Arms kingpin Monzer al-Kassar sentenced in DEA pseudo-deal with FARC

The US Justice Department announced Feb. 24 that notorious international arms smuggler Monzer al-Kassar, AKA “Abu Munawar” AKA “El Taous” was sentenced today to 30 years in prison for conspiring to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to be used to kill US nationals in Colombia. Al-Kassar’s associate and co-defendant Luis Felipe Moreno Godoy was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his role in the conspiracy. US District Judge Jed S. Rakoff imposed the sentences in Manhattan federal court.

Al-Kassar and Moreno Godoy had both been found guilty on Nov. 20, 2008, following a three-week jury trial, of conspiracy to murder US nationals; conspiracy to murder US officers; conspiracy to acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles; conspiracy to provide material support and resources to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a designated foreign terrorist organization; and money laundering.

The Justice Department said that as part of an undercover DEA sting operation, between February 2006 and June 2007, al-Kassar and Moreno Godoy agreed to sell to the FARC more than 12,000 weapons —including thousands of machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and surface-to-air missile systems, or “SAMs”—along with 2 million rounds of ammunition. The agreement was discussed and made during a series of recorded telephone calls, e-mail correspondence, and in-person meetings with two confidential sources working with the DEA, who represented that they were acquiring these weapons for the FARC, with the specific understanding that the weapons were to be used to attack United States helicopters in Colombia.

During their meetings, al-Kassar provided the DEA sources with a schematic of the vessel to be used to transport the weapons; specifications for the SAMs he agreed to sell to the FARC; and bank accounts in Spain and Lebanon which ultimately were used to receive and conceal more than $400,000 sent from DEA undercover accounts that the DEA sources represented were FARC drug proceeds for the weapons deal. During his meetings with the DEA sources, al-Kassar reviewed Nicaraguan end-user certificates and accepted them despite knowing that the arms were destined for the FARC in Colombia. Al-Kassar also promised to provide the FARC with ton-level quantities of C-4 explosives, as well as expert trainers to teach the FARC how to effectively use C-4 and other explosive devices against the United States. In addition, al-Kassar offered to send a thousand men to fight with the FARC against US military officers in Colombia, and to make training camps in al-Kassar’s country available to the FARC.

This case was the result of cooperation between the DEA, the Spanish National Police, and the Romanian Border Police. (Justice Department press release, Feb. 24 via PR Newswire)