Reuters: U.S. immigration agents have charged an Oregon businessman with trying to buy batteries used in U.S.-built Hawk surface-to-air missiles for shipment to Iran, court documents showed on Thursday. By Jim Forsyth
SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) – U.S. immigration agents have charged an Oregon businessman with trying to buy batteries used in U.S.-built Hawk surface-to-air missiles for shipment to Iran, court documents showed on Thursday.
Robert Caldwell, 56, of Portland, Oregon, is charged with conspiring to export regulated items without a license under rules governing international arms trade. He was freed on $50,000 bond pending trial.
Caldwell was arrested last week after giving an undercover agent a check for the $5,000 batteries during a meeting at a hotel across from the historic Alamo mission, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jerry Robinette said,
“There is no way to get a license,” Robinette said. “He would not have been able to acquire a license to ship something like that to Iran.”
Hawk missiles, which are launched from fixed positions and considered highly lethal, downed dozens of Iraqi Air Force jets at the start of the Gulf War in 1990. They are believed to be among weapons the United States sent to Iran as part of the Iran-Contra weapons-for-hostages exchange in the 1980s.
But the United States now strictly bans weapons exports to Iran, which it designates as a sponsor of terrorism.
Robinette said Caldwell is an import-export broker in Oregon. He did not say how many batteries Caldwell allegedly attempted to buy. They cost $5,000 each, officials said.
Caldwell’s, Van Hilley, said his client was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“Mr. Caldwell is a broker, and he met this fellow from England and got involved in something that was well beyond his comprehension,” Hilley said.
The federal documents show Caldwell is the second person arrested for attempting to buy the batteries. The other suspect is said to have told investigators that the plan was to send the batteries to Iran.
That suspect allegedly fingered Caldwell as a middle man in the scheme, prompting agents to set up the sting in San Antonio.
“Our concern is to make sure that this battery or any other components of a Hawk missile don’t make it to Iran,” Robinette said. “We want to make sure they never get … used against our troops or against our allies.”