Russian Choppers for Zim

Mi24 fighter

Businessman faces charges in an illegal helicopter deal.

Federal authorities have accused a Hallandale Beach businessman of trying to

sell 10 Russian military helicopters for export to Zimbabwe.

JAY WEAVER, Miami Herald

A Hallandale Beach businessman has been arrested on charges that he tried to

sell 10 Russian military helicopters equipped with guns, rockets and bombs

to an undercover federal informant who told the dealer they were destined

for Zimbabwe.

Peter Spitz, 70, arrested last week, has a bond hearing set for Tuesday in

federal court in Fort Lauderdale.

Military exports to the African country are banned.

Spitz, owner of Russian Aircraft Services LLC, was first contacted in March

about a potential helicopter purchase by the informant for Immigration and

Customs Enforcement.

According to a criminal affidavit, the informant told Spitz he was

interested in buying seven MI-24 Russian attack helicopters and three MI-8T

Russian military transport helicopters.

Spitz said the price for each would be $750,000, the ICE affidavit said.

The broker and the informant negotiated the deal this spring, discussing

issues such as the potential buyer, required documents and aircraft


On March 25, the ICE informant told Spitz that he was arranging the sale to

a ”commercial entity set up by a cabinet member of the [Zimbabwe]

government,” the affidavit said.

Spitz reportedly asked for $1 million in five installments to secure the


He allegedly instructed the informant to make two initial ”test” deposits

of $11,000 each for Russian Aircraft Services LLC in separate accounts at

Colonial and Wachovia banks. Those April 3 transactions established Spitz’s

intent to sell the helicopters to the informant, in violation of federal


ICE special agent Joseph Skidmore said Spitz ”engaged in illegal brokering

activities” because he had not obtained a defense export license from the

U.S. government. He also noted that in April 2002, the government suspended

all export licenses for military hardware to Zimbabwe.

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