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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 November 2005, 04:19 GMT
US lays missile smuggling charges
By Peter Bowes
BBC News, Los Angeles

A US grand jury has indicted two men on charges of conspiring with foreign nations to smuggle surface-to-air missiles into the United States.

The men are accused of planning to import missile systems designed to destroy aircraft.

Chao Tung Wu and Yi Qing Chen, are both naturalized US citizens born in China now living in California.

They were arrested after an undercover FBI investigation codenamed "Operation Smoking Dragon".

The operation was a wide-ranging investigation into smuggling activities in southern California.

Together with a related investigation in New Jersey, it resulted in the indictments of 87 individuals on charges relating to conspiracies to smuggle counterfeit US currency, drugs and other contraband.

Now, after a grand jury investigation, two of those arrested, Chao Tung Wu and Yi Qing Chen, are facing further charges that they conspired to import shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles.

They are alleged to have told undercover FBI agents that the missiles would not be used in the United States.

The plan is said to have involved disguising the weapons as civilian equipment.

The US attorney's office said the charges against the men mark the first time an anti-terrorism statute adopted a year ago had been used.

If found guilty, they could be sent to prison for at least 25 years or for life without the possibility of parole.

They are due to appear in court on Monday.

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