Five Americans and two Libyans were charged in federal indictments yesterday with selling two Lockheed L100-30 transport planes and spare parts for $57.4 million to the government of Libya.
The indictment said the shipment, made in May 1985, was the first installment of a planned $160 million sale to the Libyans. The remaining equipment was to include two more planes and kits to convert the aircraft, civilian versions of the military C130, into tankers able to refuel other aircraft in midair.
Abu Bakr Yunnis Jaabir, chief of staff of the Libyan Armed Forces, was named as an unindicted coconspirator in the seven-count indictment, unsealed yesterday in Atlanta. The indictment follows a yearlong investigation by the U.S. Customs Service.
U.S. Attorney Stephen Cowen in Atlanta said at a news conference that Jaabir was not indicted because the Justice Department did not believe that the Libyan government would cooperate in extraditing him.
A senior customs official said the two indicted Libyans, Abdulraheem Badir and Abdurrahmen Badi, are believed to be in West Germany. If they are located, he said, the United States will request extradition.
Two of the five American defendants, both from California, were arrested Tuesday night: Franklin Delano Roosevelt Corcoran in Los Angeles and Carl Lilly in Honolulu. Three others indicted -- Edward Elkins, David Vaskett and Thomas Burnham, all of Santa Maria, Calif. -- were expected to surrender today, customs officials said.
The Americans allegedly operated as middlemen to purchase equipment from Lockheed through small California firms, Armoflex Inc., AFI International Ltd. and Quicksilver Systems, named in the indictment.
The indictment charges that the two Libyans set up two dummy corporations in West Germany to handle the purchase.
To disguise the sale, the defendants indicated that the shipment's destination was the small country of Benin on the west coast of Africa, where the equipment was to be used for oil exploration.
According to the indictment, the planes left the Lockheed facility in Marietta, Ga., May 13, 1985, and were flown to Newfoundland, then to Bordeaux, France, and then to Benin. Customs officials said the Libyans are believed to have waited for the Lockheed flight crew to leave Benin before picking up the aircraft.
Cowen said there was insufficient evidence to indict Lockheed or any of its executives.
"We took a hard look at whether or not Lockheed or Lockheed officials should be criminally involved in these indictments," Cowen said. "There was insufficient evidence to charge anyone from Lockheed. It is Lockheed's position they did not do anything wrong."
Lockheed spokesman Richard Martin said yesterday that the company "complied with all U.S. government regulations in the original sale of the aircraft" and has "cooperated fully with the authorities since first being notified that the aircraft sold to AFI International has reportedly been seen in Libya."
The charges against the seven include conspiracy and violating export acts. Cowen said the men face a maximum of 35 years in prison if they are convicted. A customs official said they also face a maximum fine of $24 million, twice the profits on the sale of the equipment.