Prince of Marbella: Alleged Merchant of Death

Jun 8, 2007 10:00am

Monzer al Kassar, allegedly one of the world’s top arms merchants to terrorists and drug dealers, is in custody today in Madrid on U.S. charges of conspiring to supply thousands of weapons and millions of rounds of ammunition to members of the Colombian narco-terrorist group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), according to a federal indictment. Informants working for the Drug Enforcement Administration won al Kassar’s trust by playing on his hatred for America, a hatred they told him they shared, sources said. He was arrested at Madrid airport when he arrived to pick up 3.5 million euros, which were to be exchanged for thousands of assault rifles, thousands of hand grenades, millions of rounds of ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades, surface-to-air missiles and sniper rifles order by the informants. Two of his alleged associates were arrested in Romania, federal officials said.  One of those associates specialized in brokering the arms deals; the other managed the bank transactions. Known as the "Prince of Marbella" for his opulent lifestyle, al Kassar has been branded a "merchant of death" by authorities and is listed as No. 26 on the Iraqi government’s most wanted list. While al Kassar is not specifically charged with providing weapons to anti-U.S. factions in Iraq, the indictment does note, "Kassar has provided weapons and 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 terrorists organizations, such as the Palestinian Liberation Front ("PLF"), the goals of which included attacks on United States interests and United States nationals." According to federal sources, the al Kassar case began developing about four years ago at the Drug Enforcement Administration Special Operations Division. The indictment unsealed in New York today covers a period beginning in 2006. It paints a picture of al Kassar as sitting atop a globe-spanning criminal empire. It states he had front companies, contacts and financial interests in England, Spain, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania. It alleges he was planning a massive arms sale to FARC. FARC has sought to overthrow the government of Colombia since its inception in 1964. The indictment notes that not only does FARC continue to kidnap, bomb, shoot and massacre people in Colombia, but it has also become one of the world’s leading suppliers of cocaine. The informants told al Kassar and his associated that they wanted to buy 4,350 AKM assault rifles, 3,350 AKMS assault rifles, 200 RPK assault rifles, 50 Dragunov sniper rifles, 500 Makarov pistols, six 2,000,000 rounds of 7.62 mm x 39 mm ammunition, 120 RPG grenade launchers, 1,650 PG-7V grenade rounds and nine 2,400 RGO-78 hand grenades, according to the indictment. They also sought surface-to-air missiles. Al Kassar is alleged to have offered to supply 1,000 men to join FARC in its armed struggle inside Colombia. Do you have a tip for Brian Ross and the Investigative Team?

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