Belgians charged with smuggling aircraft parts

By the Associated Press | May 17, 2011 | 7:43 PM EDT

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Two Belgian men smuggled millions of dollars' worth of helicopter and aircraft parts from the United States to Iran, according to a federal grand jury indictment.

The indictment alleges that Willy De Greef, 70, and Frederic Roland Nicolas Depelchin, 39, sent the parts to unidentified customers through their companies, Meca Airways Ltd. and Meca Overseas Airways Ltd, which were also named as defendants.

The U.S. attorney's office in San Diego said Tuesday that De Greef was arrested Friday in London by the Metropolitan Police, and the United States will seek extradition. Depelchin is at-large.

The defendants were charged with attempted export to an embargoed country, conspiracy, wire fraud, smuggling and money laundering. De Greef is also charged with making false statements.

It was not immediately clear of De Greef or Depelchin had attorneys.

The grand jury indictment was handed up in March and unsealed Friday. It alleged the Belgian brokers concealed from U.S. suppliers that the parts were going to Iran — a violation of federal law unless authorized by the Treasury Department.

The parts cited in the indictment included helicopter switches, fuel cells and turbine bypass valves.