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Lithuania: Two Indicted In Arms Smuggling Case

Washington, 14 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - U.S. law enforcement authorities say two Lithuanian nationals have been formally indicted on charges they conspired to smuggle Bulgarian and Russian-manufactured weapons -- including nuclear weapons -- into the United States.

A third suspect, identified as a Cypriot owner of a ship that was to be used to transport the weapons to the United States, was also indicted in the alleged conspiracy and is still being sought.

The indictments mean that Alexander Darichev and Aleksandr Pogrebezskij will be prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department on several charges of violating the federal Arms Export Control Act. The indictments were returned by a Citizens' Grand Jury in Miami in the southern state of Florida late Thursday. The two men were arrested in Miami on June 30 and have been detained there since.

No date has been set for a trial.

The third man was identified as Angelo Zeini from Cyprus. Authorities say he offered the services of his merchant vessel to the alleged conspirators. Authorities say he is not in the United States, but would not say where they believe he might be.

William Keefer, the U.S. Attorney for the Miami district, says Darichev and Pogrebezskij were caught by federal agents posing as arms buyers for a South American drug gang. Keefer says the two told government agents they could deliver Bulgarian-made portable anti-aircraft missiles and Russian tactical, or short range, nuclear weapons.

He says the investigation began in March 1995, and that between 1995 and June this year, Pogrebezskij took a $50,000 payment from the undercover agents and that he made a trip to Russia to locate nuclear weapons that might be stolen.

American officials say no weapons of any kind were ever delivered to the United States.