Subject: As case closes on Detroit weapons sting, final convict cites U.S. coercion

Final defendant in Tamil Tigers arms conspiracy pleads guilty

As case closes on Detroit weapons sting, final convict cites U.S. coercion

May 11, 2007



When some Indonesian businessmen met in a Honolulu hotel with men they thought were Detroit arms dealers, the men were giddy about the prospect of closing a lucrative but illegal deal to smuggle aircraft radar and guidance equipment to the Indonesian air force.

When the dealers brought out three Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine guns that had been banned from export to Indonesia, the businessmen and two Indonesian air force colonels smiled broadly and took turns snapping photos of each other cradling the weapons.

Advertisement But those arms dealers were actually undercover federal agents. And today, one of the businessmen, Hadianto Djoko Djuliarso, 42, was sentenced to four years in prison by U.S. District Judge John Feikens for trying to export arms without a U.S. license.

He is the last of four defendants to be sentenced in a case that caused a major flap in Indonesia and prompted its air force to tighten procedures for procuring military equipment.

U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy hailed the men's arrests as "decisive federal law enforcement action."

But Djuliarso's lawyer, William Swor of Detroit, said agents lured otherwise law-abiding businessmen into breaking the law. He tried to persuade Feikens to sentence Djuliarso to the 13 months he has spent in custody.

"These guys were interested in doing business with a legitimate company," Swor said. "But the government agents, pretending to be legitimate businessmen, told them getting a license was iffy and that the State Department might turn them down. In fact, they probably wouldn't have been turned down."

The investigation began in April 2005 when authorities got a tip that Indonesian businessmen were trying to acquire military equipment from the United States, contrary to a 1999 arms embargo, which was imposed because of human rights abuses the Indonesian military committed after East Timor demanded its independence.

In the months that followed, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from Detroit and Defense Criminal Investigative Service agents from Ohio made contact with the businessmen and met with them in London and Detroit to discuss the deal.

The Indonesians – Djuliarso and Ibrahim Bin Amran, 47 – eventually wired $450,000 to the agents to acquire equipment for Indonesia's aging fleet of F5 fighters, C130 transports and OV10 reconnaissance aircraft. They also asked the agents for quotes on air-to-air missiles, strafing ammunition, machine guns, sniper rifles and handguns.

In April 2006, Djuliarso, Amran and two other men – Ignatius Ferdinandus Soeharli, 51, a Jakarta office equipment wholesaler and financier of the deal, and David Beecroft, 44, a British citizen who lived in Singapore and worked for Amran – flew to Honolulu to finalize the deal and inspect the aircraft equipment.

The businessmen were arrested two days later and sent to Detroit to face charges.

Two Indonesian Air Force colonels who accompanied the group to Hawaii to inspect the aircraft equipment were released. Djuliarso’s wife, a partner in his business and who accompanied the men to a warehouse to examine the aircraft equipment, was held for 30 days and then deported to Indonesia. U.S. officials declined to say why they were released.

Indonesian military officials later acknowledged that Amran and Djuliarso were buying the aircraft equipment for that country's air force, but disavowed any knowledge about missiles, machine guns and other weapons purchases.

Ironically, the men were arrested six months after the Bush administration lifted the arms embargo on Indonesia, the world’s most-populated Muslim nation and increasingly a U.S. ally in the war on terror. Had the men tried to obtain an export license, they would have avoided arrest, officials said.

Beecroft was sentenced in December to the 9 months he had spent in custody and deported. Soeharli was sentenced recently to 3 years and Amran received 4 years in prison.

Contact DAVID ASHENFELTER at 313-223-4490 or


Final defendant in Tamil Tigers arms conspiracy pleads guilty

BALTIMORE (AP) - The final defendant caught in a sting operation trying to smuggle weapons to a Sri Lankan terrorist organization pleaded guilty Thursday, federal prosecutors said.

Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa, 37, a Sri Lankan citizen, conspired with three other men to export machine guns, surface-to-air missiles and other military hardware to the Tamil Tigers. The group has been fighting since 1976 for a separate state in Sri Lanka.

Varatharasa pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and attempted exportation of arms and munitions. He faces a maximum of 15 years in prison for the conspiracy count and 10 years forthe attempted exportation.

Two Indonesian men, Subandi and Erick Wotulo, and a Singaporean, Haniffa Bin Osman, have already pleaded guilty to conspiring with Varatharasa. Wotulo is a retired general in theIndonesian Marine Corps.

According to the plea agreement, the four men contacted an undercover business in Maryland and sent an itemized wish list of weapons they wanted to acquire for the Tamil Tigers. They arranged to transfer money into an undercover bank account to payfor the weapons. Varatharasa, Wotulo and Osman were arrested last Sept. 29 in Guam after they met with undercover agents to discuss further arms deals.

A sentencing date for Varatharasa has not been set. Subandi, Wotulo and Osman have sentencing hearings scheduled for this month or next. 

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