Two foreign nationals, Hia Soo Gan Benson (Benson Hia) and Lim Kow Seng (Eric Lim), have been extradited from Singapore to stand trial in the District of Columbia in connection with an alleged fraud conspiracy involving the unlawful export of military antennas from the United States to Singapore and Hong Kong. The indictment, originally filed on June 23, 2010, also alleges that the ultimate object of a second conspiracy was to conceal from the U.S. Government that the true destination of another set of antennas was Iran.
According to the indictment both Benson and Seng are charged with 6 criminal counts. Two of the counts are distinct conspiracy charges. The first conspiracy relates to the defendants’ roles in procuring antennas from the United States that were eventually shipped to Iran through Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. The second conspiracy relates to the defendants’ roles in procuring a different kind of antenna from the United States without first applying for a license from the State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Control (DDTC).
In relation to the above-mentioned conspiracies, the defendants have also been charged with one count of false statements (18 U.S.C. 1001) in connection with license applications filed with the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), one count of false statements (18 U.S.C. 1001) in connection with statements made to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in the second conspiracy, one count of smuggling (18 U.S.C. 554) in connection with the second conspiracy, and one count of illegally exporting controlled products with DDTC licenses (22 U.S.C. 2778) in violation of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA).
With regards to the defendants’ specific cases, it may be important for defense counsel to explore whether the two distinct counts of conspiracy are superfluous, especially given the similar conduct and goals involved with both conspiracies. If a review of discovery actually unveils the two conspiracies to in fact be one large conspiracy, defense counsel may decide to move the court to dismiss one of the conspiracy counts.
More telling however, is the U.S. Government’s continued focus on prosecuting export related crimes. This is also consistent with what many people in this field have been dicussing. For example, in 2008 the Department of Justice formed the Export and Anti-proliferation Global Law Enforcement (EAGLE) Task Force. The goal of this task force was to bring together the different federal agencies focused on counter-proliferation work and allow them to share resources and knowledge in this complex area, as well as increase the number of prosecutions in this area.
This level of coordination of resources and increased focus by the federal government requires defense counsel to be even more vigilant. Protecting a defendant’s Constitutional rights becomes even more important because many of the federal agencies working together in this task force may not be familiar with rights afforded criminal defendants because they are civil administrative bodies, and not law enforcement agencies. Moreover, many foreign nationals may not be familiar with the rights afforded to defendants in the U.S. criminal justice system. As such, advising foreign clients to assert their Fifth Amendment rights at various stages of an investigation (including extradition) becomes even more critical in this new era of federal coordination in export control cases.
The author of this blog is Erich Ferrari, an attorney specializing in Federal Criminal Defense matters. If you have any questions please contact him at 202-280-6370 or email@example.com.
The DOJ recently reported that five individuals and four of their companies have been indicted as part of a conspiracy to defraud the United States that allegedly caused thousands of radio frequency modules to be illegally exported from the United States to Iran, at least 16 of which were later found in unexploded improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq. Some of the defendants are also charged in a fraud conspiracy involving exports of military antennas to Singapore and Hong Kong.
Authorities in Singapore arrested Wong Yuh Lan (Wong), Lim Yong Nam (Nam), Lim Kow Seng (Seng), and Hia Soo Gan Benson (Hia), all citizens of Singapore, in connection with a U.S. request for extradition. The United States is seeking their extradition to stand trial in the District of Columbia. The remaining individual defendant, Hossein Larijani, is a citizen and resident of Iran who remains at large.
The indictment alleges that the defendants conspired to defraud the U.S. and defeat export controls by sending U.S.-origin components to Iran rather than to their stated final destination of Singapore. The government has stated that this case undescores the continuing threat posed by Iranian procurement networks seeking to obtain U.S. technology.
The indictment, which was returned in DC on Sept. 15, 2010, and unsealed on October 25, 2011, includes charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S., smuggling, illegal export of goods from the United States to Iran, illegal export of defense articles from the U.S., false statements, and obstruction of justice.
The charged defendants are Iranian national Larijani, 47, and his companies Paya Electronics Complex, based in Iran, and Opto Electronics Pte, Ltd., based in Singapore. Also charged is Wong, 39, an agent of Opto Electronics who was allegedly supervised by Larijani from Iran. The indictment also charges NEL Electronics Pte. Ltd., a company in Singapore, along with NEL’s owner and director, Nam, 37. Finally, the indictment charges Corezing International Pte. Ltd., a company in Singapore that maintained offices in China, as well as Seng, 42, an agent of Corezing, and Hia, 44, a manager, director and agent of Corezing.
Wong, Nam, Seng and Hia allegedly conspired to defraud the United States by impeding U.S. export controls relating to the shipment of 6,000 radio frequency modules from a Minnesota company through Singapore to Iran, some of which were later found in unexploded IEDs in Iraq. Seng and Hia are also accused of conspiring to defraud the United States relating to the shipment of military antennas from a Massachusetts company to Singapore and Hong Kong. Singapore has agreed to seek extradition for Wong and Nam on the charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States relating to the components shipped to Iran, and to seek extradition for Seng and Hia on the charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States relating to the military antenna exports.
In coordination with the criminal actions taken, the Commerce Department Bureau of Industry and Security announced the addition of 15 persons located in China, Hong Kong, Iran and Singapore to the Commerce Department’s Entity List. In addition to the five individual defendants in this case, the Commerce Department named additional companies and individuals associated with this conspiracy. In placing these parties on the Entity List, the Commerce Department is imposing a licensing requirement for any item subject to Commerce regulation with a presumption that such a license would be denied.
The United States aggressively enforces its export control and national security laws to ensure continued compliance with regulations expounding U.S. national security and foreign policy interests. Criminal prosecutions such as the ones announced in this indictment usually denote willful violations of the regulations. By lying to investigators and regulators, these individuals and companies find themselves in the unenviable position being charged with crimes that put them at direct odds with the stated national security and foreign policy goals of the United States.
The author of this blog is Erich Ferrari, an attorney specializing in Federal Criminal Defense matters. If you have any questions please contact him at 202-280-6370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.