Smuggler fined pounds 15,000 for Iran business deals

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The Independent Online
A businessman who smuggled aircraft and helicopter parts to Iran government procurement agencies was today fined pounds 15,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of pounds 5,000.

Terence Howe, 60, a former general manager of the British Hovercraft Corporation admitted the offence at Winchester Crown Court. His co-accused David Hartridge, 58, an aircraft engineer, who was said to have played a minor role in the operation, was fined pounds 500. Both men pleaded guilty.

The prosecution told the court that equipment - including parts for three types of military helicopters and the F4 fighter bomber aircraft - was sent to Iran by an Isle of Wight company called British Hovercraft and Marine Consultants, of which Howe was the sole proprietor. The goods were sent via a diversionary route to Zurich, Switzerland, and then forwarded to Iran, said Mr Stephen Kramer QC.

The parts had been specially designed for military use, though Mr Justice Tuckey made it clear that he sentenced the men on the basis that they believed the parts could also be put to civilian use. "Nevertheless," he said, "you knew they could not be exported without a licence and you deliberately chose to export the parts . . . without licences."

The judge said it was a serious offence which in Howe's case was aggravated by the fact that his attention had been drawn to the prohibition in 1992. Howe had, he said, set out to try and conceal what he was doing by routing the exports through Switzerland.

"I don't think it matters who suggested doing this, you say it was the Iranians, the prosecution say it was you. The fact is you did it and the reason was to avoid the prohibition."

In sentencing, the judge said he had taken into account the scale of the trade. About $183,000 (pounds 119,000) had been involved in 13 separate transactions in the context of Howe's much larger legitimate business. He also took into account the nature of the parts involved which were "bits and pieces" rather than things which could obviously be labelled military.

The judge told Howe he had come "perilously close" to being sent to prison.

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