A man carrying boxes of technical manuals for fighter bombers was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport after authorities concluded that he was taking the manuals to South Africa in violation of a U.S. arms embargo, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court.
Edward James Bush, 51, of Agoura, was arraigned Monday on charges of violating the federal Arms Export Control Act. If convicted, he could face a $1-million fine and up to 10 years in prison for each count.
A U.S. State Department official said the export to South Africa of any published material with possible military application is banned.
Bush allegedly was working as a private consultant for Newport Aeronautical Sales, a Costa Mesa-based firm specializing in selling non-classified military data to prospective government contractors, according to the complaint.
Prosecutors allege that the General Electric engine generator manuals in Bush's possession cannot be taken out of the country without export licenses. Bush checked three white boxes and a blue suitcase before he entered the boarding area for his flight, the complaint said.
Acting on information provided by the FBI, U.S. Customs Service agents arrested Bush Friday afternoon as he was about to board a flight to Miami, with connections to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The complaint alleges that Bush told Customs agents he planned to meet with representatives of the Argentine Air Force to discuss an "upcoming contract."
He was holding plane tickets from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro and then on to Johannesburg, South Africa, according to the complaint filed Monday.
After the arrest, FBI and Customs Service agents obtained a federal search warrant for Newport Aeronautical's offices and the home of its president, George M. Posey III. About three dozen agents raided the office and home on Saturday afternoon, but specific details of what was found remain under seal in federal court.
Posey said Bush was not an employee but declined to say what, if any, relationship Bush had with the family-owned firm.
"It's really no big deal," Posey said in an interview Monday. "I've never exported anything that was export-controlled by the government without proper documentation."
He said the export-control regulations were not entirely clear in all cases. He said he hoped to "work out" some sort of agreement with the federal government to resolve the situation.
"You almost have to be a student of export control to make a determination" of the government's requirements, he said.
Posey declined to say whether his company had any dealings with South Africa or Argentina.
However, the federal complaint said Newport Aeronautical obtained a license on Jan. 9, 1987, to export spare aircraft parts to Argentina.
Bush, who declined to comment Monday, holds dual British and Canadian citizenship, according to Assistant U.S. Atty. Jeffrey Modisett. At Modisett's request, U.S. Magistrate Ralph J. Geffen ordered Bush detained at Terminal Island Federal Correctional Institution until Thursday when a bail hearing is scheduled.
"This criminal complaint is the most preliminary step," said Modisett in an interview. "We will present the information to the grand jury."
Modisett said that so far Bush is the only one who has been arrested, but the "government's investigation is continuing." Bush's attorney, I. Mark Bledstein, said it was too soon for him to comment on the government's charges.
The technical manuals seized at the airport are for generators used with General Electric J-79 jet engines, according to the complaint. The engines are designed for F-4, F-16 and F-104 fighter aircraft.
In addition, the cover page for one of the manuals was clearly marked "Subject to Export Control Laws," the complaint said. These engine generators could be of considerable value to the South African government, according to Tom Conrad, of the American Friends Service Committee's NARMIC project, a research organization that monitors arms sales to South Africa and Latin America.
New Military Helicopter
"The South African military has an older fighter bomber that needs to be retired," Conrad said in a phone interview from Philadelphia. "They just rolled out a prototype of a military helicopter as proof that they have been able to break through the arms embargo."
Restrictions on U.S. arms sales to South Africa were first instituted by Congress in 1963 and have been tightened considerably since then, most recently in the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986, which was passed over President Reagan's veto.
As a result, Conrad said, "the arms embargo has been fairly successful."
Paul J. Seidman, a Washington attorney who represents Newport Aeronautical, said in an interview Monday that he was not aware of the criminal investigation or complaint.
He said the company has sued the government twice since 1984, alleging that the Department of Defense is trying to put the Costa Mesa firm out of business by limiting its access to military contract information. One of those lawsuits has been settled, Seidman said. He said a federal judge recently ordered the Department of Defense to continue providing information to Posey through requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act. The second lawsuit, filed in January, 1986, is still pending, Seidman said.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Mark Nagel, who is representing the government in both cases, could not be reached for comment Monday.