Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Court papers made public yesterday in the case of a California man who pleaded guilty to trying to smuggle anti-aircraft missiles into the United States show that a Chinese general and state-run manufacturer are linked to the crime.

Chao Tung Wu, 51, of La Puente, Calif., pleaded guilty yesterday at U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to conspiracy to smuggle Chinese QW-2 anti-aircraft missiles into the United States. It was the first conviction under a 2004 anti-terrorism law aimed at preventing the spread of shoulder-fired and portable anti-aircraft missiles.

Wu and a second defendant who is awaiting trial, Yi Qing Chen, met an undercover FBI agent and sought to sell 200 QW-2s, as well as launcher and operational hardware for the missiles, according to court papers. A statement of facts read in court yesterday revealed that Wu had offered to provide enough missiles “for a regiment” of soldiers.

Wu told the undercover agent that the plan for getting the missiles out of China involved the help of a “corrupt customs broker” in China and falsified export papers, the statement said. The deal involved a “Gen. Wang” in China who was to supply the weapons.

China’s military has been linked to past illicit arms deals, including the attempted sale of AK-47 assault rifles to Los Angeles street gangs.

Wu informed the agent that there were 24 containers of weapons for sale, including the missiles, and that the minimum purchase would be eight containers.

Documents provided to the agent included a proposal for the sale from the Xinshidai company, which makes the QW-2 and other missiles.

“The weapons proposed in this deal with the [agent] included ‘QW-2 shoulder-fired missiles’ with a ‘ground energy unit,’ ‘firing unit,’ and ‘optical aiming device,’ and the proposal forwarded by defendant to the [agent] called for the sale of 200 such missiles for a total price of $18,308,100,” the statement said.

Last April, Wu told the agent that he had met with officials in China and that the daughter of the president of Cambodia would get a $2 million bribe for facilitating the arms deal. The two men sought to mask the missile deal by producing a forged letter saying the purchaser was the Defense Ministry of Paraguay.

At the hearing yesterday, Wu also pleaded guilty to conspiring to sell $2 million in counterfeit money to an undercover agent. Other guilty charges by Wu included an admission of distributing methamphetamine and Ecstasy, as well as millions of counterfeit-branded cigarettes.

The men were arrested last year in a federal sweep code-named Operation Smoking Dragon that netted 87 persons on charges of smuggling North Korean-made counterfeit $100 bills, illegal drugs and other contraband.

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