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Judge: Gun-dealing Brit Must Stay In US Till Trial

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) - A British arms dealer was denied permission Tuesday to return home while awaiting trial in western New York on charges of scheming to import banned Chinese assault rifle parts.

U.S. District Judge Charles Siragusa ordered Gary Hyde of York, England, to remain in the Rochester area in a case involving a trio of gun dealers that could shed light on the illicit global arms trade.

The 41-year-old Hyde pleaded not guilty to the charges last week, posted $50,000 cash bond and was released locally on electronic monitoring. The case could take up to a year to reach trial, and his attorney asked that Hyde be allowed to return under supervision to Britain.

Karl Kleber, 56, a German national who had been living in Portugal, pleaded guilty Feb. 9 and agreed to testify for the prosecution. Paul Restorick, 61, of Kent, England, also was indicted on two arms-trafficking counts in January but is not yet in U.S. custody.

Federal prosecutors have indicated that in addition to the U.S. charges, Hyde faces criminal allegations in England stemming from a separate transaction involving 40,000 AK-47 rifles.

The U.S. case centers on two British companies that prosecutors say conspired to import a shipment of 5,760 Chinese AK-47 assault rifle drum magazines in August 2008 that were disguised as Bulgarian-made.

Kleber pleaded guilty to one count of aiding in a scheme to slip past a U.S. ban on importing Chinese weapons. Prosecutors said he could get up to five years in prison.

His cooperation threatens to expose the inner workings of a group of companies whose collaboration in gray-area weapons deals around the world has long frustrated authorities and arms trade experts.

Hyde and Restorick each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The investigation stretches from China to Portugal and involves authorities in Britain, Germany and elsewhere.

Prosecuting the case in the U.S. signals that tough American arms-trafficking laws provide the strongest venue to pursue illicit weapons charges. Arms traffickers often skirt detection by operating in countries that have weak oversight and laws regulating weapons transactions.