Indictment Says 5 People, 2 Companies Were Iraqi Agents With AM-Iraq-Military, Bjt
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A missile-development arm of the Iraqi government allegedly tried to buy nuclear-warhead triggers made by a California company, according to a federal indictment unsealed Thursday.
The alleged role of Al-Qaqaa State Establishment in the scheme to illegally export the electronic triggers was laid out in the indictment against five people and two companies.
Two of the five people named in the indictment, unsealed in San Diego, were arrested in London Wednesday. The three others were identified as Al-Qaqaa engineers and are believed to be in Iraq, authorities said.
The indictment says that, in discussions with an undercover agent, the Iraqis did not specifically say the triggers would be used to detonate nuclear warheads. But they insisted on design specifications ″that left nothing to the imagination,″ said John C. Kelley, who directs the U.S. Customs Service’s strategic exports unit.
Kelley said the Iraqis also expressed an interest in obtaining other components of timing devices for the warheads.
The prospect of nuclear-warhead triggers being sold to Iraq ″is not only illegal, it is a very frightening situation we are dealing with,″ Customs Commissioner Carol Hallett said.
The indictment, returned last month by a federal grand jury, charges that Euromac (London) Ltd., and Atlas Equipment (U.K.) Ltd. acted on behalf of the Iraqi government to illegally obtain the devices.
Mrs. Hallett said Euromac was a purchasing agent for the Iraqi government and ″had done millions of dollars worth of business″ in buying arms for Iraq during that country’s war with Iran.
The indictment followed an 18-month undercover investigation conducted by U.S. and British customs agents.
The indictment’s description of Iraq’s alleged role in the scheme contradicts denials by Iraqi officials that their government is seeking to develop a nuclear arsenal.
The indictment said that Ali Ashour Daghir, who was ordered held without bond in London, was managing director of the companies.
Jeanine Speckman, who was released on bail after her appearance in a British court, was accused of being an executive for the companies who participated in the negotiations to buy the triggers.
The indictment charges that the companies and the five individual defendants conspired to illegally export the warhead-detonation capacitors made by CSI Technologies Inc., of San Marcos, Calif.
The indictment charged that the defendants did not seek export licenses from the State Department, as required by U.S. law, after ordering the detonators from CSI.
The defendants are also charged with money laundering, arising from the alleged transfer of $10,500 from Britain to CSI’s account with the Bank of America in Escondido, Calif., to pay for the detonators.
The indictment was returned Feb. 23 and amended with an additional charge last week. The Al-Qaqaa engineers charged in the indictment are Karim Dhaidas Omran, Dafir Al-Azawi and Wallid Issa Ahmad.
Al-Qaqaa is a weapons development unit of Iraq’s Ministry of Industry and Military Industrialization, the indictment said.
It was not immediately clear when, and if, the defendants in Britain could be extradited for the crimes charged in the indictment. Mrs. Hallett conceded there was ″little likelihood″ the three engineers believed to be in Iraq would ever be arrested.
Justice Department spokesman Dan Eramian said officials were reviewing which crimes charged in the indictment were subject to the U.S.-British extradition treaty.
″While we could request extradition tomorrow, according to the treaty they would not be extraditable until they go through the British legal system.″
The indictment charges the conspiracy began in September 1988, when the two British companies allegedly contacted a London representative of CSI about obtaining the detonators.
Mrs. Hallett said the company immediately notified Customs agents of the Iraqi overture. The company entered into negotiations that fall about the price and design specifications.
A representative of the British company told CSI officials that a delegation from Iraq had placed the order, the indictment stated.
Customs agent Daniel Supnick, posing as a CSI executive, joined the negotiations last fall in London, the indictment said.
To disguise the shipment, Speckman suggested that it be labeled as components for air conditioning, the indictment also said.
The money-laundering charges stem from the alleged transfer of money to further an illegal conspiracy.