Weapons-smuggling plot tied to Pa. executive on trial for trade violations

November 10, 1992|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

PHILADELPHIA -- Federal prosecutors have outlined massive international weapons-smuggling scheme during the trial of a former business executive accused of conspiracy and trade-law violations.

The attorney for Thomas Jasin of Lancaster, the first former executive of International Signal & Control to be tried on weapons-smuggling charges, told the court yesterday his client believed he was acting legally when he brought components for a South African Striker anti-tank missile into the United States for testing.

He said former Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr., who was a consultant for ISC, and officials from the CIA and the Army were aware of plans to import the missile components, but no one objected.

Sixteen other people were indicted with Mr. Jasin last year on charges that they engaged in the conspiracy, in which sophisticated military components were traded with South Africa violation of United Nations and U.S. arms embargoes.

James H. Guerin, 62, the founder of International Signal & Control, has pleaded guilty and earlier this year began serving a 15-year sentence at a federal penitentiary.

Mr. Jasin, 47, worked at ISC from 1984 until after the firm was bought by a British company in 1987. He has contended that he resisted Guerin's demands that he participate in weapons trade that would be illegal.

He has portrayed himself as a professional military specialist who was unaware of ISC's illicit activities as the company became mired deeper and deeper in corruption.

Mr. Jasin's attorney, Gaar Steiner, said in his opening statement that Mr. Jasin was demoted from his job as president of ISC Technologies Inc., a subsidiary of ISC, because he refused to cooperate with Mr. Guerin's efforts to share U.S. military technology with the South Africans.

"Tom Jasin cut out the South Africans," Mr. Steiner told the jury. "He had nothing to do with it. He got demoted because of it."

Mr. Jasin is accused of conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act and anti-apartheid legislation and of money-laundering and illegal trade in military material -- all related to the importation of the missile components and the testing of parts for the anti-tank weapon in the United States.

Mr. Jasin has said that he was involved in an ISC attempt to sell the South African missiles to China but that ISC's attorney had told him everything was legal. The deal, which was never completed, could have generated $500 million in sales for the Lancaster firm, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert E. Goldman told the jury.

The remaining defendants in the ISC case are expected to stand trial early next year.

Mr. Goldman tried to undercut Jasin's defense that Haig, CIA agents and other officials were aware of the imports of South African missile components into the United States.

"Haig was never told they were bringing in missile parts from South Africa," said Goldman.

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