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World

AFP
August 20, 2019

Arms dealer handed 30 years’ prison by US court

World

AFP
Tue, Aug 20, 2019

LOS ANGELES: An international arms dealer was sentenced to 30 years in prison by a Los Angeles federal court Monday for conspiring to sell surface-to-air missiles to Libyan militants and other customers in the Middle East.

The trafficking operation run by Rami Najm Asad-Ghanem was described as "breathtaking and frightening" by Judge James Otero, who pronounced the sentence.

Ghanem, a 53-year-old naturalized American citizen, pleaded guilty to multiple federal crimes at his trial in November.

He was accused of negotiating the sale of Russian-made missile systems to a Libyan armed faction in 2015.

Prosecutors said Ghanem had negotiated salaries and organized travel for mercenaries who would receive $50,000 if they successfully shot down planes belonging to the internationally recognized Libyan government.

US authorities were alerted to Ghanem in 2014 after he approached a Los Angeles-based defense manufacturer.

Undercover Homeland Security agents made contact with Ghanem in Athens and agreed to "sell" him more than $200,000 worth of weapons including sniper rifles and night-vision equipment, all "under the table."

Ghanem also claimed to represent clients in Iran, and Iraq-based members of Hezbollah -- a US-designated terrorist group.

He was arrested in 2015 in Greece and extradited to the US.

A day before his arrest, he told an agent that "war makes me happy."

Ghanem’s lawyers argued he was not an arms trafficker, claiming that he organized logistics for foreign governments including equipment sales.