Munitions Exports and International Crime
Not too long ago a Chinese national (and a permanent U.S. resident) was arrested by customs agents at a U.S. international airport. Employed at a New Jersey-based company as a technology engineer, he had been on his way to a conference in Shanghai.
He was charged by the U.S. government with export control law violations. Allegedly the laptop he was carrying contained technical “controlled data” on U.S. military technology. U.S. prosecution, seeking to prove criminal intent, argued: He knew that taking his laptop to China – with the controlled data on it – was in direct violation of U.S. law, specifically ITAR rules and regulations.
In 1976 Congress passed the Arms Export Control Act. The United States Munitions List (USML) is a part of this act. It covers hardware, components, parts, services and related technologies designated as defense- or space-related.
The Arms Export Control Act controls the import and export of these articles and services through the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). ITAR governs and regulates the USML. Frequently, the USML is also known as the ITAR List.
The ITAR list?
The list, specific and unambiguous, is divided into 16 categories. These categories include everything from shotguns to submarines, from grenade launchers to software, from mobile devices to tanks, from bullets to high-tech laser finders, from aircraft to chemicals.
In this age of heightened national security, terrorism and espionage, compliance with ITAR regulations is strictly enforced, primarily by the U.S. State Department (although other agencies, such as U.S. Customs or the Secret Service, are involved when required). Consequently, ITAR penalties are severe:
If found guilty of civil violations, fines as high as $500,000 for each listed offense can be enforced.
If found guilty of criminal charges, fines as high as $1,000,000 per each listed offense can be enforced. In addition, sentencing can include 10 years in prison for each count.
The example at the beginning of this piece describes a not-uncommon situation. An individual unwittingly is involved in an ITAR violation (in this case, the defendant had data he said he was still working on – which was why he was taking it with him). When questioned by authorities he asserted he had not been trained properly in export control compliance by his employer (he stated he had perhaps 15 minutes compliance training altogether – and that training also included a review of sexual harassment protocol).
Ultimately, who’s at fault? The employee? The company? This situation illustrates the obvious fact, that export-controlled information cannot be transferred out of – or accessed outside of – the U.S. without proper authority. But it also illustrates a common pitfall: Miscommunication or misunderstanding, either by an individual or a group – or both – can lead to charges, arrest, and possible prosecution.
Given the federal authority’s stern no-excuse approach to arrest and prosecution – and if you need a law firm specializing in Federal Criminal Defense – The Blanch Law Firm may be your answer.
The Blanch Law Firm is staffed by international criminal defense lawyers experienced in Munitions Export law. We are dedicated to acting swiftly – to fully investigate the circumstances and to fully understand our client. We believe the government, through its agencies, only presents half the story. Its heavy-handed prosecution often involves circumstantial or misleading evidence, even false accusations. We want to the whole story.
We are well-prepared for the confusing arena of Munitions Export law. We handle cases in the greater New York area, as well as in Los Angeles, Orange County, greater Southern California, Houston, TX, as well as overseas extradition.
If you are currently the focus of a Munitions Export criminal investigation – or if an investigation is pending – contact The Blanch Law Firm today by calling 212 736 3900. Initial consultations are complimentary and confidential.