Singapore pair face jail in US for exporting military parts

TWO Singaporeans are due to be sentenced in the United States for their role in a plot to export military equipment - some of which allegedly ended up in explosives in Iraq.

Benson Hia Soo Gan, 45, and Eric Lim Kow Seng, 44, have pleaded guilty to trying to sneak antennas out of the US.

They are also linked to a company charged with exporting 6,000 radio frequency modules, the kind said to have been found in the Iraqi improvised explosives.

Hia and Lim - who were extradited from Singapore after a lengthy legal battle - both face up to five years in jail and a fine up to US$250,000 (S$314,000) when they are sentenced in September.

The pair are said to have used false names and front companies to obtain the equipment - which was ultimately destined for Iran.

After buying the 55 cavity- backed spiral and biconical antennas from a firm in Massachusetts, they arranged for them to be exported to Singapore and Hong Kong without the necessary State Department licence.

The duo - who worked in the electronic parts distribution business before their arrest by Singapore police in 2011- allegedly undervalued the equipment on export declaration forms to get around US procedures.

Last month, they each pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiring to defraud the authorities.

The antennas they exported can be used on either aircraft or ships.

For example, they can form part of radar detection systems.

Both men have also been named as principal officers of a Singapore-based company charged with exporting 6,000 radio frequency modules.

Some of these were later found in Iraq, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Corezing International was investigated by agents from US Homeland Security, the FBI and the Department of Commerce, in an investigation which spanned Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Iranian Amin Ravan, who is said to be an agent of the company, was charged last year with offences including breaching the US arms embargo on Iran.

Meanwhile, the Singapore Court of Appeal yesterday released its 40-page decision grounds explaining why it dismissed Hia and Lim's bid to avoid extradition last November.

Both men had sought leave to appeal after a High Court judge refused their application to be freed from detention.

Hia's lawyers argued that there were public interest questions at stake.

But the three-judge Court of Appeal held that this was not relevant to the judge's decision, while Lim's application was filed too late.

"As these grounds alone warranted the dismissal of the parties' applications, we did not even have to consider whether their alleged questions of law were even questions of public interest to begin with," wrote Judge of Appeal V. K. Rajah.

vijayan@sph.com.sg