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2 accused of trying to export weapons machinery to N. Korea

| Monday, May 6, 2013, 8:21 p.m.

CHICAGO — A Taiwanese businessman long suspected of ties to North Korea and his Illinois-based son have been charged in Chicago with seeking to bypass a U.S. ban on the export of weapons machinery to the hard-line communist nation, federal prosecutors announced Monday.

Hsien Tai Tsai, 67, and his 36-year-old son, Yueh-Hsun Tsai, are charged with one count each of conspiracy to defraud the United States in its enforcement of laws prohibiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago said.

The statement suggests a wider investigation.

Federal agents have been investigating the Tsais and a network of companies on suspicion of trying to export goods and machinery from the United States “that could be used to produce weapons of mass destruction,” it said.

The father, who lives in Taiwan, was arrested on Wednesday in Tallinn, the capital of the Baltic Sea-coast nation of Estonia. The statement from prosecutors doesn't speculate about why Hsien Tsai was in Estonia, though it says U.S. authorities are seeking his extradition. The son, a legal U.S. resident, was arrested on the same day last week at his home in suburban Glenview, just outside Chicago, according to prosecutors.

North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, is being sanctioned over its nuclear and weapons-development programs. The federal complaint released Monday doesn't offer details about which weapons systems the machinery could have benefited.

The elder Tsai, who also goes by Alex Tsai, fell under suspicion of U.S. authorities at least as far back as 2008, when he was convicted in Taiwan of forging shipping invoices and illegally shipping restricted materials to North Korea, the Department of Treasury said in press release at the time.

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