CHICAGO (AP) — A Taiwanese businessman and his son have been charged in Chicago with endeavoring to bypass a U.S. ban on the export of machinery that could have been used for weapons production in North Korea, federal prosecutors announced Monday.
Hsien Tai Tsai, 67, and his 36-year-old son, Yueh-Hsun Tsai, face multiple charges, including one count each of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. in its enforcement of laws prohibiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
The father, who lives in Taiwan, was arrested Wednesday in Tallinn, the capital of the Baltic Sea-coast nation of Estonia; U.S. authorities are seeking his extradition. The son, a legal U.S. resident, was arrested on the same day last week at his home in Glenview, Ill., according to prosecutors.
The elder Tsai, who also goes by Alex Tsai, fell under suspicion of U.S. authorities at least as far back as 2008, when he was indicted in Taiwan for forging shipping invoices and illegally shipping restricted materials to North Korea, the U.S. Department of Treasury said in press release at the time.
After treasury officials accused him of shipping items to North Korea that could be used to support its advanced weapons program, the department placed a wide-ranging prohibition on him from doing any business in or with the United States.
It was the alleged bid to skirt that ban, with the son's alleged help, that led to the arrests and charges. Among the items they allegedly conspired to export was what prosecutors described as a Bryant center hole grinder, which is used to drill precise, smooth holes in metal, according to the compliant. The machinery got to Taiwan, but the complaint doesn't indicate if it might have reached North Korea.
Yueh-Hsun Tsai, who also goes by Gary Tsai, appeared in a federal courtroom in Chicago on Monday. Magistrate Judge Susan Cox agreed to his release on $500,000 bond. He will be confined to his home and will be under electronic monitoring.
Speaking to reporters later Monday, the younger Tsai's attorney said the machinery involved was "unsophisticated."
"And there is no allegation Mr. (Yueh-Hsun) Tsai knew it was destined for North Korea," the attorney, Ted Poulos, said. He added about the business deals involved, "It amounts to a rather benign business transaction."
In addition to the count of conspiracy to defraud U.S. proliferation laws, the father and son each face one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and one count of money laundering. The count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. carries a maximum of five-year prison sentence, while violating the economic powers act and money laundering each carry a maximum 20-year term.
Follow Michael Tarm at www.twitter.com/mtarm