Jordanian-born US Citizen Sentenced to 30 Years in Arms-Smuggling Scheme

Rami Najm Asad-Ghanem was convicted last November of conspiracy “to transfer a wide array of surface-to-air missile systems to customers around the world, including clients in Libya, the UAE, Iraq, and the leadership of Hezbollah”

A Hezbollah fighter holding an Iranian-made anti-aircraft missile in southern Lebanon (Photo: AP)

An arms dealer who tried to buy anti-aircraft missiles and sell them to clients in the Middle East – including Iran and Hezbollah – was sentenced to 30 years in prison, the US Justice Department said in a statement last week.

Rami Najm Asad-Ghanem, 53, a naturalized US citizen born in Jordan who was living in Egypt at the time of the offenses, was found guilty by a federal jury last year of conspiring to use and transfer missile systems designed to destroy aircraft, according to the statement.

Asad-Ghanem, commonly known as Rami Ghanem, was arrested Dec. 8, 2015, in Athens, Greece. He was extradited to the United States in April 2016 to face prosecution in this case and has remained in custody without bond since the time of his arrest.

“Following a nine-day trial last November, a federal jury found Ghanem guilty of conspiring to use and to transfer missile systems designed to destroy aircraft,” the statement said.

“The evidence presented at last year’s trial showed that Ghanem conspired to transfer a wide array of surface-to-air missile systems to customers around the world, including clients in Libya, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, and the leadership of Hezbollah.  

“During the trial, prosecutors showed that he conspired to use Russian-made Igla and Strela surface-to-air missile systems by brokering the services of mercenary missile operators to a militant faction in Libya in 2015. Among other actions, Ghanem negotiated the salaries and terms of service of the mercenary missile operators, coordinated their payment, facilitated their travel to Libya, confirmed their arrival and performance of duties, and offered them a $50,000 bonus if they were successful in their mission of shooting down airplanes flown by the internationally recognized government of Libya.

“Over the course of several months in 2015, Ghanem discussed his interest in purchasing numerous weapons, and in August 2015 placed an order for $220,000 worth of sniper rifles, pistols, silencers, laser sights, ammunition, night-vision goggles and other items that were to be shipped to Libya.  

“After his arrest, authorities seized numerous digital devices that Ghanem had in his possession. Searches of those devices revealed evidence of other large-scale arms brokering activities, including millions of rounds of ammunition, anti-tank missiles, and the scheme to transfer and use anti-aircraft missiles.

“…Prosecutors offered evidence of a contract documenting Ghanem’s agreement to sell $250 million worth of weapons and ammunition to a militant faction in Libya; a contract between Ghanem and the Egyptian Ministry of Defendant dealing with hundreds of rocket-propelled grenade launchers; attempts to buy and sell combat jets and helicopter gunships; and his apparent role in the trafficking of counterfeit currency, looted antiquities and black-market diamonds.”