Free Market Forces At Work?

Dual-Use Deceptions

April 12, 2008

A French company, Cryostar, pled guilty this week to a plot to smuggle cryogenic pumps from the U.S. into Iran. The pumps were manufactured by a U.S. corporation called Ebara, which pled guilty in 2004, and sent to Cryostar in France, who then changed the labeling and sold them to another French company, which sent them on to Tehran. Originally it was feared that the pumps were destined for Iran’s nuclear weapons program, but our government later learned they were going into a new offshore petrochemical station.

That story could have been much worse, but it’s frightening how many people around the world were in on this scheme and willing to run sensitive technology around our blockade of Iran. Bill Gertz suggests that some of the brass of Ebara’s parent company in Japan knew about the deception as well.

Meanwhile, in South Africa, an American citizen has been charged with running dual use electronic switches–used in nuclear detonators– into Pakistan.

Marisa Sketo was arrested in November nearly four years ago after Cape Town businessman Asher Karni was arrested on the same charge in the US.

It was alleged Sketo had worked with Karni, who pleaded guilty in the US Federal court and who was sentenced to three years in prison.

During Karni’s trial it had emerged he had imported triggered spark gaps, which have medical applications but may also be used to detonate bombs.

He said they were going to be used in a Johannesburg hospital in a machine that helped break down kidney stones but Karni passed the spark gaps on to Pakistan.

According to Sketo’s charge sheet, between June and November 2003, she had “intentionally and unlawfully imported and exported” 66 triggered spark gaps while working for a Green Point company owned by Karni.

This is an ongoing story that doesn’t get much press; the Pakistani businessman who was importing these devices is a fugitive at large. And again, it amazes me the risks these fools take to sell dangerous munitions to untrustworthy regimes.

Lenin is supposed to have said “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them”. He may have gotten the “we” wrong – Communism never quite got the job done – but the rope market is going strong.