Documents Reveal Arms Dealer Lived The Good Life
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) _ Arif Durrani had it all - expensive cars, a million-dollar California home, a profitable corporation, international travel and a mistress at his side.
His route to wealth came through dealing arms, including some illegally targeted for Iran, federal documents indicate.
Durrani’s life of luxury was abruptly interrupted in October when a Connecticut-based arms supplier tipped federal agents, who arrested Durrani in Danbury on a charge of illegally exporting Hawk guided-missile parts for Iran.
U.S. District Judge T.F. Gilroy Daly denied bail for Durrani, a Pakistani national, writing that the arms dealer ″enjoys an exorbitant lifestyle replete with material luxuries and one which causes him to travel the globe to meet with his business associates.″
Federal documents show Durrani, 37, owns two Porsche sports cars, a Mercedes Benz, a Rolls-Royce, an airplane, and a home in Westlake Village near Los Angeles that he bought for $955,000 in 1984.
Durrani, jailed since his Oct. 3 arrest, blamed his troubles on a Belgian corporation and a New York shipping company in a motion seeking his release on bail.
The motion, filed this week in federal court in Bridgeport, contends that Durrani was merely a buyer, tracking down salvaged and reconditioned parts. It asks Daly to reconsider bail, especially in light of allegations the Reagan administration also sold arms to Iran.
″If, in fact, the government was shipping things out without Customs approval, and, in fact, the policy of the government was to ship arms to Iran, it seems to me we ought to look at what my fellow’s claimed to be doing in a very different light,″ said Durrani’s attorney, Ira B. Grudberg.
Grudberg refused to say whether Durrani had any connection with the government arms dealings.
U.S. Attorney Stanley Twardy said this week that Durrani had no connection to the Reagan administration and that he plans to prosecute Durrani because the arms dealer was acting for ″his own venal purposes.″
Durrani was charged with illegally exporting $22,000 worth of parts for Hawk anti-aircraft missiles. The government also contends he purchased $347,000 worth of parts, including 25 Klystron tubes used in the Hawk missile radar system.
The government says the goods were to be shipped to Belgium and from there directed to Iran and other locations not specified.
Durrani was working as an agent for California-based Merex Inc., of which he was chairman. At the time of his arrest he sold his interest in the company for $500,000 to his partner, federal documents show.
Durrani told a federal magistrate that Merex sold aircraft components and had gross annual sales of about $16 million.
Durrani came to the United States in 1973 and received a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Southern California. He was given a substantial line of credit when his mother opened a $2 million account with the Bank of Credit & Commerce in Los Angeles.
The documents say Durrani’s family made its fortune selling arms in Pakistan. But the line of credit was exhausted at the time of Durrani’s arrest.
Daly said he denied bail in part because Durrani lied in order to conceal from the court and his pregnant wife the existence of his mistress, and because Durrani had instructed friends at least twice on Oct. 3 to destroy documents at Merex.
Durrani’s mistress, Catherine Swann of Thousand Oaks, Calif., told investigators how Durrani formed a new corporation with her in an attempt to protect assets from his wife, whom he intended to divorce.
Swann also told investigators of a two-week international jaunt that ended with Durrani’s arrest. She said they often took trips to Brussels, Belgium; Frankfurt, West Germany, and Zurich, Switzerland, to make deals.
Contacted by telephone at home Friday, Swann said she didn’t want to talk about Durrani.
It was a deal with a company known as Comexas Air Freight in Brussels that led to Durrani’s arrest. Durrani claims he was buying the missile parts from Radio Research Instrument Co. of Danbury for Kram Ltd., another Brussels-based company, and was told to use Comexas as the shipper.
Kram officials could not be reached Friday at a telephone number listed on their letterhead. A Comexas official, who asked to remain anonymous, denied any connection with Durrani.
Durrani, however, has submitted to the court copies of cables from Comexas urging him to complete the deal for the missile parts.
Durrani was to deliver the parts to Comexas using Jetstream Freight Services of Valley Stream, N.Y. When the parts arrived at Jetstream, they were marked as goods for the Jordanian air force. Jetstream painted over the markings on the boxes.
″That’s normal procedure,″ said Henk Spreeuwenberg of Jetstream. ″A lot of people (arms dealers) don’t want to disclose the people they’re buying from.″
Spreeuwenberg said he didn’t know what was in the boxes, adding that Durrani had told him it was machine parts.
But Durrani’s attorney contends that Jetstream was at fault because it didn’t obtain the necessary export licenses.
The Customs Service was tipped to the deal by someone inside Radio Research. Agents working undercover helped transport the illegal goods and then make the arrest. Officials at Radio Research declined to be interviewd.