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Published on April 17, 2024
Miami Federal Prosecutors Charge Suspected Leaders of International Arms Trafficking RingSource: Unsplash/ Tom Def

An international arms trafficking ring has been busted, with charges against two Middle Eastern nationals for their alleged ringleading roles, according to federal prosecutors in Miami. Syrian national Mohamad Deiry and Lebanese national Samer Rayya, both executives of Iraq-based Black Shield Ltd., are accused of scheming to illegally ship military weapons and ammunition from the U.S. to Sudan and Iraq, as per the indictment unsealed yesterday.

The pair allegedly engaged in a conspiracy from April to November 2016 to export anti-aircraft ammunition, grenade launchers, and assault rifles without the necessary American export licenses, a deal reported to be worth upwards of $1.2 million — part of broader illicit arms acquisitions valued at $4 million. In addition, Deiry and Rayya face money laundering charges for their role in this complex international scheme, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida said in a statement, in a move to crack down on munitions trafficking networks that contribute to global instability.

The indictment details the operation's logistics, which involved funneling munitions through a series of transshipments from the U.S. to Guatemala, Cyprus, and then onto the final destinations in Sudan and Iraq. Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Hummel from the Southern District of Florida is leading the prosecution with assistance from Trial Attorneys Brendan Geary and Tracy Varghese of the National Security Division's Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, according to the Department of Justice.

"Our goal is to identify and thwart arms traffickers and money launderers whose criminal acts fuel the destabilization of nations and perpetuation of international conflicts," U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe said in a statement obtained by the Department of Justice. Meanwhile, OFAC has imposed sanctions on Black Shield, along with Deiry and Rayya, adding another layer to the legal pressures they face.

The FBI's determination to prevent illegal arms dealings is clear, with the National Security Branch's Executive Assistant Director Larissa L. Knapp emphasizing the FBI's commitment to investigating and prosecuting such cases. "Illegal arms exportation and international money laundering will not be tolerated," Knapp informed, marking a line in the sand against those who seek to profit from conflicts that place "Americans and our allies at risk." The two accused, however, remain at large and are wanted by federal authorities. They are purportedly linked to or could visit several countries, including Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Russia, Belarus, Sudan, and Libya, as per the Department of Justice.

While the indictment represents only allegations at this stage, and Deiry and Rayya are considered innocent until proven guilty, the potential penalties are severe. Conspiracy to unlawfully export defense articles carries a maximum five-year prison sentence, and the charge of conspiracy to engage in money laundering has a harsher maximum of 20 years. Details of the case are available on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida, under case number 21-cr-6029.

Miami-Crime & Emergencies