MINNEAPOLIS – A federal grand jury in Minnesota indicted three people on charges that they conspired to export drone components and technology from the USA to iran-backed Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, authorities announced Friday.
The U. S. Attorney’s office for Minnesota said two of the suspects — brothers Usama and Issam Hamade — are now in custody in South Africa, while the third, Samir “Tony” Berro, remains large. All three are Lebanese citizens. Usama “Prince Sam” Hamade also has South African citizenship, while Berro and Issam Hamade are also U. K. citizens.
The US considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization. The Shiite militant group has used drones in any case since 2004. The indictment alleges that the conspiracy operated from 2009 to December 2013. It says that the electronics that could be used in drone-guidance systems, jet-engine and 20 are piston engines that can be used in drones, and a couple of digital video recording binoculars.
The updated indictment is opened on Friday, Oct. 11, 2017, but the original was made in 2015 and kept sealed to keep the research secret from the three men.
The brothers were arrested Tuesday in South Africa for the extradition to the United States to face trial in Minnesota, according to the prosecution filing on Friday. They appeared before the court and were ordered held pending another hearing Feb. 26. Usama Hamade is a South African resident. The requests do not say where Issam Hamade life, but said that he was visiting his brother in South Africa.
The components included inertial measurement units, which can be used for the tracking of aircraft positions and digital compasses, which can be combined with the IMUs for drone guidance systems. The indictment does not name the companies, but the model names and numbers give the IMUs were manufactured by Concord, California-based Systron Donner Inertial, and that the digital compasses were made by Honeywell International operations in a suburb of Minneapolis.
The jet engine was sold by an unnamed Indiana company, while the piston engines were sold by an unnamed Florida company. The model number indicates that the digital binoculars were made by Sony. None of the items can be legally exported to Hezbollah, the indictment said.
Berro checked SAB Aerospace, based in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, the indictment said. The suspects had most of the items to Lebanon and Hezbollah by the united arab emirates and South Africa, it said. A shipment of piston engines also went through Minnesota.
Usama Hamade falsely claimed the IMUs and digital compasses would be used in drones in South Africa monitoring of wild animals to prevent poachers, the indictment said. As part of the conspiracy, the indictment also alleged, Issam Hamade almost $174,000 in a money transfer from a bank in Beirut, Lebanon, to accounts controlled by his brother.