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Belgian Pleads Guilty In U.S. Jet Parts Sale To Iran

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- A Belgian man has pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to illegally export F-5 fighter jet engines and parts from the United States to Iran, the Justice Department said.

Jacques Monsieur pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Mobile, Alabama. He was arrested in August and charged in a six-count indictment with conspiracy, money laundering, smuggling, and violating the Arms Export Control Act and an embargo on trade with Iran.

"Monsieur, along with his co-conspirator [Dara] Fotouhi, are experienced arms dealers who have been actively working with the Iranian government to procure military items for the Iranian government," the Justice Department said in a statement.

In February, Monsieur contacted an undercover agent seeking engines for the F-5 fighter jet and the C-130 military transport aircraft for export to Iran, the statement said. Under the plan, the parts would be sent to Iran via Colombia and the United Arab Emirates.

The engines and parts are for aircraft the United States sold to Iran before the 1979 revolution, the Justice Department said. The engines and parts cannot be exported to Iran without licenses from the State and Treasury departments.

"The guilty plea...reflects the government's commitment to ensuring that critical technologies and military-grade weapons not fall into the wrong hands," said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Secretary John Morton.

Washington and Iran have been at loggerheads in recent years over Tehran's nuclear program, which it says is for civil energy purposes but Western powers fear is a cover for a secret program to develop nuclear weapons.

Monsieur faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000.00 fine.