Two Egyptians, Rocket Specialist Accused In Illegal Export Scheme
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ A noted rocket specialist, two Egyptian army officers and two others have been charged with illegally exporting U.S. technology used in sophisticated weapons like the Stealth bomber and missile nose cones.
All were charged Friday with illegal export and money laundering, and conspiring to ship hundreds of pounds of a substance called carbon-carbon, or carbon composite, to Europe and Egypt.
Rocket specialist Abdelkader Helmy, described by U.S. Attorney David Levi as the director of the American end of the alleged international export ring, was jailed Friday in Sacramento County Jail. A detention hearing was scheduled Monday in federal court.
The special carbon material, developed in the United States, is used extensively in high-speed aircraft, missiles and rockets because it has a low visibility level to radar and is heat resistant.
The carbon is on the federal restricted list, and requires special licenses to be exported.
Two of those named in the complaint filed by the U.S. attorney’s office were in custody Friday, and a third was at large but expected to surrender voluntarily. The remaining two, both Egyptian army colonels with diplomatic immunity, were free - one in Austria and the other in the United States.
″This is conspiracy with deep roots in the Sacramento area,″ Levi said in announcing the government’s 35-page complaint.
Helmy, an Egyptian with American citizenship, received $1 million in payments from apparent Egyptian sources through a Swiss-based bank for his role in the scheme, U.S. authorities said.
Carbon-carbon ″is an American technology that shouldn’t be given to foreign nations,″ said Dan Brown, a spokesman for Aerojet Solid Propulsion Co., which employed Helmy.
The Egyptians apparently intended to use the material in a program with Argentina to develop a surface-to-surface missile, Reagan administration officials told The New York Times.
Levi said Aerojet cooperated with federal agents who conducted the investigation. The probe is still under way, Levi added.
Hundreds of pounds of the carbon composite were believed to have been shipped to a Washington, D.C., building owned by the Egyptian government, as an apparent stopover for eventual transfer to Egypt, investigators said.
About 430 pounds of the material was seized at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport Friday as the defendants allegedly attempted to take it out of the country on an Egyptian C-130 military air transport.
The alleged operation apparently began last year, headed overall by an Egyptian colonel based in Vienna, Austria.
Under arrest were Helmy of El Dorado Hills, Calif., a research engineer at Aerojet; and James Huffman of Lexington, Ohio, the Midwest marketing representative of Teledyne, McCormick, Selph, a defense aerospace company based in Hollister, Calif. Helmy’s wife, Albia Eltayeb Helmy, was also named in the complaint and was scheduled to surrender voluntarily.
The two Egyptian army colonels are Mohamed Abdella Mohamed of Baltimore and Hussam Yossef of Salzburg, Austria. Mohamed, who was detained, claimed diplomatic immunity and was immediately released. Justice Department spokesman John Russell said Yossef wasn’t in custody, but Levi said officials sought to interview him in Austria.
The complaint alleged that Helmy, using his technical knowledge, directed Huffman to buy various chemicals and supplies and ship them to Baltimore, where Mohammed made plans to ship them without complying with U.S. export controls.
Brown said Helmy apparently used ″his position in our plant″ to receive sensitive materials. A woman answering the phone at his home about 110 miles northeast of San Francisco refused to talk to a reporter. ″I have no comment on this at all,″ she said.
Mohammed Wahby, press attache at the Egyptian Embassy, said officials here were awaiting additional details from the Justice Department before they would comment on the charges.
Egypt, the second-biggest recipient of U.S. aid after Israel, gets $1.3 billion in military assistance annually and $815 million in economic support funds.