Illegal Export of Poison Gas
Juwhan Yun, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Korean origin, ran a legal weapons-exporting company called Komex International in Newark, NJ. The company did most of its legitimate business with South Korea. In 1988, Yun inquired of a New York company about purchasing ammunition for South Korea. A former U.S. customs agent who happened to work at the New York company reported Yun to Customs, as he had suspicions that the ammunition may really be for some country other than South Korea.
Based on this tip, Customs put an undercover agent into contact with Yun. Over the course of six months, the agent, masquerading as an arms dealer, negotiated with Yun for TOW missiles, Stinger missiles, classified U.S. missile technology, radar systems and other military items for illegal export. U.S. authorities legally tapped Yun's phone and fax machine, and this revealed his relationship with Charles Caplan, a convicted felon in England who was notorious for his Iranian and Libyan dealings.
Yun was monitored while Caplan asked him to procure a quantity of the deadly nerve gas Sarin. Shortly thereafter, Yun asked the undercover agent if he could provide Sarin in large quantity for clandestine export to Iran. Sarin is an odorless, colorless liquid or vapor that can cause death within minutes after it is inhaled or absorbed by the skin.
Yun suggested the undercover agent mislabel the Sarin as crankshafts on the export paperwork, but asked the agent to procure a phony export license at a cost of $50,000 as a backup. It was learned later that Caplan's client (presumably Iran) was interested in large explosive devices of liquid Sarin designed to be dropped from aircraft.
In January 1989, Yun traveled to London to meet with Caplan and his principals. While there, he opened an account at the Korea First Bank under a fictitious name for eventually wire-transferring funds from London to his American supplier for the Sarin. Yun was arrested shortly after his return. He was convicted of conspiring to export 500 quarter-ton bombs of nerve gas valued at $5 million.
Related Topic: Illegal Technology Transfer.