A businessman from Somerset has been jailed for trafficking fighter jet parts to Iran in violation of weapons of mass destruction controls.

Alexander George, 77, from Long Ashton village, was sentenced to two and a half years for shipping military hardware, including Russian MiG and US F4 Phantom parts sent through a network of companies and countries. He is thought to have made £5m from the trade.

Two others, Paul Attwater, 65, and his wife, Iris, 66, of Telford in Shropshire, were handed suspended six-month prison sentences last month for sourcing aircraft parts from the US and shipping them to George’s companies, which then sent them to Iran.

The UK operates a licensing regime aimed at upholding international sanctions and ensuring that military equipment and dual-use items, which could be used by both the military and civilian sectors, do not fall into the wrong hands.

HM Revenue and Customs investigators found George was shipping the aircraft parts to Iran via companies he owned in Malaysia and Dubai. He brought in the Attwaters to try to hide the smuggling operation further and they shipped parts, including those that they knew were restricted under weapons of mass destruction controls, through their company.

Simon York, the director of HMRC’s fraud investigation service, said: “These three sold banned items that ended up in Iran. They didn’t care what these parts might be used for, as long as they got paid.

“This was a calculated and cynical attempt to undermine strict trade embargoes and internationally agreed controls. They knew the rules and weaved increasingly elaborate plans to stay under the radar.”

George bought the aircraft parts from the US and sent them to his companies in Malaysia and Dubai before illegally moving them on to Iran. When he became concerned he was being investigated, he searched the internet to find out who was wanted by the FBI, CIA and Interpol for selling aircraft parts to Iran.

He brought in the Attwaters, who operated Pairs Aviation from Crawley in West Sussex, to act as a buffer by ordering the parts and shipping them to George’s companies in Malaysia.

George was questioned by HMRC officers at Heathrow in August and December 2010 and denied he was dealing in aircraft parts. He told officers he was dealing in wheelbarrows, goggles and gloves for the construction industry.

The trio decided to add an extra layer to the supply chain and began shipping the items to the Netherlands, in the name of a company registered in the British Virgin Islands called Wiky Global Corp, before they were sent to Malaysia and then Iran.

George and Iris Attwater were convicted of knowingly exporting controlled military or dual-use goods between February 2010 and March 2016 after a trial at Southwark crown court in London. George was sentenced at the Old Bailey on Thursday.

Source » theguardian