FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A West African man was ordered jailed Thursday until trial on U.S. charges that he attempted to broker an illegal deal to ship tons of uranium ore from Sierra Leone to Iran, including a trip to the U.S. with uranium ore samples concealed in shoes inside his luggage.
Patrick Campbell, 33, faces a maximum of 20 years behind bars and up to $1 million in fines if convicted of attempting to violate the U.S. embargo against Iran. A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement affidavit filed in federal court says Campbell claimed he could supply enough ore — commonly known as yellowcake — to yield 1,000 tons of purified uranium that could be used for nuclear fuel or weapons.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Seltzer agreed with prosecutors at a hearing that Campbell should not be released on bail, although a trial date has not been set. Campbell is scheduled to enter a plea next week.
Using email, telephone and Skype communications that were recorded, the affidavit says Campbell was negotiating the deal with a person in the U.S. who in reality was an undercover ICE agent. Campbell, who said he ran a mining and shipping company called Horizon Limited in Freetown, Sierra Leone, responded to a May 2012 ad posted by the undercover agent on the website "Alibaba.com" looking to buy uranium ore.
Campbell claimed to have mines in three separate parts of Sierra Leone that produced uranium, gold, chromite and diamonds. He also said he had done similar uranium deals in Ecuador and China, according to the ICE affidavit, and would use a chromite mix to disguise the uranium.
In one recorded telephone call, Campbell said the undercover agent "should not worry because he can handle any situation in Sierra Leone because you can pay the government officials to export minerals."
The negotiations continued over several months, with Campbell suggesting at one point they stop using the word "uranium" and instead refer to the shipment as "MEUS," which stands for Middle Eastern uranium shipment. Later, Campbell said he would first try a 200-ton test shipment to Iran's port at Bandar Abbas and that security was no problem "because he has the backing of his country and controls the port in Sierra Leone."