Accessibility links

NY to Continue International Arms Network Investigation

  • Barbara Schoetzau

In the wake of the breakup of an international arms smuggling network in New York Tuesday, prosecutors says they will continue to investigate the weapons trafficking ring.

Federal prosecutors in New York say the arms smugglers were trying to obtain anti-aircraft missiles and anti-tank guns from the former Soviet military to sell them to an FBI informant posing as a middleman for terrorists.

Seventeen of the 18 people named in the federal criminal compaint were arrested in New York, California, and Florida in connection with the case. Nine are being held without bail in New York on allegations that they conspired to transport destructive devices.

Prosecutors say the leaders of the ring were two illegal aliens, Armenian Artur Solomonyan and South African Christiaan Dewet Spies. Other members of the group are American, French, Georgian, and Italian.

The arms ring sold the informer eight illegal weapons in the course of the year-long investigation.

U.S. Attorney David Kelley says the defendants recently made a deal to sell the FBI informer more than $2 million in weapons, mostly made in Russia.

"We are continuing investigations," said Mr. Kelley. "We have seized some very dangerous weaponry. We have prevented some even more dangerous weaponry from coming into the country. And I think we have identified a potential pipeline. So we think it is a significant case in light of all those developments."

Mr. Kelley said there is no evidence to back up Mr. Solomonyan's boast to the informer that he could obtain enriched uranium for use in the subway.

"Throughout this investigation, through our eavesdropping of some 15,000 conversations by the defendants or through countless surveillances 24-7 [24 hours a day, seven days a week] by the agents and investigators, we did not see any indication that the defendants had any capacity to obtain uranium or other chemical or biological weapon material. It did not happen."

Mr. Kelley said the network was not linked to any terrorist network, but was trading in weapons to make money.

XS
SM
MD
LG