Four Singaporeans, accused by the U.S. of smuggling radio parts found in Iraqi bombs, denied any wrongdoing in challenging an extradition request from the U.S.
Lim Yong Nam, Lim Kow Seng, Benson Hia Soo Gan and Wong Yuh Lan appeared before a Singapore judge today and said they had no intention to contravene any U.S. laws or take part in any conspiracy.
“I truly believed I entered into an ordinary business transaction,” Lim Yong Nam said in a statement read out in court.
The four, who were arrested in Singapore in October, had allegedly duped a Minnesota-based company into selling them 6,000 radio communication devices for use in Singapore. Instead, the equipment was shipped to Iran. The U.S. has also accused Hossein Larijani, an Iranian, of being involved in the conspiracy which violated U.S. export control laws.
According to an indictment issued in the District of Columbia, the accused are charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S., smuggling, illegal export of goods from the U.S. to Iran, illegal export of defense articles from the U.S., false statements and obstruction of justice.
Iraqi bombs used to attack U.S. troops were traced to the scheme, U.S. prosecutors said in charges against the Iranian and four Singaporeans. At least 16 of the radio modules were found in unexploded improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, in Iraq, U.S. prosecutors had said.
Hia said he didn’t know the radio parts required an export license.
“We’re innocent,” he told reporters after the hearing. “We are dragged through the mud for nothing.”
Cheng Tai Heng, an expert witness for Lim Yong Nam, Lim Kow Seng and Hia, testified the charge of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. isn’t an extraditable offense under a treaty between the two countries. Cheng is professor of law at New York Law School.
Lim Yong Nam was granted bail of S$100,000 ($77,000) after his lawyers submitted a psychiatric report while the other three have remained in custody.
Admiral Mike Mullen, then chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, in September reiterated assertions he and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates had made that Iran, which is predominantly Shiite Muslim, is furnishing new, more deadly weapons to Shiite militias targeting U.S. troops across the border in Iraq, following a lull that began in 2008.
Shipments to Iran
From June 2007 through February 2008, the defendants used their Singapore-based companies to buy the components from the Minnesota manufacturer then sent them to Iran in five shipments, according to the indictment. The modules, used to remotely detonate bombs, include encryption capabilities and can transmit data wirelessly as far as 40 miles (60 kilometers), the U.S. prosecutors said.
The defendants told the company and the U.S. government that the modules were to be used for a telecommunications project in Singapore, according to U.S. prosecutors.
Three Singapore companies owned by or affiliated with the defendants were charged: Opto Electronics Pte Ltd., NEL Electronics Pte. Ltd., and Corezing International Pte. Ltd. Paya Electronics Complex, an Iran-based company owned by Larijani, was also charged, according to U.S. prosecutors.
Larijani, who lives in Iran, remains at large, the prosecutors said.
The Singapore case is PP v Hia Soo Gan Benson & 3 Ors W/Appl 4/2011 in the Singapore Subordinate Court and the U.S. case is U.S. v. Larijani, 10-cr-174, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Tan in Singapore at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Douglas Wong at email@example.com