up to $2 billion and three years more to finish Watts Bar Unit 2.
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