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Chinese national handed prison term for smuggling US military hardware

The sensitive tools and military gear ended up in the hands of willing buyers in China.

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A Chinese national has been jailed for 30 months after being found guilty of smuggling high-tech military gear and US hardware to China.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) said on Wednesday that Kan Chen from Ningbo, China, will also serve three years of supervised release after being accused of "conspiring to violate the Arms Export Control Act and International Traffic in Arms Regulations and violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act."

The 26-year-old pleaded guilty to the charges, of which US law enforcement says the full extent of damage caused by the smuggling operation "will never be known."

Chen was arrested on 16 June, 2015, by agents following an eight-month-long investigation. According to court documents, the Chinese national attempted to facilitate the export of over 180 items and high-tech kit, worth over $275,000, for Chinese clients.

Due to tight export controls, Chen purchased them through the Internet and by telephone before having them sent to reshipping services which provided American addresses for customers in China before accepting them and sending them overseas.

To further conceal the scheme, Chen then had the re-shippers send the products to intermediaries, who then forwarded the items to Chen in China -- before they eventually reached his clients.

Over 40 of these products were designed for the military and included night-vision equipment and thermal imaging scopes -- which can be mounted on rifles for use at night.

US prosecutors claim that as the rifle scopes are described by the manufacturers as "an ideal product for force protection, border patrol officers, police SWAT and special operations forces providing them the tools they need to be successful in all field operations both day and night," the products are "weapons of war," and so Chen's actions have "undermined national security."

"These sophisticated technologies are highly sought after by our adversaries," said Acting Special Agent in Charge Nevano.

"They were developed to give the United States and its allies a distinct military advantage, which is why US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) will continue to aggressively target the individuals who might illegally procure and sell these items."