HONOLULU – A federal prosecutor said Thursday a former B-2 bomber engineer helped China design a stealth cruise missile to raise money to pay the $15,000-a-month mortgage on the mansion-like home he built on Maui's north shore.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson told a jury in closing arguments to a four-month-long trial that Noshir Gowadia wove a "world-wide web of deception" to sell military secrets to China.
"The desperation began once he started building that house," Sorenson said.
Gowadia's defense attorney said it's true the engineer gave China a design for a cruise missile exhaust nozzle, but he said Gowadia based his work on information that was already publicy available. The design was "basic stuff" and "not classified," said David Klein.
Gowadia, 67, also deliberately gave inaccurate, misleading answers to questions about the nozzle from Chinese engineers, Klein said.
"No one is disputing Gowadia's trying to get money out of the Chinese," Klein said. "The evidence is that Mr. Gowadia purposely did not show the Chinese everything."
Klein said Gowadia didn't betray his country.
"He knew how far he could go and he wouldn't go further. If the Chinese thought they were getting more, he was OK with that," Klein said. "He was getting his money out of it."
Gowadia, who has been in federal detention since his 2005 arrest, has pleaded not guilty to 17 counts, including conspiracy, violating the arms export control act and money laundering. The trial began in April.
Gowadia's house in the town of Haiku sits on two acres of a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It has a mango wood staircase, five bedrooms, a library and baths made of marble and stone.
It's on the market for $5.5 million, but the federal government has placed a lein on the property because prosecutors allege Gowadia built the home with money illegally obtained selling defense secrets.
Klein said the prosecution failed to prove the information Gowadia gave China would harm the U.S., a requirement if the jury is to convict him of disclosing national defense information.
He argued prosecutors based their case on a confession Gowadia made to FBI agents in the days before his arrest, yet the agency failed to make video or audio recordings of their interrogation sessions.
Klein told jurors they had to decide the case based on the evidence and application of the law, not their out visceral or gut reactions.
Sorenson quoted extensively from e-mail messages Gowadia allegedly exchanged with his Chinese contacts to arrange meetings and payments, and to transfer his cruise missile part designs.
The indictment alleges Gowadia made six trips to China from 2003 to 2005, conspiring to conceal some of his visits by getting border agents to leave immigration stamps off his passport.
The India-born naturalized U.S. citizen helped design the propulsion system for the B-2 stealth bomber while working for defense contractor Northrop Corp., now Northrop Grumman Corp., from 1968 to 1986.
Gowadia moved to Maui in 1999 from the U.S. mainland where he had done consulting work after retiring from Northrop.