American officials in Baghdad have identified at least 30 businesses and individuals in the United States that investigators said they suspect sold tens of millions of dollars in military technology to Iraq before the war, the New York Times reports.
Atop the list of suspects identified in the wide-ranging investigation is a father-and-son team from San Diego charged Wednesday with selling gunboats to Saddam Hussein’s government. Officials said they believed that the two San Diego businessmen, both of Iraqi descent, delivered and helped to assemble three 85-foot-long patrol boats, armed with machine guns, as part of an $11 million contract with Mr. Hussein’s military.
“Our information is that a number of these boats were actually deployed in combat operations around Basra” against American troops during fighting in Iraq, Michael T. Dougherty, director of operations for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which led the investigation, said Wednesday in an interview.
“It’s really a shock,” he said, “when you think about American residents dealing with an enemy regime in a time of war.”
The men, Sabri Yakou, 69, a permanent resident of the United States born in Iraq, and his son, Regard Yakou, 43, an engineer who is an American citizen, were charged with violating export laws in an indictment unsealed Wednesday in federal court in Washington. If convicted on the export violations, they would face 10 years in prison, but officials said they might face more serious charges, too. Lawyers for the men could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Dougherty and other officials said that immigration and customs agents, stationed in Baghdad since March, were investigating 30 cases in which a total of at least 30 different businesses and individuals in the United States were suspected of illegally providing Mr. Hussein’s government with military technology or items that had both military and civilian applications. He said the total value of those products reached “tens of millions” of dollars.