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No spy charge in supercomputer theft

American officials are backing away from claims that the head of the Soviet space agency was involved in a supercomputer-technology smuggling case in which four men have been indicted. When arrests in the case were first announced 10 days ago, the Pacific regional commissioner of United States Customs, Quint Villanueva, said that Soviet space agency chief Roald Sagdeyev had met with defendant Charles McVey to discuss the deal.

``It's unfortunate that those statements were made,'' US Attorney Joseph Russoniello said at a news conference Tuesday when he announced the indictments. ``The fact of any contact was inconclusive. It's really a non-event.''

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The indictment did not allege any meeting with Mr. Sagdeyev or any other Soviet official.

The four men were indicted Tuesday by a grand jury in San Jose on charges of trying to sell information that allegedly would have helped the Soviets develop a military supercomputer.

Mr. McVey was named in three counts -- conspiracy to transport stolen property in interstate and foreign commerce, transportation of such property and receiving stolen property. He could receive a 30-year sentence if convicted.

Mr. Russoniello said that no espionage charges were filed because the computer, while considered critical to US national security and under tight export controls, is not classified as an official secret.

McVey, a fugitive from 1983 until his arrest in Canada in August, is being held in Vancouver awaiting extradition proceedings on technology smuggling charges in Los Angeles.

The three other men were arrested in California on Oct. 22.

Kevin Anderson, a computer program designer from Fremont, Calif., was charged with seven counts of violating export laws and transporting stolen property. The government is seeking to hold him without bail.

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Ivan-Pierre Batinic of Fremont, a former engineer, and his brother, Stevan Batinic, of Mountain View, were each charged with five similar crimes.

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