A federal grand jury in Tampa, Florida has returned an indictment charging a Philippine national with smuggling and violations of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA). Arrested last month in Los Angeles, Henson Chua from Manila, Philippines, was not your most creative arms smuggler.
According to the indictment, Chua, a legal U.S. resident, “knowingly and willfully caused the temporary import into the United States of an item designated as a defense article on the U.S. Munitions List, namely an RQ-11B “Raven” Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), and aided and abetted the attempted export from the United States of the same item, without having first obtained from the U.S. Department of State a license or written authorization.”
AeroVironment, the Monrovia, California company that makes the Raven did not have a comment. The company website says the Raven B is a lightweight system “designed for rapid deployment and high mobility for both military and commercial applications requiring low-altitude reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition.” Read more the Raven, here; promotional video below.
Chua brought the Raven into the country, seems he needed some extra cash, and posted the Raven for sale on eBay. He was discovered by undercover agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division. Not the most sharpest tool in the arms traffickers shed. If convicted, and it appears that he should, Chua could be facing up to twenty years in federal prison.
No amount of export control reform can stop people like Chua from violating the AECA and other trade security laws and regulations. Events such as this one are reminders to policymakers in this town that tinkering with the current trade security regime should be done carefully, especially when deciding on a new control list (or lists); as well as how sensitive technologies yet unknown will be controlled in the future.