Thursday, September 29, 2005

Pakistani faces new charge in US for Smuggling aircraft components

The Dawn Pk:
A Pakistani, convicted of exporting missile parts to Iran almost 20 years ago, is being accused in a San Diego court of conspiring to smuggle jet engine components from the United States to Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates and Belgium.

Arif Ali Durrani, 55, was initially accused of illegally exporting through his defunct California-based company called Lonestar Aerospace, 110 compressor blades for the General Electric J-85 military aircraft engine to Jordan. Those charges were dropped on Sept 23 after the US Attorney's Office determined that the Jordan government had a license to receive the goods.

The same day, a new complaint was filed in San Diego federal court accusing Durrani of smuggling sections of military aircrafts this year and in 2004. He was charged with conspiring to ship a cockpit canopy panel for the T-38 trainer and numerous components for the turbine engine that powers the F-5 fighter. The shipments were completed, according to documents.

Assistant US Attorney William Cole declined to identify the buyers of the parts. However, Los Angeles Times reported that the Iranian Air Force has both T-38s and F-5s, which were purchased from the United States before the revolution in 1978. The F-5s, in particular, are falling into disrepair because of the US arms embargo against Iran, according to Global Security Org, which tracks international military matters. READ MORE

In 1987, Mr Durrani was found guilty on three counts of violating the Arms Export Control Act for illegally exporting missile parts to Iran. At trial, Durrani unsuccessfully argued that his actions were part of a US government-sanctioned covert operation in connection with the Iran-Contra affair. Among other claims, Mr Durrani alleged that his illegal arms shipments to Iran were authorized by Lt. Colonel Oliver North, the former National Security Council aide.

On April 2, 1987, a federal jury in Connecticut found Mr Durrani guilty on three counts of violating the Arms Export Control Act and the accompanying International Traffic in Arms Regulations in connection with his illegal exports. Mr Durrani was subsequently barred by the State Department from exporting any defence articles from the United States.

Durrani served his prison sentence and was released from prison in September 1992. Immigration officials then sought to deport him based upon his conviction. In January 1998, Durrani voluntarily left the United States for Mexico.