Feds charge arms dealers with smuggling grenade launchers, ammo from US to Iraq and Sudan

Anti-aircraft rounds, grenade launchers and automatic rifles: these are some of the weapons of war Department of Justice officials say a pair of foreign businessmen conspired to purchase and send to Iraq and Sudan through a Florida-based company, according to a recently unsealed indictment.

Mohamad Majd Deiry, a Syrian national, and Samer Rayya, a Lebanese national, were charged in the Southern District of Florida with conspiring to illegally export the arms from the U.S. and with conspiring to commit international money laundering, Department of Justice Officials announced Tuesday.

The pair are part owners of an Iraq-based company listed as sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department, according to the indictment. They remain at large and wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, officials said.

“These defendants allegedly ran an international arm trafficking ring and conspired to unlawfully export anti-aircraft ammunition and other military arms and munitions from the United States to Sudan and Iraq, promoting violence and putting Americans and our allies at risk,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen said in the announcement. “These charges exemplify the Justice Department’s commitment to investigating and holding accountable those who defy our U.S. export controls.”

The charges date back to 2016, according to the indictment. The arms exporting charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and the international money laundering charges a maximum of 20 years in prison, officials said.

What arms were they dealing?

The pair of dealers and co-conspirators were charged with attempting to send the following weapons, according to the indictment:

  • 23mm anti-aircraft ammunition

  • Bushmaster 40mm grenade launchers

  • FN SCAR assault rifles

  • FNH 5.7x28mm green tip ammunition

  • HK MR762A1 long rifles

All are illegal to export without authorization, according to the indictment.

The deals included agreements to export hundreds of thousands of rounds of anti-aircraft munitions worth millions of dollars via Guatemala, the indictment says.

The charges refer to deals made between April to November 15, 2016, the indictment says.

Where were they dealing?

Their operations spanned the globe, according to federal documents.

The pair were dealing through a company in Pompano Beach, just north of Ft. Lauderdale, the indictment says, plus their own Iraq-based company Black Shield and an Israel-based company, DM Management.

Black Shield, based in Erbil, was incorporated in 2015, according to the indictment. It’s listed as sanctioned under President Joe Biden’s Executive Order 14038, aimed at “certain persons undermining democratic processes or institutions in Belarus..

The pair speak Russian, as well as Arabic and English, according to their FBI Wanted posters.

Deiry sent a $100,000 advance in a $4 million deal for 500,000 rounds of anti-aircraft munitions via a bank in West Africa to one in Florida in August 2016, the indictment says. They orchestrated similar deals in subsequent months, emails in the indictment show.

Company emissaries from India and Belarus were sent to the U.S. to “inspect the munitions,” officials said, which they conspired to move via Guatemala to "false end-users in Cyprus before ultimately arriving in Sudan and Iraq."

“This indictment demonstrates the FBI’s resolve to investigate those who seek to illegally acquire and sell U.S. arms, ultimately fueling conflict around the world,” Larissa L. Knapp, executive assistant director for the FBI’s National Security Branch, said in the announcement. “Deiry and Rayya’s alleged actions will not be taken lightly, and the FBI will do all within its power to ensure that they are brought to justice. Illegal arms exportation and international money laundering will not be tolerated.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida prosecuting the case was not available for comment. The FBI Miami Field Office investigating the case was not, either.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: FBI charges arms dealers for conspiring to send weapons to Sudan, Iraq