Friday, June 8, 2007

A suspected international arms dealer was arrested yesterday in Spain and charged with conspiracy to sell millions of dollars in weapons to a State Department-designated foreign terrorist organization in Colombia to kill Americans.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Karen P. Tandy said Syrian national Monzer Al Kassar, 61, of Marbella, Spain, along with suspects Tareq Mousa Al Ghazi, 60, of Lebanon, and Luis Felipe Moreno Godoy, 58, also of Marbella, were arrested as they prepared to finalize a multimillion-dollar deal with the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, to pay for the weapons.

Mr. Kassar was arrested on the U.S. charges by Spanish authorities in Madrid; simultaneously Mr. Ghazi and Mr. Moreno Godoy were arrested in Romania.

“Monzer Al Kassar commands a global munitions empire, arming and funding insurgents and terrorists across the globe, particularly those who wish to harm Americans,” Mrs. Tandy said. “He operates in the shadows, the silent partner behind the business of death and terror.”

According to a federal grand jury Indictment unsealed in New York, since the early 1970s, Mr. Kassar, an international weapons trafficker, has been a ready source of weapons and military equipment for armed factions engaged in violent conflicts around the world.

The indictment said he provided weapons and military equipment to Bosnia, Brazil, Croatia, Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, Nicaragua and Somalia, among other countries, some of which went to known terrorist organizations, such as the Palestinian Liberation Front.

According to the indictment, to carry out his weapons-trafficking business, Mr. Kassar developed an international network of criminal associates, including co-defendants Mr. Ghazi and Mr. Moreno Godoy, as well as front companies and bank accounts in Bulgaria, Iraq, Poland, Romania, Spain and Syria and the United Kingdom.

Additionally, it said, Mr. Kassar engaged in money-laundering transactions in bank accounts throughout the world to disguise the illicit nature of his proceeds.

Between February 2006 and May 2007, the indictment said, Mr. Kassar, Mr. Ghazi and Mr. Moreno Godoy agreed to sell to the FARC millions of dollars worth of weapons — including thousands of machine guns, millions of rounds of ammunition, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and surface-to-air missile systems.

During a series of recorded telephone calls, e-mails, and in-person meetings, it said Mr. Kassar, Mr. Ghazi and Mr. Moreno Godoy agreed to sell the weapons to two confidential informants working with the DEA, who said they were acquiring the weapons for the FARC to use to attack U.S. helicopters in Colombia.

The indictment said Mr. Kassar, Mr. Ghazi and Mr. Moreno Godoy gave the informants a schematic of the vessel to be used to transport the weapons, specifications for the missiles they agreed to sell and bank accounts in Spain and Lebanon to be used to conceal more than $400,000 from DEA undercover accounts that the informants represented.

It said Mr. Kassar also promised to provide the FARC with ton-quantities of C4 explosives, as well as expert trainers from Lebanon to teach the FARC how to effectively use improvised explosive devices, commonly known as IEDs.

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