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The Los Angeles Times September 27, 2005

Man Charged in Illegal Shipment of Jet Parts

The arms dealer was convicted in 1987 of selling U.S. missile technology to Iran.

By Tony Perry

SAN DIEGO — An international arms dealer who served five years in prison after a 1987 conviction for selling U.S. missile guidance systems to Iran was accused Monday of conspiracy to illegally export military aircraft parts from the United States to unnamed parties in Malaysia, Belgium and the United Arab Emirates.

Arif Ali Durrani, a 55-year-old Pakistani national, was charged by federal prosecutors 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 U.S. Atty. William Cole declined to identify the buyers of the parts.

The Iranian Air Force has both T-38s and F-5s, which were purchased from the United States before the Islamic revolution began in 1978. The F-5s, in particular, are falling into disrepair because of the U.S. arms embargo against Iran, according to GlobalSecurity.org, which tracks international military matters.

Durrani was already in federal custody in Los Angeles when the San Diego charge was filed.

The arms dealer, who was deported from the United States in 1995, was living an affluent lifestyle in Rosarito Beach in Baja California when he allegedly conspired with two other men in the United States to help him buy and ship the parts.

In June, Durrani was seized by Mexican authorities and put on a plane purportedly headed for Pakistan.

When the plane stopped in Los Angeles, he was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and charged with attempting to illegally export jet engine parts to Iran.

That charge was dropped Friday by a federal judge in Los Angeles.

San Diego federal prosecutors plan to ask the federal court in Los Angeles to transfer Durrani to face the charge leveled in their city.

Durrani is charged under the Arms Export Control Act, which empowers the president to control export of "defense articles," including parts for military aircraft.

The law "exists to prevent exactly the type of conduct this defendant engaged in," said U.S. Atty. Carol Lam.

Richard Tobey, an official with an aircraft parts company in Temecula, pleaded guilty in August to his role in the conspiracy and is awaiting sentencing, according to court documents.

A second man identified only as an "uncharged co-conspirator" also is aiding authorities.

As part of his 1987 conviction in Connecticut, Durrani was barred from participating directly or indirectly in the export of military parts.

In multiple unsuccessful appeals, Durrani said he was working as part of the Iran-Contra operation headed by Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North.


Copyright 2005, Los Angeles Times