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2 Indicted in Alleged Bid to Send Iran Arms

March 05, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Two businessmen in Taiwan have been charged with trying to smuggle U.S.-made weapons to Iran, federal authorities said Tuesday.

A federal grand jury in Baltimore indicted En-Wei Eric Chang, a naturalized American living in Taiwan, and David Chu, a Taiwanese resident, on charges that they tried to buy early warning radar, Cobra attack helicopters and U.S. spy satellite photos for Iran in violation of American embargoes, officials said.

Chu was arrested in Guam, but Chang remained a fugitive, authorities said.

"The object of the conspiracy was to enrich the defendants by shipping aircraft, helicopter and weapons system parts to Iran through Taiwan and elsewhere," the indictment said.

Officials said the indictment resulted from a yearlong investigation that grew out of a new cooperative program created after Sept. 11, 2001, that encourages U.S. sellers of sensitive military equipment to report suspicious inquiries and sales. Authorities said the men came to their attention after one contacted a Maryland firm about buying satellite images of Tehran.

Federal agents set up a fictitious business in Maryland, which Chang contacted by e-mail, seeking to buy the latest military night-vision equipment, military helicopters and helicopter parts and special antennae used by pilots to detect enemy radar, authorities allege.

Officials are increasingly concerned that enemies of the U.S. may try to use America's weapons against itself.

"What gives the United States military its edge? Our technology," said U.S. Atty. Thomas DiBiagio, who supervised the Baltimore case. "It's what we have and they want."

The case was led by the new Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Homeland Security Department successor to the former Customs Service criminal investigations office.

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