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U.S. contractor pleads guilty to outsourcing military designs to India

Somewhere in India, an outsourcing firm is potentially sitting on a mountain of highly sensitive, even classified, data pertaining to U.S. military technology, including torpedo systems for nuclear submarines, military attack helicopters and F-15 fighter aircrafts.

This was only one among several startling revelations to emerge this week after the U.S. Department of Justice announced that the former owner of two New Jersey defence contracting businesses today had pleaded guilty to six conspiracy charges relating to violations of the U.S. Arms Export Control Act through exportation of military technical drawings to India without prior approval from the U.S. Department of State.

According to a DOJ statement in June 2010 Hannah Robert (49), owner and President of One Source USA LLC, a defence contracting company, was working with the Pentagon to supply defence hardware items and spare parts.

By around September 2012, Ms. Robert opened another defence company, Caldwell Components Inc. and, along with a resident of India identified only as “P.R.,” she went on to own and operate a third company located in India that manufactured defence hardware items and spare parts.

In murky transactions that may have involved a defence client from the United Arab Emirates and a “trans-shipper” based in Pakistan, Ms. Robert and “P.R.” then engaged in exporting sensitive military designs to India between June 2010 to December 2012, including for “Installation and Assy Acoustic Blankets, STA 120 CH-47F,” to be used in the Chinook attack helicopter.

In an odd twist Ms. Robert resorted to using the password-protected website of a church in Camden County, New Jersey, where she was a volunteer web administrator, to upload “thousands” of technical drawings for “P.R.” to download in India.

Yet neither party appeared to perceive the risk that an email trail would reveal their clandestine activities in their entirety to the authorities.

On October 5, 2012, in an email from Ms. Robert titled “Important,” she referenced the Pakistan trans-shipper, a separate potential sale to individuals in Indonesia and the church website: “Please quote [the Pakistan trans-shipper] and Indonesia items today[.] [Dr]awings I cannot do now as if the size exceeds then problem, I should be watching what I upload, will do over the weekend[.] Ask me if you need any drawing . . . . Talk to you tomorrow . . . .”

In announcing Ms. Robert’s guilty plea the DOJ also underscored the fact that in addition to the unauthorised outsourcing activity she was also held responsible for supplying the Pentagon with parts of substandard quality, including used in the wings of the F-15 fighter aircraft.

“Robert and P.R. provided the principal of their customer with false and misleading material certifications and inspection reports for the parts,” the DOJ noted, adding that as a result of failed wing pins, the Pentagon had grounded approximately 47 F-15 fighter aircraft for inspection and repair, at a cost estimated to exceed $150,000.

As per the counts of Ms. Robert’s indictment she faces a potential penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 and as part of her plea agreement must pay $181,015 to the Pentagon by way of compensation for loss and fraudulent contracts.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2020 8:21:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/us-contractor-pleads-guilty-to-outsourcing-military-designs-to-india/article7067570.ece

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