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Tuesday, 30 April, 2002, 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK
US nuclear parts trafficker sentenced
Satellite picture of Israel's nuclear facility in Dimona
Israel denies the parts were to be used for nuclear weapons
An American physicist has been sentenced to 40 months in prison and fined $20,000 for trafficking components that could be used as triggers for nuclear weapons.

Richard Kelly Smyth, 72, and his wife spent 16 years on the run after he jumped bail in 1985 while awaiting trial.

[Escaping] was a grave mistake and error on my part... I wish I had never done it

Richard Kelly Smyth
He was finally found in the Spanish resort of Malaga last July and extradited.

In December Smyth, a former scientific adviser to the US Air Force and to Nato, pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Arms Export Control Act and to making a false statement to Customs. Prosecutors dropped 28 other counts.

He was immediately made eligible for parole at Monday's sentencing, due to his age and health problems.

Krytrons, the tiny electronic devices which Smyth was convicted of exporting, are used in high-speed photography, strobe lighting and photocopying machines, but can also be used in nuclear triggers.

Israeli involvement

Smyth was originally indicted for allegedly selling about 800 krytrons to an Israeli-based firm, Heli Corp, when he was president of the company Milco International Inc.

Then owner of Heli Corp, Arnon Milchan, denied involvement in the $60,000 krytron deal.

But he later said that the Israeli Government had used his company as a conduit for trading with the United States.

After Smyth was indicted, Israel returned most of the krytrons, denying that they were ever intended for use in nuclear weapons.

'Grave error'

Smyth told the court that he had decided to flee the United States because his attorney told him he would go to prison and media reports said he might receive a maximum sentence of 105 years.

"That was a grave mistake and error on my part," Smyth said.

"I wish I had never done it. My wife, Emilie, and I wish to spend the rest of our lives surrounded by our families and peers," he said.

See also:

24 Jul 01 | Middle East
Israeli nuclear secrets 'under threat'
23 Aug 00 | Middle East
Israel 'may have 200 nuclear weapons'
16 May 00 | South Asia
Online pictures highlight nuclear race
22 Feb 00 | Middle East
US increases nuclear ties with Israel
24 Nov 99 | Middle East
Vanunu trial extracts published
21 Oct 98 | Middle East
Book breaks Israel's nuclear taboo
13 Mar 98 | World
Israel ends 12-year solitary
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