updated 5/17/2006 1:25:29 PM ET 2006-05-17T17:25:29

A Taiwanese businessman pleaded guilty Wednesday to acting as a covert agent for the Chinese government and trying to buy sophisticated military parts and weapons, including an F-16 fighter jet engine and cruise missiles.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said that Ko-Suen "Bill" Moo was one of the most significant Chinese arms dealers arrested recently. Among his attempted purchases from undercover agents was the AGM-129 cruise missile, which has stealth technology and can carry nuclear warheads 2,300 miles.

"The fact that this individual was plotting to purchase advanced U.S. cruise missiles for a foreign government is truly alarming," ICE chief Julie L. Myers said. "This case demonstrates, in the clearest terms possible, the need to protect sensitive U.S. technology from illegal foreign acquisition."

Could get 30 years in prison
Moo, 58, pleaded guilty to being a covert Chinese agent, conspiracy to broker and export U.S. defense items, and attempting to pay a $500,000 bribe to win release from custody. Moo faces up to 30 years in prison and fines of $2 million at sentencing, which was not immediately scheduled.

The Chinese government has rejected the claims, contending that it does not purchase weapons illegally.

Moo was a representative for U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin for 10 years in Taiwan and was close to military officials in Taiwan, ICE officials said. His arrest raised concerns in Taiwan, a U.S. ally that China considers its territory, about what information he provided to the Beijing government.

Prosecutors say Moo and Serge Voros, a Frenchman who remains a fugitive, began attempting to acquire military aircraft engines and cruise missiles in early 2004. They first tried to buy 70 Black Hawk helicopter engines for delivery to China, then decided to focus instead on the F-16 engine.

Met with undercover ICE agents
In August 2005, Moo met with people in Miami who were undercover ICE agents about the engine deal, showing them a document indicating that China wanted the cruise missiles as well as AIM-120 air-to-air missiles. He deposited $3.9 million in a Swiss bank account to pay for the weapons, according to court papers.

Another meeting was held at a Broward County hotel to finish the F-16 engine deal and Moo later identified an airport in China as its final destination. A day after wiring $140,000 to a Miami bank account to cover the shipment costs, Moo inspected the engine he thought he was buying in Homestead on Nov. 8 and was arrested.

The jailhouse bribery charge was added when Moo had conversations with two other inmates, who alerted law enforcement authorities. Moo had $199,985 wire transferred to a Miami bank account as a down payment for an unnamed law enforcement official, according to court documents.

"American security and justice are simply not up for sale," said U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta of Miami.

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