Washington: Illegal exports of weapons, military equipment and national security-related technology to potentially adversarial nations are on the rise, the US Justice Department reported Tuesday.
Of 145 people or companies charged with shipments last year, nearly half involved or 43% were exporting goods to Iran and China.
Federal prosecutors indicted three more men for allegedly conspiring to export material used in space and weapons technology to an academy that builds satellites for the Chinese government.
“Keeping US weapons technology and other restricted materials from falling into the wrong hands, and from being used against our allies, troops overseas or Americans at home, is a top counterintelligence priority,” assistant attorney General Pat Rowan said in a statement.
At issue is a growing number of unauthorized exports that the government says could be dangerous if the parts and supplies end up in the hands of terrorists or hostile nations. Officials are particularly worried about the export of restricted but seemingly harmless military items that can be used to make weapons of mass destruction.
Prosecutors described a 30% increase in 2008 of exporters violating US national security laws. Some of the illegally exported goods included assault weapons, missile technology, night vision goggles and trade secrets.
An estimated 74 exporters have been charged with sending goods to Iran over the last two years, and another 23 to China over the same period, said Justice spokesman Dean Boyd.
Additionally, more than 60 defendants were charged with exports to Mexico mostly arms shipments, Boyd said.
Tuesday’s indictment, unsealed in federal court in Minnesota, charges Jian Wei Ding, Kok Tong Lim and Ping Cheng with seeking to send to China carbon-fiber material that can be used in rockets, satellites, spacecraft, and to enrich uranium. Highly enriched uranium can be used to develop nuclear weapons.
The Justice Department said some of the carbon-fiber material being exported in the case allegedly was headed to the China Academy of Space Technology. The academy builds satellites for the Chinese government.