Hong Kong man charged with smuggling US military lasers 'stolen from army bases'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 January, 2013, 10:37am

A Hong Kong man has been charged with smuggling sensitive military lasers stolen from American army bases back into the United States.

It is not clear how Andy Leung Kwok-kuen, 38, got hold of the lasers, which pinpoint a target when attached to a firearm, because they are manufactured and sold under exclusive contracts to the US military or other law enforcement agencies.

Special Agent-in-Charge James Hayes, from US Customs' Homeland Security investigations team, said: "This technology is so sensitive that, if in the wrong hands, it can pose a threat to our national security."

Leung, who lives in Hong Kong, was arrested at San Francisco International Airport on Monday and appeared in court in California. The case was then moved to New York.

Five of the 10 lasers that he allegedly sold and illegally imported into the States between 2005 and 2009 are believed stolen from US military bases. Leung is said to have described them on customs documents as distance-measuring devices and a flashlight.

The battery-operated lasers weigh slightly more than the latest iPhone and emit a thin beam of light, invisible to the naked eye, onto a target. The laser can only be seen using night-vision equipment. Leung is also accused of selling and smuggling in a night-vision telescopic sight.

In total, the 11 items Leung allegedly smuggled in and sold were worth US$28,800, but he declared them to be worth HK$750.

Preet Bharara, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Leung had tried to "operate under the radar to import stolen equipment into the United States that could potentially be used as weapons".

Local police said they had not helped US authorities with the case. Hong Kong customs had no comment.

Leung is charged with eight counts of falsely classifying goods for entry into the US, eight counts of importing goods through false and fraudulent statements, eight counts of smuggling, and four counts of selling stolen military equipment.

The maximum penalty if convicted on all the charges is 142 years in prison.