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|Flamboyant weapons dealer sentenced to 12 years in jail|
|DUBAI Arif Ali Durrani, the flamboyant Pakistani arms dealer convicted of conspiring to smuggle military aircraft components to the Middle East has been sentenced to 12 and a half years in jail. Durrani, 56, who ran his international arms business from the Mexican resort town of Rosarita, was convicted in March this year by a US court of illegally exporting restricted weapons components from America to the UAE, Malaysia and Belgium. US District Court Judge Larry A. Burns also sentenced Durrani to three years probation and ordered that he be deported from the US once he has completed his sentence.|
The court in San Diego, California heard that Durrani conspired with two Southern California arms dealers to illegally export millions of dollars in military aircraft parts, some of which were destined for Iran. Illegal exports included temperature control amplifiers for the General Electric J85 turbine engine used on the F-5 fighter and other military aircraft; an afterburner hydraulic actuator for the J85 engine; and 1st Stage Turbine Nozzles for the Honeywell T55 engine used on the Chinook military helicopter.
Durrani had a previous conviction for weapons export offences in the US. In 1987 he illegally exported HAWK missile system components and, after serving his criminal sentence, was deported from the US. Ultimately, he took up residence in Rosarito Beach and from there began orchestrating his illegal export business from Mexico.
On June 12, 2005, Mexican law enforcement officials arrested Durrani for being in Mexico illegally. Days later, Durrani was being deported by Mexican authorities to his native Pakistan when ICE agents met his connecting flight in Los Angeles. Upon his arrival, ICE agents arrested Durrani.
|Iran raises efforts to illegally obtain US arms tech|
|The Iranian government has intensified efforts to illegally obtain weapons technology from the United States, contracting with dealers across the country for spare parts to maintain its aging American-made air force planes, its missile forces and its alleged nuclear weapons program, according to federal law enforcement authorities.|
Over the past two years, arms dealers have exported or attempted to export to Iran experimental aircraft; machines used for measuring the strength of steel, which is critical in the development of nuclear weapons; assembly kits for F-14 Tomcat fighter jets; and a range of components used in missile systems and fighter-jet engines.
"Iran's weapons acquisition program is becoming more organized," said Stephen Bogni, acting chief of the Arms and Strategic Technology Investigations Unit of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). "They are looking for more varied and sophisticated technology. Night-vision equipment, unmanned aircraft, missile technology" and weapons of mass destruction.
Federal agents say that as tensions increase over Tehran's alleged nuclear weapons program, so does the concern that Iran might strike at U.S. forces and personnel stationed in Iraq and other countries if the United States or its allies take military action against that program. In recent weeks, Tehran has announced new weapons systems, including missiles it claims to be invisible to radar and torpedoes too fast to be avoided, although U.S. experts have questioned Iran's assertions about its capabilities.
The Bush administration says it is committed to a diplomatic solution to address its concerns that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran contends that it wants only to generate electricity. But, in recent months, it has flouted U.N. Security Council demands that it abandon key parts of its program, and, last week, it announced that it had successfully enriched uranium.
Calls for comment to the Iranian Mission to the United Nations were not returned.
"Most of the material the Iranians are seeking is aging technology, but it's technology that could still hurt the United States and its allies today," said Serge Duarte, acting special agent in charge of ICE investigations in San Diego. That city and Los Angeles are believed to be the two centers of the illicit Iranian weapons trade.
In the 1960s and '70s, the United States sold some of its most advanced weapons systems to Iran, when it was led by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Iran's air force received F-14 Tomcats, F-5 Tigers, F-4 Phantoms, C-130 transport planes and helicopters manufactured by Bell, Boeing and Sikorsky. U.S. sales ended with the 1979 Iranian revolution. Iran's war with Iraq from 1980 to 1988 helped deplete Iran's forces. U.S. contacts with Iran were further restricted in 1995 when President Bill Clinton signed an order effectively prohibiting almost all trade and investment between the two countries.
Since that time, businesses with ties to Iran have been on a hunt in the United States for anything that can keep Iran's military machine moving, federal agents said. Since 2002, there have been 17 major cases involving the illegal shipment of weapons technology to Iran, outpacing the 15 cases involving China, the other main nation seeking U.S. military goods, according to data provided by the Department of Homeland Security. Since 2000, the U.S. government has instituted 800 export investigations involving Iran.
Although arms dealers work nationwide, many of the Iranian cases have connections to Southern California, which remains a center for aeronautics and is home to the biggest concentration of Iranians outside of Tehran. Some neighborhoods of Los Angeles, such as Brentwood on the west side and parts of the San Fernando Valley, are jokingly referred to as "Irangeles."
Federal agents said the main method for obtaining U.S. technology is not through espionage but through simple business deals. "We're not talking about 007 running around trying to steal these parts," Bogni said. "We're talking about the Iranian government putting out shopping lists to brokers and greedy businessmen."
Two recent cases illustrate the challenges facing federal agents.
ICE agents on March 16 arrested Mohammad Fazeli, an American of Iranian descent, after he allegedly tried to export a box of pressure sensors to Iran via the United Arab Emirates. The small sensors, manufactured by Honeywell, are normally used in black-box, data-recording devices for aircraft. Federal agents said they can also be used in bombs and missile-guidance systems.
Fazeli was captured as he allegedly sought to mail the package out of the United States.
"It's not illegal to possess these parts. It's only illegal to export them. That's the challenge," said Louis Rodi III, chief of ICE's national security unit in Los Angeles. "Arms dealers take possession of the products here and then ship them themselves. So we have to be on them like a glove."
Bogni said many weapons dealers are still not aware of U.S. regulations prohibiting the export of controlled technology. Thus, since fall 2002, ICE agents have conducted 12,500 seminars with U.S. weapons manufacturers and exporters.
A day after Fazeli was arrested, another man, Arif Ali Durrani, a Pakistani, was convicted in federal court in San Diego on five counts involving the illegal export of fighter-jet components to Iran.
Durrani was indicted for selling, among other things, nozzles for engines used in the F-5s, the workhorses of the Iranian air force. David Pinchetti, an agent with the Pentagon's Defense Criminal Investigative Service who worked on the case, said Durrani purchased the nozzles for $1,500 apiece and sold them to Iranian Aircraft Industries Co. for $48,000 each.
Of interest to federal authorities since the 1980s, Durrani was a flamboyant dealmaker with a house in California valued at $2.5 million and a fleet of fine cars, on both the West and East coasts, according to Steven Arruda, a former ICE agent. Durrani once showed up in a Porsche to receive delivery of a helicopter part from a manufacturer in Connecticut. When the crate would not fit in his car, he junked the crate and threw the part in the back of his roadster, taking it directly to a freight forwarder at Kennedy International Airport, Arruda said.
Durrani was arrested in 1986 for illegally exporting Hawk missile parts to Iran. A few weeks later, while Durrani was in jail awaiting trial, the Iran-contra scandal broke, revealing that Reagan administration officials had approved weapons sales to Iran and were using the proceeds to fund guerrillas fighting the leftist government in Nicaragua.
Durrani's defense contended that he had been working for the U.S. government. The jury convicted him anyway in April 1987, and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Durrani left the United States in the late 1990s for France and then resurfaced in a Mexican beach community near the U.S. border, where his U.S.-born wife opened a Mexican restaurant and he started a furniture factory. Durrani also resumed his weapons technology business, using two partners in the United States to buy and ship products wanted by Iran's air force, federal agents said.
On June 15, in the middle of the U.S. investigation of Durrani, the Mexican government deported him to Pakistan, federal agents said. Acting on a tip, they met his plane, which was going through Los Angeles, and arrested him. Durrani's two co-conspirators subsequently pleaded guilty to violating U.S. arms export guidelines. Durrani, who was found guilty by a federal jury of those charges, is scheduled to be sentenced in June and could face 45 years in prison.
Durrani's attorney, Moe Nadim, vowed to appeal the verdict.
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|Pakistani convicted of illegally exporting military aircraft parts|
|SAN DIEGO - A Pakistani who spent five years in prison for selling missile parts to Iran in the 1980s has been convicted of illegally exporting military aircraft parts to Belgium, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates. Arif Ali Durrani was convicted on Friday in US District Court on four counts of exporting engine parts and other components for the F-5 fighter jet and the Chinook helicopter, said Jennifer Silliman, assistant special agent in charge for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego. Durrani was also convicted on one count of conspiracy to export parts, she said. The ultimate destination for the parts was Iran, she said. Durrani faces up to 45 years in prison when he is sentenced June 5. Calls to Durranis lawyer, Moe Nadim, were not returned.|
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|Ex-Intel Officer Pleads Guilty in Exports|
|SAN DIEGO (AP) - A former Navy intelligence officer pleaded guilty Tuesday to illegally exporting military aircraft parts overseas, saying he acted on behalf of a convicted Pakistani arms dealer.|
George Charles Budenz II, a retired commander, said he shipped engine parts for F-5 fighters, T-38 military trainers and Chinook helicopters to Malaysia and Belgium without a U.S. State Department permit. Investigators said the F-5 parts may have wound up in Iran, a country that Budenz has visited.
Budenz, 57, had faced a 30-year prison term, but prosecutors said they would recommend up to 6 years under a plea agreement when he is sentenced in January. Budenz surrendered his passport and was freed on $35,000 bond.
Prosecutor William Cole, speaking to reporters, declined to say whether Budenz had agreed to cooperate with the Durrani investigation. ``Mr. Durrani was the mastermind of this conspiracy and Mr. Budenz, he was the lieutenant or the facilitator in getting these products out of the United States,'' said Serge Duarte, the agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's San Diego office.
While investigators have yet to determine what happened to the parts, Duarte said, ``it's conceivable these parts could have gone to Iran or other parts of the world.'' Investigators have not recovered the parts that Budenz shipped overseas.
Defense attorney Thomas P. Matthews said his client had a stamp in his passport showing he had visited Iran, but the attorney was not sure when the trip took place and said no evidence has been presented showing Budenz had sold weapons there. Budenz served in the U.S. Navy for more than 25 years, most of the time as a reserve intelligence officer with postings all over the world.
Durrani's attorney, Moe Nadim, has said Budenz did not sell aircraft parts in Iran at his client's instruction. A third man, Richard Tobey, pleaded guilty in August to conspiring to violate U.S. arms export control laws and said Durrani instructed him to send a T-38 cockpit canopy to the United Arab Emirates.
|9/11 suspect arrested in Mexico|
|Mexican Authorities have arrested a British Arab in the Baja of California,who was wanted by the United States Government in connection to the 9-11 atrocities.|
Amer Haykel was picked up in Todo Santos and is currently awaiting extradition to the U.S.
Mexican officials say "The PGR arrested... Haykel, whom US authorities have linked to extremist groups presumably involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York. The suspect, who was born in Beirut and speaks fluent Arabic, English, French and Spanish, was turned over to immigration authorities and taken to Mexico City to determine his legal status."
Haykel wandered into a fire station and was arrested after, "investigative and intelligence work and exchange of information with the US government".
No information has been released regarding his passport or how he gained access to it or his age.
Mexico has been under the gun recently by the United States Milita, "Minutemen", who have been calling for the Bush Administration to enforce total border control between Mexico and the United States and Canada as well. The main argument of the Minutemen has been common knowledge that Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations are hiding in Mexico and crossing the border illegally.
Pakistani Arif Ali Durrani was arrested last week in the same area of Baja for the selling of anti-aircraft missles in Mexico. He has since been deported.
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|Military-parts dealer in court|
|LOS ANGELES A Pakistani military-parts dealer who was arrested outside a Rosarito Beach restaurant this week and deported to the United States at the request of U.S. officials made his first appearance in federal court yesterday. Arif Ali Durrani, 55, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Nagle and was ordered to be held without bail until his trial, in part because his ties to Mexico and Pakistan make him a flight risk, Nagle said. He'll be arraigned Monday. |
Durrani, convicted of illegally exporting HAWK missile parts to Iran nearly 20 years ago, faces charges of illegally exporting components for U.S. fighter jet engines to foreign buyers in 1994.
Mexican officials, who said Durrani was in their country illegally, arrested Durrani in Rosarito Beach on Sunday, and on Wednesday they put him on a flight from Mexico City en route to Pakistan via Los Angeles. He was arrested by federal agents when the flight arrived at Los Angeles International Airport.