News and Press Releases

Singapore Businessman Convicted of Secretly Diverting U.s. Military and Civilian Aircraft Parts to the Islamic Republic of Iran

May 18, 2006

Defendant Also Found Guilty of Money Laundering Conspiracy

Following three days of trial, a federal jury in Brooklyn, New York, today returned a verdict convicting Singapore businessman ERNEST KOH CHONG TEK (“KOH”) of obtaining U.S. aircraft parts which can be used in the C-130 military transport plane and the P-3 Naval aircraft, and diverting those aircraft parts to Malaysia for transshipment to Iran, in violation of a 1995 United States embargo. In addition, the jury found that the defendant laundered millions of dollars from his bank accounts in Singapore through accounts in the United States to promote the ongoing illegal scheme.

“Exporters around the world should be on notice that when they trade in controlled U.S. technology, diversions to embargoed nations, such as the Islamic Republic of Iran, will be uncovered and prosecuted,” stated Roslynn R. Mauskopf, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

The defendant, who has remained incarcerated since his arrest in July 2005, represented himself during the trial. When sentenced by United States District Judge John Gleeson on September 15, 2006, he faces a maximum sentence of ten years imprisonment on the illegal export charge, 20 years imprisonment on the money laundering charge, and five years imprisonment on the conspiracy charge.

In 1995, the United States placed an embargo on all exports and re-exports to Iran of U.S. commodities without the approval of the U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control. At trial, the government established that in 2000, KOH and a co-conspirator previously convicted in the Eastern District of New York of illegally exporting aircraft parts to Iran, set up Turbo Aviation in Singapore for the purpose of secretly obtaining U.S. made civilian and military aircraft parts for Iran, including parts designed for the Chinook 53 and Bell UH-1 military helicopters. KOH obtained the aircraft parts from his co-conspirator, an American aircraft parts supplier, without applying for or receiving the required approvals from the U.S. government.

The government also established that in 2003, KOH purchased civilian aircraft parts from the same American supplier, including engine wheels and anti-icing vane assemblies worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, which can be used on the C-130 and the Navy’s P-3 military transport planes. To conceal the true end user, which was Iran Aircraft Industries, KOH sent false documents to an unwitting employee of the U.S. supplier stating that the aircraft parts were going to a company in Indonesia. In fact, KOH diverted the shipments of aircraft parts first to Turbo Aviation in Singapore, then to a Malaysian freight forwarder, where a second co-conspirator, Marcus Chua, placed the parts on a flight to Iran. Chua was previously convicted in the Eastern District of New York of illegally conspiring to ship U.S. aircraft parts to Iran in 2004, as part of this scheme. In total, the government’s evidence disclosed that between 2001 and 2004, KOH was responsible for illegally exporting approximately $2.6 million in aircraft parts to Iran.

In a secretly recorded conversation, KOH described how U.S. aircraft parts are regularly exported to Singapore and Malaysia, and then diverted to Iran. KOH also boasted that he could “walk right in” to Iran and obtain millions of dollars of orders for U.S. origin aircraft parts.

Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export enforcement Daryl Jackson stated, “Today’s verdict is the latest victory in our efforts to keep controlled U.S. goods out of the hands of the government of Iran. These efforts are a key component of U.S. foreign policy to induce Iran to end its proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and support of international terrorism.”

United States Attorney Mauskopf expressed her grateful appreciation to the United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement, New York and Miami Field Offices; and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, New York, for their outstanding efforts in this two-year investigation.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Elaine D. Banar.

 The Defendant

DOB: 4/14/52


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