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Taiwanese businessman sentenced to 2 years in prison for ties to North Korean trade

A Taiwanese businessman linked to the supply of weapons manufacturing machinery to North Korea in violation of U.S. sanctions has been sentenced to federal prison.

Hsien Tai Tsai, 69, pleaded guilty in October 2014, admitting he conspired to violate U.S. laws intended to disrupt the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement.

Prosecutors claimed Tsai was involved in shipping items to North Korea that could be used to support the country’s advanced weapons program.

Tsai was associated with at least three Taiwanese companies that purchased or tried to purchase and export machinery from the U.S. and other countries, prosecutors said. The machinery — including a tool purchased from a suburban Chicago company — could fabricate metals and other materials with a high degree of precision.

In 2009, Treasury Department officials designated Tsai and two of his companies as proliferators of weapons of mass destruction, which shut them out of the U.S. financial system and prohibited anyone in the U.S. from doing business with them.

Even after the designation, Tsai continued to do businesses but tried to hide his involvement by using the name of a third company, prosecutors said.

Tsai, also known as Alex Tsai, was arrested in May 2013 in Estonia and later extradited to the U.S., the statement said.

U.S. District Judge Charles R. Norgle sentenced Tsai to 24 months in prison at a hearing last week, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

However, Norgle also credited Tsai for providing “substantial assistance” and continued cooperation to government officials investigating the weapons programs.