A U.S. federal jury convicted a Syrian arms dealer and a co-defendant
on Thursday of conspiring to sell $1 million in weapons to the FARC who intended to use them against Americans.
Monzer al-Kassar, 62, a longtime resident of Spain known as the
“Prince of Marbella” for his lifestyle in the glitzy seaside town, was
described by prosecutors as one of the world’s most prolific arms
He was on trial with Felipe Moreno Godoy, a Chilean, 59. Both were
convicted on a host of charges including arms sales, conspiracy to kill
U.S. officials, conspiracy to aid a terrorist organization and
Both defendants planned to appeal, a defense lawyer said. They are scheduled to be sentenced on February 18.
Defense lawyers said Kassar was a legitimate arms merchant who, when
dealing with U.S. informants, was instead spying on them for Spanish
Prosecutors called that a fabrication and said Kassar was motivated
by greed in conspiring to sell missiles to the Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which the U.S. government has designated
as a foreign terrorist organization.
The prosecution case was based largely on evidence gathered by two
undercover operatives who posed as FARC arms buyers and videotaped
negotiations in Spain with Kassar and Moreno. The deal would have
included assault and sniper rifles and rocket propelled grenade
Prosecutors showed documents found in Kassar’s briefcase when he was
arrested at Madrid airport in June 2007. He was extradited to the
United States this year after Spain received assurances from U.S.
authorities he would face neither the death penalty nor a life sentence
without chance of parole.
The U.S. Embassy in Madrid said Kassar has been selling weapons
since the 1970s to the Palestinian Liberation Front and clients in
Nicaragua, Bosnia, Croatia, Iran, Iraq and Somalia.
In 1995, Kassar was tried and acquitted of supplying arms that were
used in the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship of the
coast of Egypt. That resulted in the death of a wheelchair-bound
Jewish-American, Leon Klinghoffer.
Klinghoffer’s two daughters, who sat through Kassar’s trial in New York, told reporters they felt vindicated by the verdict.
“Even though this case was not about the Achille Lauro, I wanted
everyone there to know that my father was in the courtroom,” Lisa
Klinghoffer said. (Reuters)