CHICAGO -- Customs officials suspect the Yugoslav consul general in Chicago, already under indictment in a $1.5 million money-laundering scheme, of providing diplomatic cover to a high-ranking Yugoslav spy, it was reported Thursday.
Bahrudin Bijedic, consul general in Chicago for the Eastern Bloc nation, is believed by federal investigators to have provided diplomatic courier status to two men who were smuggling documents and computer information stolen from U.S. Defense Department contractors, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The suspected smugglers were identified as Vjekoslov Spanjol, a Yugoslavian-born U.S. citizen, and Hubert F. Cole of Carollton, Texas. Spanjol was described in a federal affidavit as 'second in command of Yugoslavian Intelligence in the United States.'
The affidavit was prepared by Louise Hodess, a U.S. Customs Service agent. It charges that Bijedic accorded diplomatic status to Spanjol and Cole, enabling the pair to smuggle documents out of the U.S. under diplomatic seal -- avoiding government inspection.
Documents and computer information were obtained from defense contractors in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and smuggled to Yugoslavia, the affidavit stated.
Federal law prohibits delivery of information relating to national defense to any foreign agent or government.
Bijedic, Cole and Spanjol are among five men indicted Dec. 1 by a federal grand jury in Philadelphia on charges of taking part in the alleged money-laundering scheme, in which cash was smuggled out of Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. A New York bank also was charged.
The affidavit was filed Dec. 1 on a request from the U.S. Attorney's office in Philadelphia, but was sealed until Wednesday, the newspaper said.
Justice department officials declined to comment on the contents of the affidavit.