2 men plead guilty in arms deal

Indonesians among 6 accused of seeking high-tech weapons

maryland

January 31, 2007|By Matthew Dolan | Matthew Dolan,Sun reporter

Two of the half-dozen men charged with paying undercover customs agents in Maryland to export restricted high-tech weapons to rebels in Sri Lanka and the Indonesian army pleaded guilty in a federal courtroom in Baltimore yesterday.

Dressed in prison clothing, Reinhard Rusli, 34, and Helmi Soedirdja, 33, both citizens of Indonesia, entered guilty pleas to attempting to illegally export arms and money laundering.

Prosecutors accused Rusli and Soedirdja of contacting undercover agents to buy monocular night vision and holographic weapons sight devices, which they indicated would be used by the Indonesian military.

On Aug. 31, court papers say, the defendants wired $2,950 from Indonesia to the United States to obtain a monocular night vision device and holographic weapons sight. The restricted military technology cannot be exported without a license or written authorization from the U.S. State Department.

The pair arrived in Guam from Indonesia on Sept. 21, court papers show. Shortly after, they met with undercover agents to examine the night vision devices, according to prosecutors. Authorities said that the Indonesian men also discussed the future acquisition of additional military gear.

They were arrested in Guam by U.S. immigration agents.

Rusli and Soedirdja could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on the money laundering charge and 10 years in prison for attempted exportation of arms.

But according to the terms of their plea agreement and comments from the presiding judge yesterday, the likely prison term for Rusli and Soedirdja will be about four to five years in prison when they are sentenced April 27.

The elaborate sting operation unfolded in Baltimore last summer when federal agents put up a Singapore arms broker at a four-star Inner Harbor hotel, arranged for him to attend religious services at a mosque in Laurel and took him to a shooting range in Harford County so he could test-fire machine guns they said he was interested in buying.

The ruse, authorities said, led representatives for the Tamil Tigers insurgents in Sri Lanka to deposit $700,000 with undercover agents as a down payment for millions of dollars in sniper rifles, submachine guns and grenade launchers. The arms dealers also inquired about unmanned air vehicles and buying surface-to-air missiles to shoot down Israeli-built aircraft in Sri Lanka, according to federal court papers.

The four remaining defendants, who have pleaded not guilty, remain in federal custody pending their joint trial scheduled for May.

matthew.dolan@baltsun.com

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