Weapons Trader Allegedly Tied to China, Iran

Authorities arrested Laura Wang-Woodford when she entered the U.S. last month.

January 8, 2009, 1:42 AM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2008— -- A weapons trader wanted by multiple federal agencies for allegedly selling sensitive technology to Iran was arrested late last month, court documents and a U.S. government official confirm to ABC News.

On Dec. 24, Laura Wang-Woodford entered the United States to visit her elderly mother for the holidays -- but Customs agents at San Francisco International Airport were waiting to arrest her upon her arrival from Singapore.

Wang-Woodford, who was wanted by the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other U.S. authorities, runs a firm in Singapore called Monarch Aviation.

She has allegedly earned millions from her deals but had eluded U.S. law enforcement until her arrest. U.S. government officials say she has been selling munitions to Iran for more than 16 years.

She and her husband, U.K. national Brian Woodford, were indicted in 2003 by a federal grand jury in New York. The indictment remained under seal until late last year.

According to the indictment, the Woodfords sold sensitive munitions technology to Iran through Monarch.

One official briefed on the matter at the time of her arrest said Wang-Woodford was in possession of several items showing recent deals made by Monarch and documents relating to Chinese missile systems.

A letter filed with the court today by the U.S. Attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York mentions Wang-Woodford's travel to China and says she was in possession of a catalogue dealing with surface-to-air missile systems and rocket launchers.

"An examination of the defendant's luggage revealed two merchandise catalogues from the China National Precision Machinery Import and Export Corporation ("CPMIEC")," the letter says. "The United States Treasury Department has specifically designated CPMIEC as a Weapons of Mass Destruction proliferator. Due to this designation, all United States persons and entities are strictly prohibited from engaging in business with CPMIEC."

The letter also describes Monarch's alleged sales of banned munitions to Iran for Chinook helicopters and other aviation equipment.

"Specifically, the defendant illegally exported vane assemblies and bevel gears which are designed for Chinook military helicopters," it says.

The letter also states, "Monarch has been in the lucrative import/export business in Singapore for over fifteen years, and during that period is known to have exported goods worth millions of dollars."

According to the indictment in the case, as far back as 1998, the Woodfords used aviation companies based in Connecticut, Missouri and Texas to send aircraft parts to Monarch in Singapore before they were re-exported to Iran. The federal indictment refers only to sales and exports from 1998, but one official said the deals were far more extensive.

Authorities are still trying to locate Brian Woodford, who remains at large overseas. Wang-Woodford will appear at a detention hearing Friday.

The Justice Department will ask that she remain detained, as prosecutors consider her a flight risk.

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