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Arms Official Tried to Sell Weapons Secrets to US Firm, Turkey Says

FILE - A Turkish Air Force F16 jet fighter takes off from an air base as Turkey's national flag is seen in the foreground, April 28, 2010. A top official of Turkey's state-run arms company was arrested this week for allegedly trying to sell weapons secrets.

A top official of Turkey's state-run arms company was arrested this week while trying to sell weapons production plans to a U.S. firm owned by a Turkish national, Turkish authorities said.

Mustafa Tanriverdi, manager of the Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation (MKE) Kirikkale factory, was detained Thursday by Turkish undercover police at an Ankara restaurant, where he was to meet an official of the unnamed U.S. company, according to Turkish media reports.

Tanriverdi is being held on charges of espionage, exploiting state secrets and disloyalty to the state, Turkish officials say.

MKE is a government-funded corporation that produces equipment and materials for the Turkish armed forces and also for the civilian sector.

Tanriverdi allegedly tried to sell the design and production plans of the Turkish-patented MP-5 submachine gun and the newly produced domestic infantry rifle MPT-76 for $200,000 and $300,000, respectively.

Police say they were tipped off to Tanriverdi's plans by a Turkish weapons trader, identified only as K.K., according to the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News. He later told authorities that he was not selling state secrets but making a legal deal with an arms trader, Turkish media reported.

"I've made a mistake in this incident. I know what I've done and I regret it," Tanriverdi said after his arrest, according to a transcript of court testimony obtained by Turkish media.

"I've known the person named K.K. for almost a year and a half," he testified. "I know that he does weapons trade legally and will set up a weapons factory for civilians in the U.S. He told me that he will set up a weapons factory in the U.S. and he wanted to use my experience. I've made a mistake and believed what he told me."

Officials at the Turkish foreign and defense ministries and police headquarters in Ankara did not respond to VOA requests for comment.

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