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Man acquitted of importing fireworks linked to Waikele blast

By Kevin Dayton

LAST UPDATED: 3:28 p.m. HST, Sep 5, 2012

A Honolulu businessman accused of illegally importing some of the confiscated fireworks that exploded and killed five men in a Waikele storage bunker in 2011 was found not guilty of all charges today.

A federal court jury of seven women and five men found Gifford Koon Fo Chang, 45, not guilty of charges of smuggling, importing explosive materials without a license, and attempting to import explosives by falsifying statements.

If Chang had been convicted, he would have faced up to 20 years in prison on the smuggling count, up to 10 years for importing explosives without a license and two years for making false statements.

The verdict came after a four-day trial before federal Judge Helen Gillmor. Chang hugged his lawyer, Birney B. Bervar, and embraced family members after the judge dismissed the jury and told Chang he was free to go.

Chang was accused of illegally importing aerial fireworks that were among the confiscated fireworks that exploded on April 8, 2011.

Chang is president of Tiger Corp., an import, wholesale and retail business.

Federal officials said in court documents that the aerial fireworks were confiscated by agents from a shipping container that arrived from Shanghai in December 2009.

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