Italian police announced Saturday they have arrested two English businessmen sought by U.S. agents for allegedly sending copies of military equipment blueprints to three East bloc nations and to Libya.
Police identified the suspects as Clifford Shepherd Chadwick, 52, of Rochdale, England, and Brian Moler Butcher, 55, of Southampton. Both described themselves as businessmen.Italian anti-terrorist agents arrested Chadwick and Butcher on separate days last week at Rome's Leonardo Da Vinci airport when they arrived on flights from London, police said.
The Italians had been tipped off by U.S. Customs agents in Boston and Phoenix who have been tracking the Britons for several months.
Italian investigators said U.S. authorities intend to seek the extradition of both men on charges of "carrying out technological espionage damaging to the United States."
They said the espionage involved "electronic material highly qualified for civil and military use."
The main charge against the Britons was that they sent photocopies of blueprints of U.S. missiles and other sophisticated equipment used in American submarines and military aircraft to Bulgaria, Romania and Poland, and also to Libya.
Police did not say how or where the men obtained the material, but their main activity was believed to be in the United States.
Rome Deputy State Attorney Rosario Priore, one of Italy's top anti-terrorist prosecutors, said both men were also suspected of trafficking in arms to Libya and providing pistols used in terrorist attacks in Italy on Libyan exiles opposed to Col. Moammar Gadhafi's regime.
Police said pistols used in several killings of Libyan exiles in Rome came from a stock supplied by Chadwick, who has been under investigation by Italian authorities in connection with the arms trafficking to Libya for some time.
These slayings included the shooting of Yussef Kerbish, an exiled Libyan businessman, in Rome June 26, 1987 - the most recent in a series of attacks on exiled Libyans in Italy in recent years.
Chadwick and Butcher were jailed in Rome's Rebibbia prison pending further investigation by the state prosecutor's office.