LOS ANGELES – A black-market arms seller with a protracted historical past of brokering machine weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank armaments – and who was discovered responsible final 12 months in a scheme to promote and use surface-to-air missiles – has been sentenced to 30 years in federal jail.
Rami Najm Asad-Ghanem, 53, who was generally generally known as Rami Ghanem, a naturalized United States citizen who was dwelling in Egypt on the time of the offenses, was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Decide S. James Otero.
Throughout Monday’s sentencing listening to, Decide Otero stated, “The breadth, scope and gravity [of Ghanem’s offenses] is absolutely breathtaking and, in some ways, horrifying.”
The investigation on this case was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Safety Investigations (HSI) Los Angeles, which obtained substantial help from the Division of Protection’s Legal Investigative Service; the Division of Commerce, Bureau of Business and Safety, Workplace of Export Enforcement; and the Hellenic Nationwide Police; the Hellenic Monetary and Financial Crimes Unit; and U.S. Customs and Border Safety.
Following a nine-day trial final November, a federal jury discovered Ghanem responsible of conspiring to make use of and to switch missile programs designed to destroy plane. The day earlier than his trial began, Ghanem pleaded responsible to 6 different federal crimes stemming from his arms-trafficking actions, together with the unlicensed export of weapons and ammunition, smuggling, cash laundering, and unlicensed arms brokering.
The proof introduced eventually 12 months’s trial confirmed that Ghanem conspired to switch a big selection of surface-to-air missile programs to clients around the globe, together with shoppers in Libya, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, and the management of Hezbollah, a chosen international terrorist group. Throughout the trial, prosecutors confirmed that he conspired to make use of Russian-made Igla and Strela surface-to-air missile programs by brokering the companies of mercenary missile operators to a militant faction in Libya in 2015. Amongst different actions, Ghanem negotiated the salaries and phrases of service of the mercenary missile operators, coordinated their fee, facilitated their journey to Libya, confirmed their arrival and efficiency of duties, and provided them a $50,000 bonus in the event that they have been profitable of their mission of taking pictures down airplanes flown by the internationally acknowledged authorities of Libya. Along with quite a few paperwork that demonstrated Ghanem’s position within the conspiracy, the jury considered movies of sworn deposition testimony of two missile operators and Ghanem’s fellow arms dealer who assisted in procuring their companies for this transaction.
“This prolonged sentence is effectively deserved and, sadly, demonstrates the sheer breadth of prison exercise engaged in by those that oppose us,” stated Joseph Macias, Particular Agent in Cost for Homeland Safety Investigations (HSI) Los Angeles. “Counter-proliferation investigations are the best precedence for HSI – and we stay steadfastly dedicated to working with our home and worldwide regulation enforcement companions to pursue transnational prison networks intent on committing acts of terrorism in opposition to the USA.”
“This defendant brokered a big selection of military-grade weapons, which endangered civilians around the globe and put in danger America’s nationwide safety pursuits, together with members of our armed companies,” stated Nick Hanna, U.S. Legal professional for the Central District California. “Mr. Ghanem was actually a service provider of loss of life who was prepared, keen and capable of promote weapons, together with surface-to-air missiles, to any paying buyer, with zero concern for the loss of life and destruction these weapons would possibly trigger. Because of his conduct, the sentence imposed on this case is acceptable and hard-earned.”
HSI’s Los Angeles Counter-Proliferation Investigations Heart started the investigation into Ghanem in mid-2014, when a Los Angeles-based firm alerted HSI that it had been solicited to supply army gear to Ghanem. Throughout an undercover operation, an HSI agent developed a relationship with Ghanem, who was in search of to obtain a lot of armaments – together with sniper rifles and night-vision optics. Throughout discussions with the spy, Ghanem affirmed that the transactions have been being performed “illegally” and needed to be “beneath the desk.” Throughout subsequent conferences with the undercover operative in Greece, Ghanem expressed an curiosity in buying helicopters and fighter jets on behalf of Iranian shoppers, and Ghanem stated he had relationships with Hezbollah in Iraq.
Over the course of a number of months in 2015, Ghanem mentioned his curiosity in buying quite a few weapons, and in August 2015 positioned an order for $220,000 price of sniper rifles, pistols, silencers, laser sights, ammunition, night-vision googles and different objects that have been to be shipped to Libya. After making two down funds, Ghanem was arrested on December 8, 2015, in Athens. He was extradited to the USA in April 2016 to face prosecution on this case and has remained in custody with out bond because the time of his arrest.
After his arrest, authorities seized quite a few digital units that Ghanem had in his possession. Searches of these units revealed proof of different large-scale arms brokering actions, together with tens of millions of rounds of ammunition, anti-tank missiles, and the scheme to switch and use anti-aircraft missiles.
In paperwork filed in relation to the sentencing listening to, prosecutors provided proof of a contract documenting Ghanem’s settlement to promote $250 million price of weapons and ammunition to a militant faction in Libya; a contract between Ghanem and the Egyptian Ministry of Protection coping with lots of of rocket-propelled grenade launchers; makes an attempt to purchase and promote fight jets and helicopter gunships; and his obvious position within the trafficking of counterfeit foreign money, looted antiquities and black-market diamonds.
“Defending America’s warfighters and preserving our nationwide safety pursuits by guaranteeing that Division of Protection property and applied sciences don’t find yourself within the palms of people who search to do hurt to our nation or our international allies is a important part of the Protection Legal Investigative Service’s mission,” stated Bryan D. Denny, Particular Agent in Cost of the DCIS Western Area Workplace. “Ghanem’s sentencing displays the seriousness of the crimes he dedicated in opposition to the USA, and serves as a cautionary story to others contemplating or partaking in related unlawful actions. With out query, the distinctive collaboration between the U.S. Legal professional’s Workplace, Homeland Safety Investigations, the Workplace of Export Enforcement, and DCIS led to Ghanem’s profitable prosecution and sentencing, regardless of the inherent complexities in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting unlawful worldwide arms-trafficking issues.”
“This sentence is the results of excellent collaborative investigative work by the Workplace of Export Enforcement and its regulation enforcement companions to fight the unlawful cargo of refined expertise. We are going to proceed to aggressively pursue violators wherever they could be,” stated Richard Weir, Particular Agent in Cost of the U.S. Division of Commerce, Bureau of Business and Safety, Workplace of Export Enforcement, Los Angeles Area Workplace.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Melissa Mills and George E. Pence IV of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Part within the U.S. Legal professional’s Workplace, and by Trial Legal professional Christian E. Ford of the Counterintelligence and Export Management Part of the Division of Justice’s Nationwide Safety Division.