Rotair Industries Entered To Illegal Arms Charges

The guilty pleas by Rotair Industries Inc. end a six-year investigation that began in 1998 when U.S. Customs agents discovered that military helicopter parts were sent to a Hong Kong buyer by Rotair without a necessary license. Those parts then were diverted to Iran.

Since then, federal agents posing as foreign buyers from Austria and Great Britain twice purchased parts from Rotair, which again did not have the licenses required by the State Department for shipping military hardware out of the country, prosecutors said.

The firm — which makes replacement parts for helicopters built by Stratford-based Sikorsky Aircraft — pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in New Haven to two counts of knowingly violating the U.S. Arms Export Control Act. The company agreed to pay a $500,000 fine and the firm’s 73-year old owner, Herbert Harrington, agreed to retire and cut ties to the firm’s business by January 2005.

His son pleaded guilty on Monday to impeding federal agents during their investigation.

While negotiating one of the deals with undercover agents in 2000, former Rotair employee John Gilbert said he had worked 30 years for the company and that “they have never obtained a U.S. State Department license,” according to prosecutors.

A U.S. exporter must certify who the end-user of the equipment will be to get a license to export American military equipment listed on the State Department’s United States Munitions List–which includes a vast array of aircraft parts, in addition to actual weapons and ammunition.

The firm risks criminal charges and being blacklisted as a supplier to the U.S. military if the goods wind up in the possession of banned parties, which include the governments of China, North Korea, Iran and other nations believed to pose a threat to the United States.

“Today’s cases demonstrate that those who endanger U.S. national security for the sake of profit will be held accountable,” said Robin Avers, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent in charge for New England, at a press conference following the day’s court appearances.

Source: / Hartford Courant /

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