Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
July 3, 2006
U.S. Arms Export Control Compliance and Enforcement and the UN Program of Action for Small Arms and Light Weapons (SA/LW)
The United States has long been committed to vigorous arms export control compliance and enforcement measures. Since the adoption of the Program of Action at the conclusion of the United Nations Conference to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects in July 2001, the United States has continued to expand and enhance its compliance and enforcement efforts. As the United Nations Review Conference on the Program of Action convenes from June 26 through July 7, 2006 (with the exception of July 4, Independence Day, which the UN observes), the importance of robust export controls and enforcement is more essential than ever in successfully combating the illicit trade in arms of all kinds. The figures below illustrate increasing success in criminal enforcement actions during the past five years.
Arrests and Convictions for Arms Export Control Act (AECA) Violations
Fifty-nine arrests for AECA-related violations were recorded in 2001; a high of ninety-four arrests were logged in 2003. There have been eighty-six arrests already in 2006, in what can be expected to be a record year. For 2001, there were thirty-nine convictions for AECA-related violations; in 2005 there were nearly double that number (sixty-nine). There have been thirty-two convictions registered already in 2006. The following sections provide illustrative case summaries of export violations involving small arms and light weapons (SA/LW), recent arms brokering convictions, and examples of the successful use of end-use monitoring to thwart the illicit trade in SA/LW.
- Smuggling Machine Guns and Grenade Launchers to the U.S. From Vietnam. On November 2, 2005, Daniel Edward Rogers, a former U.S. law enforcement officer, was sentenced to 51 months in prison for smuggling 85 machine guns, four grenade launchers and an assortment of pistols into San Francisco on two Air France flights in 1994. The charges stemmed from investigations by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Rogers, originally indicted in 1995, was a fugitive in Thailand for nine years before being returned to the U.S. for arrest, with the cooperation with Thai authorities.
- Weapons to Colombian Terrorist Group. On February 11, 2005, Carlos Gamarra-Murillo, a Colombian national, pleaded guilty in Tampa, Florida, to charges of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization and violating the AECA. The plea was the result of an ICE investigation that showed Gamarra-Murillo plotted to provide nearly $4 million worth of arms to Colombia’s Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC). Gamarra-Murillo sought to illegally export roughly 4,000 grenades, 1,800 assault rifles, as well as 60 grenade launchers and 60 machine guns to Colombia via Venezuela. Gamarra-Murrillo allegedly offered to pay undercover ICE agents posing as weapons suppliers 60 percent of the payment in cocaine (2,000 kilograms) and the remainder in U.S. currency upon delivering the weapons shipment to a clandestine airstrip in Venezuela. On August 8, 2005, Gamarra-Murrillo was sentenced to 25 years Federal imprisonment.
- Military Laser Sights to Foreign Locations. On April 27, 2005, Sotaro Inami, a Japanese national, was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment for conspiracy to export U.S. munitions list articles to Japan. Inami and co-conspirator Takashi Matsubara had been charged in July 2004 as a result of an undercover ICE and Defense Criminal Investigative Service investigation. According to the indictment, the defendants conspired to purchase and illegally export military laser sights for M-16 and M-5 rifles to locations outside the United States. Inami was arrested at the Los Angeles airport on February 17, 2004 after he arrived to attend a weapons show in Las Vegas.
- Assault Rifles and Machine Guns to Philippines. ICE agents arrested Victor "the Devil" Infante, the accused leader of an international firearms and methamphetamine distribution organization, after a 9-month investigation that involved law enforcement agencies in the Philippines, New York, New Jersey, California, and Louisiana. Infante was charged with the attempted export of assault weapons, including MAC-11 submachine guns, MP-5s, HK-94s, Colt AR-15s, and Uzi Model Bs, to the Philippines. Philippine authorities contend that Infante supplied arms to the Abu Sayyaf terrorist organization. He pled guilty to drug-related charges on September 20, 2004 and is awaiting sentencing.
- Weapons to Colombian Terrorist Groups. On August 19, 2004, a federal grand jury in Miami, Florida charged seven individuals with conspiracy to illegally export arms, ammunition, and other military supplies to organized paramilitary groups in Colombia, including the FARC and the Autodefenseas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), a designated foreign terrorist organization. The charges resulted from a joint investigation by ICE and ATF. The investigation, which began after agents responded to a flooded warehouse in Miami that contained weapons destined for South America, ultimately resulted in the seizure of more than 200 weapons and more than 700,000 rounds of ammunition. Six members involved in this conspiracy were arrested and convicted pursuant to plea agreements in U.S. District Court. One member is currently a fugitive. The remaining defendants are awaiting sentencing.
Control of arms brokering activities is critical to preventing the illicit arms trade. Weak or non-existent brokering laws and regulations in many parts of the world allow arms brokers to procure military-grade weapons for terrorist and violent insurgent groups, often in violation of United Nations sanctions as well as national laws, with impunity. The United States amended the AECA to comprehensively address arms brokering in 1996. During the past five years, enforcement of the U.S. arms brokering law and convictions for violations have continued to rise. The following is a summary of recent convictions for brokering and export related violations, including several involving SA/LW:
- Assault Rifles and Machine Guns to Colombia. Carlos Alberto Correa-Arrango was convicted in the U.S. Southern District Court of Florida for attempting to procure AK-47 assault rifles and an M-60 machine gun for the AUC. On August 31, 2005, he was sentenced to 26 months imprisonment and 3 years supervised release.
- Assault Rifles to Colombia. Guillermo Cardoso-Arias was convicted in the U.S. Southern District Court of Florida for attempting to procure AK-47 assault rifles also for the AUC in Colombia. On April 1, 2005, he was changed with illicit brokering and arms export violations and sentenced to 46 months imprisonment and 3 years supervised release.
- MANPADS for Terrorists. Hemant Lakhani, a British national, was convicted in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey for attempting to broker man-portable air-defense missile systems (MANPADS) to persons thought to be terrorists. He was also charged with attempting to provide material support to terrorists as well as unauthorized arms brokering and money laundering changes. He was sentenced to a total of 47 years imprisonment on September 12, 2005.
- Jet Aircraft Engines and Missiles to China. Ko-Suen Moo pled guilty to conspiracy to export jet aircraft engines and missiles to the People’s Republic of China in violation of U.S. export laws on May 17, 2006. His sentence is pending.
- Military Aircraft Parts and Electronics. Saeed Homayouni was convicted in the U.S. Southern District Court of California for conspiracy to broker the export of military aircraft parts and electronics without authorization. He was sentenced to 24 months imprisonment.
- Military Night Vision Equipment to China (indictment). Phillip Cheng was indicted for conspiracy to violate the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) by brokering the export and sale of military night-vision equipment to the People’s Republic of China without authorization. His trial is scheduled for August 2006 in the U.S. Northern District Court of California.
End-use Monitoring – such as SA/LW. The extra steps required to do end-use checks – a phone call, an interview with an importer/end-user, a brief visit to inspect a facility – can mean the difference between unwittingly approving and thwarting an illicit arms export. In the following cases, despite apparently complete documentation on the license application, serious problems with SA/LW exports were found, proving the utility of United States diligence in this regard:
The United States also stresses the importance of careful end-use monitoring. Ensuring that arms are exported to the appropriate end-user and for their appropriate end-use requires due diligence on the part of national export authorities and cooperation from the importing nation as well. The United States conducts pre-license and post-shipment checks on exports where there is a risk of diversion, concerns about end-use/end-users, or due to the sensitivity of the commodities
- A pre-license check on a shipment of firearms to a country in Asia revealed that the company intended to re-export U.S.-origin firearms without authorization from the U.S. Department of State’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC). The license was denied.
- A pre-license check on the proposed export of M-16 rifle parts to another Asian country indicated that the company involved was not authorized by its government to import such items. The license was denied.
- A pre-license check on an application for 300 handguns to a private company in Latin America confirmed the legitimacy of the private company. Upon review of the proposed transaction, however, the host government determined that the number of guns was excessive given the high incidence of lost and stolen firearms involved in a recent surge in violent crime. The quantity of guns on the license was subsequently reduced.
- A pre-license check involving pistols to be exported to a Central American country revealed that the end-user had been established as a front company for another firearms retailer who was under investigation by the local government for export violations. DDTC denied the license and added both companies to its Watch list.
- During a check conducted on a North American arms retailer, the proprietor of the company provided evasive responses to questions about re-exporting U.S.-origin firearms and claimed a lack of knowledge of the subject – despite his being a retired customs officer. As a result, the license was denied, the proprietor placed on the DDTC Watch list, and the information was turned over to host government authorities for possible further investigation.
To learn more about United States’ arms export control compliance and enforcement, visit the website of the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at http://www.pmddtc.state.gov.