Chinese man faces jail for smuggling US arms equipment

Philip Chaohui He admitted violating the Arms Export Control Act by trying to smuggle equipment worth nearly US$550,000 on to a Chinese-flagged ship

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 September, 2013, 9:18am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 September, 2013, 1:28pm

A 43-year-old Chinese national has pleaded guilty to breaching US arms export rules by trying to smuggle radiation-hardened satellite equipment to China, American prosecutors said on Friday.

Philip Chaohui He admitted violating the Arms Export Control Act by trying to smuggle equipment worth nearly US$550,000 on to a Chinese-flagged ship registered to the subsidiary of a state-owned company in 2011.

He - who used the alias Philip Hope - appeared in court earlier this week, and is being held in custody pending a sentencing hearing in December, said US Attorney for the District of Colorado John Walsh.

Under a plea agreement he faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to US$250,000, said a joint statement by Walsh and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit.

He was arrested after trying to smuggle 200 integrated circuits in several plastic infant formula containers, placed in sealed boxes labelled as “milk powder” in Chinese.

He had bought 312 of the radiation-hardened circuits from a Colorado manufacturer, identifying himself as representing California-based company Sierra Electronic Instruments (SEI), of which he was the only employee.

Investigators observed him meeting with two men in front of a ship docked in Long Beach, California, on December 11, 2011. The ship was registered to a subsidiary of Chinese state-owned company China Communications Construction.

“We have specific laws designed to protect sensitive American technology from getting into the wrong hands overseas,” said Walsh.

“Defendant HE attempted to smuggle export-controlled radiation-hardened computer chips to China, and faces serious punishment for his criminal activity.”

The purpose of the seized items was not known. But radiation-hardened electronics help aerospace designers to increase performance and reduce risks in space and in other radiation-prone environments, according to the website of US aviation giant Honeywell.

He will be sentenced on December 18 in Colorado, where he pleaded guilty on Tuesday.