Taiwan duo arrested in US for WMD plot

Taipei (The China Post/ANN) - Two Taiwanese nationals have been arrested and charged by US prosecutors for conspiring to provide parts to North Korea to aid in the construction of weapons of mass destruction, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday.

"The two arrested Taiwanese, surnamed Tsai, are father and son," Bruce Linghu, director-general of MOFA's Department of North American Affairs, said yesterday during a briefing.

The younger Tsai was arrested last week in Chicago, Linghu said. Taiwan's representative office in Chicago is scheduled to send staff to visit Tsai to offer assistance later this week.

The older Tsai was arrested in the Eastern European country of Estonia on the same day last week. Officials from Taiwan's representative office in Latvia have already met with the elder Tsai in an Estonian detention center, Linghu said.

The Estonian government, which has an extradition treaty with the US, is scheduled to send Tsai to the US for trial.

Both Taiwanese are charged with helping Pyongyang to construct weapons of mass destruction, Linghu said, but refused to disclose further details, citing ongoing investigations.

Following a hearing on Monday US time, the younger Tsai was reportedly released on a bond of US$500,000 under the condition that he wear an electronic monitoring device.

Linghu's remarks followed a statement released by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday which said the pair faces federal charges for conspiring to violate US laws designed to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Items to aid advanced weapons system

The statement identified the father and son as Hsien Tai "Alex" Tsai, 67, and Yueh-Hsun "Gary" Tsai, 36.

US prosecutors accuse the two of shipping items to North Korea that could be used to support its advanced weapons programme.

Among the items they allegedly conspired to export were what prosecutors described as "a Bryant center hole grinder," which is used to drill precise, smooth holes through elongated metal, it said.

Both men were charged in federal court with conspiring to defraud the US, conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) by evading restrictions, and money laundering, the FBI said.

Violating IEEPA carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a US$1 million fine; money laundering carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and a US$500,000 fine; and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. carries a maximum of five years in prison and a US$250,000 fine.

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