A YORKSHIRE businessman arrested in Las Vegas faces US federal charges over an alleged arms-smuggling racket.
York-based gun dealer Gary Hyde, 41, is one of three men who were indicted by a Grand Jury in Rochester, New York, on Friday.
It is alleged the three flouted a US ban on trading arms with China by conspiring to "smuggle into the United States, Chinese-manufactured drums" containing ammunition for the AK-47 assault rifle.
If convicted, they face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 (157,500) or both, according to US attorney William J Hochul.
"The United States government strictly regulates the importation of arms, ammunition, and the implements of war," he said.
"The State Department, for its part, maintains a proscribed list of countries – of which China is one – as to which the United States ordinarily denies licences or other approvals for the importation of defence articles – including drum magazines at issue in this case.
"Our office will fully enforce the nation's laws as they pertain to international arms and weapon component trafficking."
According to the indictment, the conspiracy involved more than 5,700 Chinese-manufactured drums, each containing 75 rounds, smuggled in from March 2008 to October 2008.
It is alleged that the men struck a deal with a Chinese weapons factory to make the magazines, while informing the US government that the imports, brought in through an American firearms dealer, were manufactured in Bulgaria.
The documents suggest the origins of the Chinese weapons –which eventually changed hands for $345,600 (216,121) – were often referred to using code words such as they "must not smell of sweet and sour or of special fried". Also accused by federal investigators are another UK national, Paul Restorick, 61, of Kent, and Karl Kleber, 56, of Lisbon, identified as a business associate of Hyde.
Named in the charges is a company called Jago Ltd, described in the court papers as an "international arms business based in York", of which Hyde is listed as company secretary and Kleber as a director.
Hyde, who lives with his wife near York, runs a number of other companies in the area including Dunnington-based York Guns, of which he is managing director.
Yesterday, a spokeswoman for the firm said: "We are aware that allegations have been made against Gary Hyde, a director of Jago Ltd, by the United States authorities.
"Although Gary Hyde is managing director of York Guns Ltd, no allegations have been directed towards York Guns Ltd and no enquiries have been made of the company by the US authorities. The company will continue to function as normal in his absence."
In the 1990s, Hyde received a North Yorkshire Chief Constable's bravery award for helping to foil a raid on his York Guns shop, then in King Street, York, during which he had a shotgun pointed at his head and was blindfolded in an ordeal which he called "terrifying". He also spoke out in the 1990s against a tightening of gun laws after it was revealed that York Guns had supplied a pistol used by Dunblane killer Thomas Hamilton.
The Federal authorities in the US have refused to comment on the circumstances surrounding the arrests but it is understood Hyde was detained in Las Vegas where he was attending a large gun show.
It is expected that Hyde will be brought from Las Vegas to Rochester, New York, in the coming week. Neither his UK or US lawyers were available to comment yesterday.
Prosecutors have underlined he is innocent until proven guilty.