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Friday, Dec 9, 2022
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ViaSat Electronics at Center of Smuggling Case

A Chinese national, Chi Ton Kuok, was sentenced to 96 months in prison Sept. 13 after being found guilty by a San Diego federal jury in May of smuggling defense components and devices from this country, including some made by Carlsbad-based ViaSat Inc., according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

According to federal prosecutors, a federal jury convicted Kuok May 11 of four counts of conspiracy to export defense articles without a license, smuggling goods from the United States, attempting to export defense articles without a license, and money laundering.

The devices were generally used by the U.S. and NATO military forces, and consisted mainly of communications, and encryption and global positioning system equipment, federal prosecutors said.

Evidence presented at Kuok’s trial showed that starting in 2006, he contacted a company in the United Kingdom seeking to obtain various components related to a data controller made by ViaSat. The device is used by NATO military units to route communications data to and from tactical radios.

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The British company referred Kuok to an undercover agent with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, who then negotiated with Kuok for more than two years, federal prosecutors said.

During that time, Kuok attempted to obtain other defense-related devices from individuals in Los Angeles; Hanover, Mass.; and Phoenix. A second undercover federal customs agent also began negotiating with Kuok. On April 29, 2009, Kuok wired $1,700 to pay for an encryptor that is made by General Dynamics under contract with the National Security Agency, federal prosecutors said.

In June 2009, the Phoenix undercover agent arranged to meet Kuok in Panama to complete the transaction that also included other defense related items. On June 27, 2009 Kuok was arrested in Altanta where he arrived from Paris to catch a connecting flight to Panama, prosecutors said.

In his sentencing of Kuok, federal Judge Roger Benitez said he “chose to surreptitiously damage national security for this country by his actions.”

— Mike Allen

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