US nets Belgian accused of planning arms sale to Iran
US officials have arrested a Belgian man suspected for decades of being an international arms dealer, charging him with conspiracy to export fighter jet engines and parts to Iran, the Justice Department said on Wednesday.
Jacques Monsieur, 56, was arrested at a New York airport on Friday after a six-month sting operation and transferred to the southern US state of Alabama where the case is being brought to court.
He is charged with 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.
"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."
The indictment said Monsieur contacted an undercover agent in February seeking to buy engines for the F-5 fighter or C-130 military transport aircraft to export to Iran.
The J85-21 model jet engines can be used to replace the motors in the F-5 fighter that was sold to Iran by the United States before the country's 1979 Islamic revolution.
Today, they are on a special US list barring them 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 the undercover agent in Paris, and again in May this year. 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.
In July, Monsieur contacted the agent to say that USD 110,000 had been wired from Dubai to a bank account in Alabama as payment for the parts.
A deposit of USD 300,000 would also be wired in as a down payment for two F-5 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.
In a June 2009 report, the US Government Accountability Office expressed alarm over the ease with which dealers could acquire and export sensitive US military technology.
According to the Justice Department, more than 145 people were convicted in the United States last year for violating the US arms control act, including 43 who sought to illegally export sensitive technology or equipment to Iran or China.