Three men accused of attempting to get missiles for the al-Qaeda terror network may have dropped their extradition fight in the hope of striking a deal with the US, legal experts said last night. Barrister Lawrence Lok SC said it was possible the defendants were hoping to receive a substantial reduction in sentencing. Under the US indictment, Pakistanis Syed Saadat Ali Faraz, 54, Muhammed Abid Afridi, 29, and Indian-born US citizen Ilyas Ali, 55, are accused of actively engaging in discussions with Federal Bureau of Investigation undercover agents to import and distribute 600kg of heroin and five tonnes of hashish in exchange for four Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. They allegedly told the FBI officers they intended to deliver the missile systems to al-Qaeda. The three were arrested in Hong Kong in September. The maximum sentence for the drug offences the three are facing is life imprisonment and a fine of up to US$4 million (HK$31.2 million). Supporting a terrorist organisation carries a 15-year term and a fine of US$250,000. Another senior lawyer specialising in extradition said there were other advantages in surrendering voluntarily, such as a reduction in the time spent in custody. He said it might be a smart tactical move because a US jury might have formed an adverse impression of them if they had resisted extradition. Deputy principal government counsel Wayne Walsh said the men's decision may have been sparked by the strength of the evidence against them. He said the three had been supplied with evidence from the US, including sworn statements from FBI undercover officers and American prosecutors as well as several audio and video tapes produced during a sting operation. This may have caused them to change their minds and not to fight extradition. 'One of the things that has changed since they were arrested . . . they were served with copies of all the evidence we received from the US,' Mr Walsh said. 'Sometimes once people have seen what the evidence against them is, they simply decide not to contest [extradition] any longer. The evidence is strong.' Mr Walsh said several audio and video tapes recording the telephone conversations and meetings between the defendants and the FBI agents both in the US and at a hotel in Hong Kong would have been played in court. One audio tape recorded conversations which took place in a boat in the US, he added. University of Hong Kong assistant law professor Eric Cheung Tat-ming said the three defendants probably believed they would lose in the extradition hearing, so they did not want to waste any more time here. Legislator and solicitor James To Kun-sun said the defendants might have believed that they had no chance of escaping the US government even if they won the extradition. 'The US might still seek their extradition if they were to go to other places,' he said.