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Federal judge sentences Armenian to 22 years for smuggling weapons into US

[JURIST] Armenian international arms dealer Artur Solomonyan was sentenced to 22 years in prison [press release, PDF] Friday for attempting to smuggle weapons from Eastern Europe into the US, according to the US Attorney's Office for Southern District of New York [official website]. Solomonyan and South African Christiaan Spies were found to be the leaders of a group of 18, all of whom were convicted [FBI press release] in 2007 for arranging to sell [RIA Novosti report] shoulder fired surface to air missiles, rocket propelled grenades, and other Russian-made high powered weaponry to a confidential informant posing as an arms dealer for al Qaeda. The sentence was imposed by Judge Richard Howell of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website], who presided over the previous convictions.

According to the original complaint [text, PDF], from December 2003 to March 2005, Solomonyan, Spies, and another man, Ioseb Kharabadze, met with the confidential informant at various times in New York City and provided the informant with a number of assault rifles and machine guns. The FBI arrested [Washington Post report] the men in 2005 before any of the larger weapons were obtained. The complaint also alleged that Solomonyan had offered to sell uranium to the informant.

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