Federal prosecutors said the companies had tried to sell engines, gear assemblies, spare parts and munitions for fighter planes and military helicopters without required State Department approvals. The sales, the prosecutors said, went through a sham Austrian corporation set up by undercover Customs Service agents.
”It’s the seller’s obligation to make sure export laws are followed, and these companies acted as if they just didn’t care,” Steven M. Biskupic, the United States attorney for Milwaukee, said in an interview. ”In the past, these types of violations may have been viewed as more regulatory than anything. In the post-Sept. 11 period, the dangers and the reasons for these restrictions are much more readily apparent.”
Charged with violating export laws were Jami S. Choudhury, 38, of Wauwatosa, Wis.; William W. Manning, 55, of Clinton, Utah, and the company where he is a vice president, Camnetics Manufacturing of Oregon, Wis.; Andrew A. Adams, 63, of Monroe, N.C., and the company that he heads, Equipment and Supply International; and Rick’s Manufacturing and Supply of Harrah, Okla.
None of the defendants was taken into custody because prosecutors said they were not considered to pose a threat or a flight risk.
Mr. Adams said he did not know of the indictment until a reporter called him this evening. ”I don’t know anything about this,” he said, declining to answer further questions.
At issue, prosecutors contend, are broad violations of export laws punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $1 million in fines. They did not say the executives or companies knew that the military parts they were selling were headed for Iran or anywhere else.
Mr. Choudhury has been linked to the Iranian black market. He was sentenced to six months of home confinement in 2000 for lying to a federal agent about sales of airplane parts to Iran. Mr. Choudhury said at his sentencing that he was ”humiliated enough to last a lifetime.”
Federal officials said today that they believed that he resumed the illegal export business not long after his release from confinement.
The indictment against Mr. Choudhury charges that he and executives at Rick’s Manufacturing arranged to have five shipments of rebuilt starter engines, designed for use in C-130 transports, shipped to Taiwan. Officials charged that Mr. Choudhury falsified invoices to understate the $20,000 value of the engines and to make it appear that the sales did not require an export license.
Prosecutors said the defendants also arranged to sell parts and supplies for F-4 and F-15 fighters and Sikorsky military helicopters.
The case grew out of recent cases in Milwaukee and elsewhere in which businesses sold military and aircraft parts, computer supplies and gas testers to Iran in violation of bans.
In 1995, President Bill Clinton imposed trade sanctions against Iran for what he called its sponsorship of terrorism and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. President Bush has declared Iran one of the three countries of an ”axis of evil.”
Concerned about growing black-market sales, authorities in Milwaukee set up an undercover operation, posing as buyers in Vienna for black-market supplies.
”We’ve had an ongoing problem with people trying to purchase weapons for Iran, missile components, military jet components and more,” a spokesman for the Customs Service, Dean Boyd, said.
Source: / nytimes /