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Hizballah-linked arms dealer sentenced to 12 years prison

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  • Hizballah-linked arms dealer sentenced to 12 years prison

    Lebanese Man Sentenced to 12 Years in Prison for Conspiring to Provide Material Support to Terrorists
    U.S. Attorney’s Office
    October 11, 2012

    Southern District of New York
    (212) 637-2600
    Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that Jamal Yousef, a/k/a “Talal Hassan Ghantou,” a native of Lebanon, was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to 12 years in prison for conspiring to provide military-grade weapons to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (the FARC), a foreign terrorist organization, in exchange for over a ton of cocaine. Yousef pled guilty in May 2012 to one count of providing material support to the FARC before U.S. District Chief Judge Loretta A. Preska. U.S. District Judge John F. Keenan imposed today’s sentence.

    Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, “Jamal Yousef was ready, willing, and able to provide an arsenal of weapons and explosives to people he believed to be part of a terrorist organization, dedicated, in part, to killing Americans. Thanks once again to our partnerships with law enforcement both here and abroad, he will now go to prison.”

    According to indictments filed in this case in Manhattan federal court:

    The FARC, which was designated by the U.S. Department of State as a foreign terrorist organization, is a highly structured international terrorist group that is dedicated to the violent overthrow of the democratically elected government of Colombia. Organized as a military group, the FARC actively engages in narcotics trafficking as a financing mechanism, and has evolved into the world’s largest supplier of cocaine. For at least the past five years, the FARC has been responsible for violent acts committed against U.S. persons and commercial and property interests in foreign jurisdictions—including in Colombia—in order to dissuade the United States from continuing its efforts to disrupt the FARC’s cocaine manufacturing and trafficking activities.

    From July 2008 through July 2009, in exchange for more than a ton of cocaine, Yousef and others agreed to provide individuals whom he believed to be representatives of the FARC, but were actually confidential informants working with the DEA, with AR-15 and M-16 assault rifles, M-60 machine guns, C-4 explosives, rocket-propelled grenades, and other military items they claimed had been stolen from U.S. forces in Iraq. Yousef knew that the FARC was engaged in terrorist activity when he made this agreement. He was arrested in Honduras on August 2009 and subsequently transported to the Southern District of New York.

    * * *

    In addition to his prison term, Yousef, 54, was ordered to pay a $100 special assessment fee.

    The charges against Yousef were the result of the coordinated efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the DEA’s Special Operations Division and Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and Bogota, Colombia Country Offices. Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the DEA and thanked the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, its National Security Division, and the Department of State and Interpol for their assistance.

    The case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey A. Brown, Jenna Dabbs, and Christopher LaVigne are in charge of the prosecution.
    Asymmetric Warfare: It's not just for the other guys.

  • #2

    Indictment 1

    Indictment 2

    USA Sentencing memorandum
    Asymmetric Warfare: It's not just for the other guys.


    • #3
      Interesting footnote in the sentencing memo

      This caught my eye. The DEA case began as an FBI operation in 2006, when FBI sources caught wind of an effort by Hizballah, represented here by Mr. Yousef, to sell arms to a Mexican drug cartel. The footnote refers to former Honduran Army Colonel Miguel Angel Ramirez Lanza, who served as a sort of facilitator in the later negotiations between FARC (played by a DEA source) and Yousef.
      In this first meeting between CS-2 and Lanza, Lanza informed CS-2 that the FBI had interviewed Yousef in Honduras about this cache of weapons in Mexico to be sold. Like practically everything else conveyed during the recordings obtained pursuant to the DEA investigation, this was true: The interview between Yousef and the FBI in fact took place, and was part of an investigation of Yousef by the FBI that began in 2006. The FBI investigation was based in large part on information that Yousef himself unwittingly told Mexican confidential sources working for the FBI. According to those sources, and as eventually confirmed by Yousef to the FBI in Mexico, Yousef had offered to broker a weapons deal between, on the one hand, former Mexican military figures buying the weapons for a Mexican drug cartel, and, on the other hand, Hezbollah sources in Lebanon who owned and controlled the weapons. The FBI later learned from the individual brokering the transaction on behalf of the buyers (Yousef acted as the sellers’ broker) that he and Yousef and one of the putative buyers had traveled to Lebanon to view representative samples of the weapons offered for sale, and that the broker had taken photographs of Yousef posing with the weapons, which photos were eventually provided to the FBI, and show Yousef posing with various pieces of military weaponry. The broker informed the FBI that upon his and Yousef's return to Mexico, the negotiations for the planned sale broke down, but that Yousef told the broker that Yousef intended to import the cache of weapons nonetheless – something Yousef was readily able to do, as he ran an import/export business that moved cargo containers of goods. The broker’s account is corroborated by the photos themselves (the originals of which are in the Government’s possession), travel records showing his and Yousef’s travel to Lebanon, and of course the statements of Yousef and his coconspirators throughout the recorded conversations in this investigation, all of which tend to demonstrate that the weapons offered for sale to the FARC were the same weapons negotiated for by the Mexican cartel.
      Asymmetric Warfare: It's not just for the other guys.