Wed, Aug 07, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Man pleads guilty to violating US arms export law

SUBCONTRACTING:Hwa Chih-kwang faces 15 to 21 months in jail for sending the specs for making PCBs for a classified weapons system to a firm in Taiwan

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

A printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturer who illegally sent secret US defense information to Taiwan has pleaded guilty to violating the Arms Export Control Act and wire fraud.

Precision Image Corp owner Hwa Chih-kwang is to be jailed between 15 and 21 months and fined US$300,000 when he is sentenced on Oct. 28.

Hwa, who runs the company from his home near Seattle, Washington, agreed to the sentence as part of a plea deal when he admitted the offense before US District Judge James Robart.

“Our national security depends upon protecting our military systems and their specifications,” a statement issued by US Attorney for the Western District of Washington Jenny Durkan said.

According to a US Department of Homeland Security investigation, between 2009 and 2011 Hwa won contracts from the US Navy to provide PCBs for a classified weapons system. The navy supplied Hwa with the technical specifications for the PCBs — information that was prohibited from being transmitted outside the US without a license from the US Department of State.

“Hwa knew about the restriction at the time he received the technical data from the navy,” the US Department of Homeland Security said.

Nevertheless, Hwa subcontracted a company in Taiwan to manufacture the PCBs — sending them the US Navy’s restricted technical specifications.

“US export controls are in place to keep sensitive technology from falling into the hands of our nation’s enemies,” said Brad Bench, a special agent in charge of US Homeland Security investigations in Seattle.

“One of our highest priorities is to prevent illicit procurement networks, terrorist groups and hostile nations from illegally obtaining military items and controlled dual-use technology,” he said.

Without the plea agreement, Hwa could have faced 20 years in prison and a US$1 million fine.

“Going on the cheap [using a Taiwanese manufacturer] gave this defendant an unfair advantage over other suppliers and risked our security,” Durkan said. “Protecting our military technical data and enforcing our export restrictions are critical priorities.”

When dealing with the US Navy, Hwa falsely claimed the boards would be made in the US.

The US Department of Homeland Security did not release the name of the Taiwanese company involved in the case.

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