Arms dealer gets 30 years for conspiracy to kill Americans

Syrian-born arms dealer Monzer al-Kassar, seen in a file photo, tried to sell weapons to undercover U.S. agents.
A Syrian arms dealer was sentenced to 30 years in a U.S. federal prison for conspiring to sell weapons as part of a plot to kill Americans in Colombia, according to prosecutors.

Monzer al-Kassar was also ordered Tuesday to forfeit all of his assets, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Al-Kassar’s co-defendant Luis Felipe Moreno Godoy received a 25-year prison sentence for his role in the conspiracy. Both men were convicted in November of five charges, including conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals, conspiracy to acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles, conspiracy to provide support for FARC guerrillas in Colombia, and money laundering. The federal indictment paints al-Kassar as an international arms dealer with a hand in conflicts in nearly every part of the world, with a web of bank accounts and front companies across Europe and the Middle East. Al-Kassar was arrested in Spain in 2007 on a U.S. warrant and his associate Moreno Godoy was arrested in Romania. Both were extradited to the United States. The arrests stemmed from an undercover sting operation involving U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents posing as members of FARC. During the 16-month operation, the agents arranged to buy more than 12,000 weapons from the two men, according to the indictment. Al-Kassar agreed to provide surface-to-air missiles for the FARC to shoot down American helicopters, and also offered to send 1,000 men to fight with the FARC, plus explosives and men who could train the FARC in how to use them, the indictment charged. Al-Kassar demanded 3,500,000 euros ($4.4 million) as “partial payment” for the weapons, it said. Justice Department officials say al-Kassar has been a source of weapons and military equipment for armed combatants since the 1970s. Kassar had told journalists before he was arrested that he had retired from arms dealing, but the United States says he had been involved since the 1970s, providing weapons and military equipment to armed factions in Nicaragua, Cyprus, Bosnia, Croatia, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, and elsewhere.