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US man jailed for smuggling anti-aircraft missiles

by Staff Writers
Los Angeles (AFP) May 9, 2011
A US man was jailed for 25 years on Monday for smuggling goods including surface-to-air missiles from China in the first conviction under a 2004 anti-terrorism law, officials said.

Yi Qing Chen was convicted last October on charges of smuggling drugs and counterfeit cigarettes as well as conspiring to import missile systems designed to destroy aircraft, the FBI said.

The evidence presented during the two-week trial showed that Chen, 49, conspired to smuggle Chinese-made QW-2 shoulder-fired missiles into the United States.

The guilty verdict was the first under an anti-terrorism law enacted in 2004 outlawing the import of missile systems designed to destroy aircraft, and carrying a minimum 25 year jail term.

"The defendant's willingness to smuggle surface-to-air missiles into this country .. is a frightening concept because there can be no confusion as to the purpose of such contraband," said the FBI's LA boss Steven Martinez.

The weapons never arrived in the US because of an FBI sting operation, but if they had they would have "potentially horrific consequences for innocent people," he added.

US Attorney Andre Birotte Jr said: "Mr. Chen was the first person in the nation to be indicted for plotting to smuggle anti-aircraft missiles into the United States after the 9/11 attacks.

"The 25-year sentence imposed today appropriately reflects the severity of the threat this conspiracy posed to the security of the United States," he added.

The sentencing came amid heightened security in the United States and elsewhere following the death of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, killed by US Navy SEALs in a house outside Islamabad.

In 2006, a second Chinese-born naturalized US citizen, Chao Tung Wu, pleaded guilty to various smuggling plots including the surface-to-air missile racket, but he died while awaiting sentencing.

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