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Three Irish, one American receive suspended sentences on arms sale

PARIS -- Three Irish and an American citizen were found guilty Monday by a Paris court for illegal arms dealing and criminal conspiracy with terrorist intent, judicial sources said.

John Little, Samuel Quinn, and James King, all of Ireland, were given a three-year suspended sentence and fined between $8,590 and $3.440 each.

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Douglas Bernhardt, the American, got a three-year suspended sentence and a fine of $17,200.

The four men were arrested in 1989 at the Hilton Hotel in Paris for allegedly trying to sell a stolen surface-to-air missile to South African diplomat Daniel Storm. Storm also was arrested but was not tried because he claimed diplomatic immunity.

During the trial the court heard how Bernhardt, a Swiss-based arms dealer, acted as a liason between the Irish men and the South African State Armaments Co., Armscor.

The prosecution said officials at the South African Embassy in Paris promised a $100,000 down payment in exchange for weapons technology, in effect missiles stolen from a British army base in northern Ireland and from an arms factory in Belfast.

The three Irish and one American men were held in custody for eight months before they were released on bail in November 1989. The men said they were in Paris on vacation and knew nothing about the arms deal.

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