Man Accused of Smuggling Computers to the Soviet Bloc

The New York Times

MIAMI, Dec. 22, 1988 -- A Dutch national who allegedly tried to ship a $1.1 million computer to a Soviet-bloc country has been arrested, breaking up a high-technology smuggling network spanning six American cities and eight foreign countries, the United States Customs Service said today.

The man, Eddy Gorandus Haak, was arrested Dec. 14 after he paid $50,000 in Swiss francs to undercover agents, according to Patrick O'Brien, a Customs Service agent in Miami, The Customs Service had promised to help Mr. Haak smuggle the computer to Bulgaria.

Indicted on 3 Counts

A grand jury returned a three-count indictment charging Mr. Haack, a resident of Belsele, Belgium, who is 42 years old, with conspiring to illegally export computer equipment from the United States to Bulgaria.

If convicted of all counts, Mr. Haak could receive a maximum sentence of 35 years in prison and a $5.75 million fine.

He appeared before a Federal magistrate today and was denied bond because of the likelihood he would flee from the United States, Mr. Lehtinen said.

The arrest and seizure came after an eight-month investigation and left the smuggling network ''in disarray,'' Mr. O'Brien said.

The computer, a Digital Equipment Corporation VAX 8800, has military and civilian applications, and the Mr. Haak was trying to ship it to Bulgaria, the center for computer technology in the Soviet bloc, said Patrick O'Brien, a Customs Service agent in Miami.

The computer can upgrade and control systems that launch and guide ballistic missiles, operate radar or run a mass-transit system, the Customs Service said.

Computer Seized at Airport

The computer, which probably would have been used by the Soviet defense system, was seized last week at Miami International Airport, Mr. O'Brien said.

Search warrants were being served at companies in the United States that manufacture VAX-type computers, the system most highly sought by the Soviets, officials said.

''Four or five make this kind,'' said Dexter Lehtinen, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. ''They all will be checked out'' for possible involvement with the smuggling network, he said.

Neither Mr. Lehtinen nor the Customs Service would identify the companies.

A Customs Service spokesman, Michael Sheehan, said more arrests are expected in Chicago and Boston, where search warrants were being served.

The Customs Service said the investigation covered activity in Boston, Chicago, New York, Newark, Houston, Great Lakes Beach, Mich.; and Belgium, Austria, Yugoslavia, Romania, Hungary, Libya, Iran and Iraq.

Mr. O'Brien said the smuggling network has purchased and diverted numerous VAX computers systems this year. Those computer systems and others smuggled to Soviet countries in the last several years are worth tens of millions of dollars, the Customs Service said.

''Their whole defense system is converting to the VAX,'' Mr. O'Brien said at a news conference.

Copyright 1988 The New York Times Company