AFP: US officials have arrested an alleged Belgian arms dealer and charged him with plotting to export illegally to Iran F-5 fighter jet engines and parts, the Justice Department said Wednesday.
WASHINGTON (AFP) — US officials have arrested an alleged Belgian arms dealer and charged him with plotting to export illegally to Iran F-5 fighter jet engines and parts, the Justice Department said Wednesday.
Jacques Monsieur, 56, a Belgian national and resident of France suspected of being an international arms dealer for decades, was arrested on Friday after a six-month international sting operation.
He was due to appear in court in southern Alabama on Wednesday to be arraigned on six counts of violating the arms control act, smuggling, money-laundering and conspiracy. Some of the charges carry maximum sentences of 20 years in jail.
A co-defendant, Iranian national Dara Fotouhi, also known as Dara Fatouhi, 54, who lives in France, has been charged in the case, but remains on the run, the Department of Justice said in a statement.
"The facts alleged in this indictment underscore the global reach of Iranian procurement networks and the international arms traffickers who help supply them," said Deputy Attorney General David Ogden.
"This case also highlights the importance of keeping restricted US weapons technology out of their grasp."
According to the indictment, Monsieur contacted an undercover agent in February seeking to buy engines for the F-5 fighter or C-130 military aircraft to export to Iran.
The engines, known as J85-21 models, can be used to replace the motors in the F-5 fighter jet that was sold to Iran by the United States before the 1979 Iranian revolution.
Today, they are on a special US list and barred from export from the United States without a special permit. They are also not allowed to be exported to Iran without an additional license from the Treasury Department.
In March, Monsieur allegedly met with the agent in Paris, and during a follow-up meeting in May in London introduced Fotouhi as his business associate.
On both occasions he discussed exporting F-5 engines to Iran, and urged the agent to provide shipping documents which showed the end user was based in Colombia.
The following month Monsieur emailed the undercover agent with a purchase order for F-5 fighter jet parts from a front company for an organization known as Trast Aero Space, located in Kyrgyzstan.
The order asked that the parts be exported to the United Arab Emirates for transshipment to Iran, the Justice Department statement said.
In July, Monsieur allegedly contacted the agent to say that 110,000 dollars had been wired from Dubai to a bank account in Alabama as payment for the parts.
A deposit of 300,000 dollars would also be coming as a down payment for two F-5 fighter jet engines.
The United States has had no diplomatic relations with Iran for 30 years, and has imposed tough economic sanctions on the regime over its suspect nuclear program.
"Safeguarding our military equipment and technology is vital to our nation's defense and the protection of our war fighters," said Sharon Woods, director of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service.