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Feds nail Supermicro for illegal Iran server sale

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Supermicro has found itself on the wrong end of a pricey server shipment after pleading guilty to sending gear to Iran.

The US attorney's office in San Francisco slapped the server maker with a felony charge for exporting hardware to Iran, despite the presence of a US embargo. Supermicro agreed to plead guilty to the crime and will pay a $150,000 fine.

According to court documents, Supermicro shipped 300 of its P4SBA+ motherboards to a company called Super Net in Dubai. Super Net paid $50,000 for the gear that it said was heading to Iran. The sale apparently took place between Dec. 28, 2001 and Jan. 29, 2002.

"The company agrees that at the time that the (motherboards) were shipped, they were controlled for export purposes . . ." the attorney's office said. "The company also agrees that at the time of the export it knew that the United States had imposed an embargo against the Islamic Republic of Iran."

The US has long imposed restrictions on computer makers about the type and quantity of gear that they can ship to certain countries. Such limitations look more and more foolish with clusters of PCs now rivaling many supercomputers in performance. Just about anyone with $20m or so to spare could create a system capable of designing dangerous weapons or other such mischief.

Since being notified of this investigation, Supermicro has put a export control program in place, and the Feds say the program is working just fine. So, you can all rest easy. ®

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