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Counter Proliferation Investigation Unit
05/17/2011

2 Belgian citizens indicted for smuggling aircraft components

1 defendant arrested by London Metropolitan Police; US seeks extradition

SAN DIEGO - A federal grand jury has charged two individuals and two companies with 15 felony charges arising from the smuggling of helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft components from the United States to Iran. The indictment is the result of an extensive and lengthy investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

On Tuesday, Willy A.E. De Greef, 70, Frederic Roland Nicolas Depelchin, 39, Meca Airways LTD and Meca Overseas Airways LTD were charged by superseding indictment. Both De Greef and Depelchin are citizens and residents of Belgium.

On May 13, the Metropolitan Police arrested De Greef in London, England. Depelchin remains a fugitive. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California Laura E. Duffy stated that her office will now seek De Greef's extradition to the United States.

In addition to the 15 felony charges, De Greef is also charged with two counts of making false statements to the U.S. government concerning the alleged smuggling ring. The indictment alleges that De Greef and Depelchin brokered aircraft parts through Meca Airways LTD and Meca Overseas Airways LTD, each headquartered in Belgium.

According to the indictment, De Greef, Depelchin and their companies regularly received purchase orders and requests from co-conspirators and customers in Iran for U.S.-origin helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft parts, which the defendants would then purchase from U.S. suppliers. The indictment alleges the defendants intentionally concealed from U.S. suppliers that the parts were intended for, and would be delivered to, Iran. Instead, the defendants falsely certified and promised to U.S. suppliers that the goods would not be diverted or transferred to Iran. According to the indictment, however, when the defendants received the aircraft parts in Belgium, they routinely diverted the parts to their customers in Iran. The indictment alleges the defendants smuggled millions of dollars' worth of aircraft parts from the United States to Iran.

U.S. law broadly prohibits the exportation, sale or supply of goods from the United States to Iran, unless expressly authorized by the U.S. Treasury Department. According to the indictment, the defendants never received any such authorization.

The original indictment was handed up on March 8, but remained sealed until May 13.

The charges arise from a lengthy investigation by ICE HSI and the U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Criminal Investigative Service.

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

  • Count 1 : Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud and to Defraud United States, Title 18, United States Code, Section 371; Maximum Penalties - 5 years in prison and $250,000 fine
  • Count 2: Conspiracy to Export to Embargoed Country, Title 50, United States Code, Sections 1702 and 1705(b) and Title 31, Code of Federal Regulations, Sections 560.203 and 560.204; Maximum Penalties - 20 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine
  • Counts 3-4: Attempted Export to Embargoed Country, Title 50, United States Code, Sections 1702 and 1705(b) and Title 31, Code of Federal Regulations, Sections 560.203 and 560.204; Maximum Penalties - 20 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine
  • Counts 5-11: Wire Fraud, Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343; Maximum Penalties - 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine
  • Counts 12-13: Smuggling Goods from the United States, Title 18, United States Code, Section 554; Maximum Penalties - 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine
  • Counts 14-15: Money Laundering, Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(a)(2)(A); Maximum Penalties - 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine
  • Counts 16-17: False Statements to Federal Agency, Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001; Maximum Penalties - 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine