A 53-year-old naturalised American citizen was handed a 30-year prison sentence by a Los Angeles federal court for attempting to sell surface-to-air missiles to Libyan militants and other groups in the Middle East.
Rami Najm Asad-Ghanem pleaded guilty to multiple federal crimes at his November trial. Judge James Otero, the judge who passed the sentence described the operation as “breathtaking and frightening”.
Prosecutors accused Ghanem of negotiating the sale of Russian-made missile systems to a Libyan armed faction in 2015.
The arms dealer was also said to have organised the travel arrangements for mercenaries who would be rewarded with $50,000 if they successfully shot down an internationally recognized Libyan aircraft.
US authorities were alerted to Ghanem when he approached an arms dealer in Los Angeles in 2014.
Undercover agents approached him in Athens claiming they wanted to ‘sell’ $200,000 worth of arms. Ghanem claimed to represent Iraq based members of Hizballah [a US designated terrorist group] and clients in Iran.
He was arrested in Greece in 2015 and was later extradited to the United States.
“War makes me happy,” he was quoted saying to an agent a day before his arrest.
The accused’s defense counsel argued that Ghanem was not an arms dealer, but that he organised logistics for international governments.
Arms dealers in the west have had a major role to play in the Arab Spring.
A dealer from Britain allegedly sold spy technology that enabled Arab states to crush uprisings against them during the Arab Spring.
Furthermore, the permanent members of the UN Security Council, including the UK, Germany and the US, are allegedly among the largest arms traders on the planet, having sold millions of dollars of weapons to governments and militias in the Middle East.