Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Two men were indicted yesterday in Los Angeles on charges of attempting to illegally import Chinese shoulder-fired missiles into the United States.

Chao Tung Wu, 51, of La Puente, Calif., and Yi Qing Chen, 41, of Rosemead, Calif., were charged with conspiracy to import missile systems designed to destroy aircraft. It is the first time charges have been filed based on a 2004 law that makes it illegal to deal in shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, law-enforcement officials said.

Officials said Mr. Wu and Mr. Chen were caught in a sting and were conspiring to import Chinese-made QW-2 anti-aircraft missiles and launchers.

The scheme involved a deal between an undercover federal agent and Mr. Wu and Mr. Chen, along with a Chinese company, unindicted co-conspirators in China — including a Chinese general — forged papers from a foreign defense ministry, and illegal payoffs to the relative of a foreign president, who was not identified.

The plan called for using a third country to mask the order for the missiles from the manufacturer, but the missiles would be shipped to the United States in containers.

The missiles, among 24 containers of arms, were to be identified in shipping documents as civilian machine parts.

One payment in the deal called for offering a $2 million bribe to a foreign official to allow an unidentified country to transship the missiles.

A sales brochure in the case described the missiles as built to attack U.S. F-15, F-16 and A-10 jets, AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, Tomahawk cruise missiles, and a missile-firing unmanned aerial vehicle.

China’s QW-2 missile was first made public in 1998 and is similar in design to Russia’s SA-16 Igla. The missile has an infrared guidance system and can hit aircraft up to three miles away.

The missile case was first reported by The Washington Times on Oct. 26.

Both men were arrested in August in a U.S. law-enforcement operation known as Smoking Dragon that identified 59 persons suspected of involvement in an international ring that trafficked in counterfeit cigarettes, illegal drugs and North Korean-made fake $100 bills known as supernotes.

“Operation Smoking Dragon uncovered an extremely sophisticated smuggling operation that included the production of counterfeit goods and their distribution across the country,” said U.S. Attorney Debra Wong Yang in Los Angeles. “Today’s indictment shows a willingness of the smugglers to acquire practically anything for importation — no matter how dangerous or destructive.”

U.S. law-enforcement officials identified the missile manufacturer as the Xinshidai Group, a conglomerate of Chinese state-run manufacturers that has been hit by sanctions by the U.S. government for arms sales.

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