International Smuggling Ring Linked to Iran Busted in Texas

An Oregon man, Robert Caldwell, was busted trying to buy batteries that power surface-to-air missile systems to sell to Iran, according to U.S. immigration officials.

Iran News is reporting this international smuggling ring story that was broke up in El Paso, Texas earlier this week:

Federal authorities in El Paso are investigating an international smuggling operation that allegedly tried to illegally export to Iran parts used in Hawk surface-to-air missile systems, which initially were developed for the U.S. military, court documents show.

One of the members of the alleged conspiracy, Robert Caldwell of Portland, Ore., was taken into custody last week in San Antonio as he tried to buy batteries that power Hawk missile systems, according to a government court affidavit obtained Tuesday by the San Antonio Express-News.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents allege in the affidavit that the batteries were to be shipped to Iran, which the State Department lists as a state sponsor of terrorism.

The affidavit, however, doesn’t mention the intended use of the batteries.

Caldwell, 56, is jailed in San Antonio on a charge of conspiring to export without a license items regulated by the State Department’s International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

Caldwell said that he thought the batteries had other uses other than powering surface to air missiles:

Caldwell was trying to make the battery purchase on behalf of Christopher Harold Tappin, a British man who had previously opened a business with a Cyprus-based export company, according to an affidavit signed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Ronald Marcell.

An individual from the Cyprus-based company led authorities to Tappin after being caught in an ICE sting operation.

Tappin tried to get batteries exported late last year, but because the undercover ICE agents told him they were held up by customs agents, Tappin told them he was working with Caldwell, the affidavit said.

When Caldwell was arrested, he told agents he was led to believe the batteries had applications other than powering the Hawk missile system and that they were for a navigational system. He acknowledged to the agents, however, that the batteries require a license for export outside the United States and he didn’t have one, the affidavit said.

Caldwell may end up spending 15 years in prison for the crime.
The Oregonian has more.
The Houston Chronicle reported:

Caldwell told (special agents) that he knew it was illegal to do this, but did not know the consequences,” the affidavit said.

He will soon enough.

Jules Crittenden has more from the Road to Tehren.

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