NEW YORK, (Reuters) – A Syrian native who U.S. prosecutors called one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers for decades was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Wednesday for conspiring to sell weapons to Colombian rebels.
Monzer al-Kassar, 63, a longtime resident of Spain known as the “Prince of Marbella” for his lifestyle in the glitzy seaside town, was sentenced after being convicted in November of agreeing to sell millions of dollars of weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff also sentenced Felipe Moreno Godoy, a 59-year-old Chilean, to 25 years in prison. Prosecutors called him Kassar’s right-hand man.
Kassar was convicted of agreeing to sell weapons including surface-to-air missiles to the FARC, knowing they would be used to protect a cocaine-trafficking business and attack U.S. interests.
The charges included conspiring to kill American nationals and officers, conspiring to acquire anti-aircraft missiles and providing support to a terrorist organization.
The prosecution case was based largely on evidence gathered by two undercover operatives who posed as FARC arms buyers and videotaped negotiations in Spain with Kassar and Moreno. The deal would have also included assault and sniper rifles and rocket propelled grenade launchers for a profit of $1 million.
Kassar was extradited by Spain in June 2008 after Spain received assurances from U.S. authorities he would face neither the death penalty nor a life sentence without chance of parole.
He was arrested at the Madrid airport in June 2007 after his U.S. indictment said he knew the FARC kidnapped U.S. citizens to dissuade American efforts to disrupt the cocaine trade.
Kassar has been selling weapons since the 1970s to the Palestinian Liberation Front and clients in Nicaragua, Bosnia, Croatia, Iran, Iraq and Somalia, according to the U.S. embassy in Madrid.