Monzer al-Kassar

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Monzer al-Kassar (born in An Nabk, Sirie in 1945),[1] elk-namit the "Prince o Marbella", is an Sirie airms dealer. He haes been connectit tae numerous creemes, includin the Achille Lauro hijackin an the Iran-Contra scandal. On 20 November 2008, he wis convictit in U.S. federal court as pairt o a U.S. govrenment sting, for greein tae sell airms tae unnercover agents posin as suppleers for the Revolutionary Airmit Forces o Colombie (FARC), a Colombie guerrilla organisation.[2][3] He wis sentencit tae thirty years' impreesonment.[4]

Early years[eedit | eedit soorce]

His faither, Mohamed al-Kassar, wis a supporter o preses Hafez al-Assad, an wis appointit Sirie ambassador first tae Indie an later tae Canadae. Monzer al-Kassar haed links tae the heichest echelons o the Syrian govrenment.

Accordin tae U.S. authorities, Monzer's mentor in the drug an airms tred wis his aulder brither, Ghassan, who haed begun sellin drugs in the late 1960s. (Ghassan remained in the airms business till his daith o naitural causes in 2009).[5]

Al-Kassar attendit law schuil in the late 1960s.[5]

In 1970, al-Kassar haed his first Interpol-recordit arrest, for theft, in Trieste, Italy.[5]

Al-Kassar became an airms dealer in the "early 1970s", accordin tae him, when the govrenment o Yemen asked him tae buy rifles an pistols frae Poland for them (it is allegit that those airms wur then sent tae various terror groups). In 80's he wis Commercial Attaché o Fowkdemocratic Republic o Yemen in Fowkrepublic o Poland.[6]

Unitit Kinrick[eedit | eedit soorce]

In 1972, he wis arrestit in Copenhagen for sellin hashish. He then muivit tae the Unitit Kinrick. He livit in Sloane Square in Lunnon, whaur he teuk pairt in an operation that importit heroin an hashish frae Lebanon, then bocht airms wi the profits an smuggled them back tae Lebanon.[5] In aither 1974 or 1977[1] (soorces conflict), al-Kassar wis arrestit an jailed in the UK for sellin hashish. He served less nor twa years in jyle.[5]

In 1981, he marriet Raghdaa Habbal, who wis seiventeen years auld at the time, an who came frae a well-connectit Sirie faimily in Beirut.[5]

In 1984, al-Kassar wis expelled frae the UK for drug an airms traffickin.

"The Prince o Marbella"[eedit | eedit soorce]

Efter his expulsion frae the UK, al-Kassar muivit, alang wi his wife an bi then twa childer, tae Marbella, Spain. Thare he bocht a mansion, that he namit "Palacio de Mifadil" ("Palace o Ma Virtue", in a combination o Spainyie an Arabic), an quickly developit a reputation as a walthy, ostentatious businessman. The European press suin began tae caw him "The Prince o Marbella". In 1985 he wis the subject o a profile in the French magazine Paris Match, which wrote, "in a few years, this Sirie merchant became ane o the maist pouerful businessmen in the warld."[5]

The Spainyie govrenment alleges that in 1985, al-Kassar sauld airms tae the hijackers o the Achille Lauro cruise ship, an that efterwards he flew the hijackers' leader, Abu Abbas, tae safety in ane o his private airplanes. Al-Kassar haes deneed the chairge.

In 1987, investigations intae the Iran-Contra scandal foond that al-Kassar haed been peyed 1.5 million pounds bi someane in the U.S. govrenment tae sell airms tae Nicaraguan Contras;[1] accordin tae an airticle in The New Yorker, the money came frae "a Swiss bank account controlled bi Oliver North an his co-conspirators."[5]

In 1992, al-Kassar made airms sales valued in the millions o dollars tae Croatie, Bosnie an Somalie, violatin Unitit Naitions airms embargoes tae aw three countries. That same year, al-Kassar obtained an Argentine passport, wi the allegit plan tae muive thare, wi the assistance o then-preses Carlos Menem, whose parents wur frae the same toun in Sirie as those o al-Kassar, an who mey hae been a relative. (In 2000, he wis indictit in Argentinae for "obtainin documents unner false pretences".) In 1992 an aw, the Spainyie govrenment arrestit him for his allegit earlier involvement in the Achille Lauro hijackin, alang wi "falsification o documents" an "possession o illegal weapons an vehicles". He spent mair nor a year in jyle afore bein released on bail. The trial came in 1995, an he wis foond no guilty on aw chairges.[1]

Up tae 2002 he collaboratit wi Pols Military Information Services in illegal airms tradin.[7]

In Julie 2006, the govrenment o Iraq placit him at #26 on thair "maist wantit" leet, cawin him "ane o the main sources o financial an logistics support" for the Iraqi insurgency.[1]

DEA sting[eedit | eedit soorce]

Efter the 11t September attacks in 2001, thare wis renewed interest in the Unitit States in apprehendin those connectit tae terrorism, as well as new laws that gae greater power for "extraterritorial jurisdiction", or the ability o the U.S. govrenment tae investigate an arrest fowk suspectit o committin creemes ootside the Unitit States.[5] In 2006, the Drug Enforcement Agency decidit tae put thegither a sting tae trap al-Kassar, code-namit "Operation Legacy" an led bi Jim Soiles an the DEA's Special Operations Diveesion. Thay enleetit a 69-year-auld Palestinian umwhile member o the Black September Organization, referred tae publicly anerlie as "Samir", who wis then bein held in a U.S. preeson. Samir spent hintle o 2006 tryin tae arrange a meetin wi al-Kassar, an wis feenally able tae in December 2006.[5]

In Februar 2007, the DEA haed Samir arrange a meetin atween al-Kassar an twa Guatemalan informants posin as FARC insurgents who wantit tae purchase wappens tae uise against American military forces. The group met several mair times, an at later meetins the informants wur wearin hidden video cameras, which recordit al-Kassar greein tae the terms o the deal.[5]

The informants, at the request o the DEA, then treed tae lur al-Kassar tae Romanie, ostensibly in order tae collect his payment for the sale, whaur he coud be easily arrestit bi U.S. agents; but al-Kassar refused. Thay instead convincit him tae buiard a flicht tae Madrid for the same purpose. In Juin 2007, the Cuerpo Nacional de Policía (Spainyie Naitional Polis) at the Barajas Airport in Madrid arrestit him efter he got aff the plane.[5] He wis chairgit wi conspirin tae kill Americans, supplyin terrorists, obtainin anti-aircraft missiles an money launderin.[8]

On 13 Juin 2008, al-Kassar wis extraditit tae the Unitit States for trial;[9] he arrived in New York in shackles the follaein day.[10] On 20 November 2008, he wis convictit in federal court o five chairges, amang them money launderin an conspirin tae sell airms tae suppleers for FARC.[3] Sentencing for al-Kassar an co-defendant Luis Felipe Moreno Godoy wis scheduled for Februar 18.[2] The relatives o Leon Klinghoffer, the man murdered in the Achille Lauro incident, war in court for the verdict.[3] Al-Kassar wis representit bi Ira Sorkin.[11]

A New Yorker airticle aboot the sting speculatit that al-Kassar haed been unuisually lax in his behaviour wi the fake airms buyers, an that this mey hae been caused bi financial desperation on al-Kassar's pairt, syne, due tae a decrease in warld conflicts, the internaitional airms tred wis slawer than it haed been durin the late 20t century.[5]

Notes[eedit | eedit soorce]

Freemit airtins[eedit | eedit soorce]