Syrian Arms Dealer Extradited to US to Stand Trial

US officials confirm that alleged arms merchant Monzer Al Kassar has been extradited from Spain to the United States. He arrived in the here this morning.

Al Kassar allegedly armed terrorist groups, including the Palestinian Liberation Front, and in the past has been accused of arming the Palestinian terrorists who in 1985 hijacked the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro. He was acquitted by Spain's high court in 1995 of a charge of piracy in connection with the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro by Palestinian guerrillas. Now, he faces new terrorism charges and a trial in the United States.

Arrested on June 8, 2007 at the Madrid airport in Spain in a sting operation orchestrated by US Drug Enforcement Administration agents, Al Kassar was held on terrorism charges issued by a U.S. court, Spain's National Police said at the time.

A long-time Spanish resident known as the "Prince of Marbella" for his opulent lifestyle, Al Kassar is charged in a federal indictment unsealed last June with conspiring to kill Americans, supply terrorists, obtain anti-aircraft missiles and launder money, the police said.

The indictment charges Al Kassar with supplying "military equipment to such factions in Nicaragua, Brazil, Cyprus, Bosnia, Croatia, Somalia, Iran, and Iraq, among other countries. Some of these factions have included known terrorist organizations, such as the Palestinian Liberation Front, the goals of which included attacks on United States interests."

"Since the early 1970s, Al Kassar has been a source of weapons and military equipment for armed factions engaged in violent conflicts around the world. Some of these factions have included known terrorist organizations, such as the Palestinian Liberation Front, the goals of which included attacking United States interests and United States nationals," said Michael Garcia, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Al Kassar is alleged by the U.S. to have supplied arms to the Colombian narcoterrorist organization FARC. The U.S. indictment also alleges he ran an international network of co-conspirators, falsified the end-user certificates required to ship arms and laundered his money through numerous dummy companies.

A superseding indictment now adds additional counts of money laundering and seeks the forfeiture of an estate located in Marbella, Spain, and all funds contained in three separate bank accounts. The forfeitures represent the alleged proceeds obtained from the charged offenses.

The US case against him was brought by the DEA, the Spanish National Police, and the Romanian Border Police.

If convicted, Al Kassar faces a minimum sentence of 25 years imprisonment. As part of the extradition process, however, the U.S. has assured the government of Spain that it will not seek a life sentence, officials said, however it may seek as many years as prosecutors see fit.

"Al Kassar's days of arming and funding global terrorists are over," said DEA Acting Administrator Michele Leonhart.

"There are many facets to this case, and we intend to go to trial," said Ira Lee Sorkin, the attorney for Al Kassar.

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