19 May 2016

NZ man charged in US over spacecraft parts

2:57 pm on 19 May 2016

A New Zealand man will appear in a US court tomorrow charged with attempting to buy spacecraft parts to sell to China.

US prosecutors say William Ali, who is also a Fijian citizen, violated the Arms Export Control Act.

He is due to appear in the US District Court in Seattle tomorrow morning.

According to court documents seen by RNZ News, Mr Ali was attempting to buy spacecraft parts called accelerometers, developed for low or zero gravity navigation systems.

He did not hold an an export licence, which is required to trade in these parts.

The documents say Mr Ali contacted an undercover agent, attempting to buy the parts.

According to the agent, Mr Ali said getting the export licence might be "a hard line to follow given the restrictions in place", and he preferred to deal direct with the agent.

The agent said Mr Ali didn't believe a licence was given, because his client was in China.

Mr Ali told the agent he believed the best way to get around the law was if he picked up the parts, personally, by travelling to Seattle in Washington state.

He was arrested in Seattle in April, after picking up the accelerometers and paying $US15,000 for them.

Mr Ali has worked in the past as an engineer, and a salesman for aircraft parts, for airlines in New Zealand and Fiji, including Air New Zealand.

Air New Zealand said it had not been contacted by any law enforcement agency about him.

It said Mr Ali was employed by its subsidiary, Eagle Airways, for six years as an aircraft engineer.