A French van loaded up with covert listening devices was set to be shipped from the City of Raleigh (North Carolina) to Morocco until a raid by federal investigators, according to search warrants unsealed last week.
U.S. federal authorities say the van was being equipped with surveillance gear by Law Enforcement Associates (LEA), which the U.S. Commerce Department suspects of shipping similar equipment to buyers in Egypt, Great Britain and the Netherlands.
No criminal charges appear to have been filed in the case. Calls to the Commerce Department and the Raleigh-based company were not immediately returned.
In the warrants, details of which were first reported by The Fayetteville Observer, an investigator from the department’s Office of Export Enforcement says LEA imported the van from France and then added the listening devices. The company planned to sell the equipment to a buyer in Morocco listed as New Prime Holdings for nearly $210,000.
But that kind of surveillance equipment requires a special export license, the warrant says, further contending that LEA wouldn’t qualify for such permission.
« There is a general policy of denial as to licenses for the export of all surreptitious listening devices unless the applicant is either a provider of telecommunications services, a government agency or employee thereof, » the warrant says.
The warrant claims LEA executives Mark White and Paul Briggs misled the Moroccan buyer about whether the surveillance-fitted van would need a special license before being shipped overseas.
Investigators don’t think this isn’t an isolated case, saying they believe surveillance equipment was shipped by LEA on six occasions between April 2010 and January 2011 to buyers in Egypt, Great Britain and the Netherlands. The Commerce Department said it is investigating whether those shipments were made in compliance with federal law.
The company was the subject of a State Bureau of Investigation probe into how it secured contracts from state agencies. In February, Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby declined to press charges in that case.
Tags : Morocco, USA, spying, listening device