| NEW YORK
NEW YORK May 24 A U.S-Syrian citizen accused of
conspiring with jailed Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout has been
extradited to New York from Australia to face charges he
conspired to buy aircraft in violation of economic sanctions,
federal prosecutors said on Friday.
Richard Ammar Chichakli is scheduled to be arraigned in
federal magistrate court in Manhattan on Saturday, the U.S.
Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara,
said in a statement.
Chichakli is charged with one count each of conspiracy to
violate the International Emergency Economics Powers Act, money
laundering and wire fraud conspiracy, as well as six counts of
wire fraud. He faces up to 180 years in prison if convicted on
all charges, officials said.
There was no immediate response to an email requesting
comment to a website set up in Chichakli's defense.
"With his extradition today to face charges for his flagrant
violations of international sanctions and other crimes, he will
now face the same American justice Viktor Bout did," Bharara
Chichakli was a close associate of Bout - known as the
"Merchant of Death" for his purported willingness to ship arms
to any warlord or leader who could pay him - since the 1990s,
U.S. officials said.
Bout was convicted in 2011 of conspiring to sell weapons to
the rebel group FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia,
and is serving a 25 years sentence in the United States.
Prior to his conviction, Bout led an international arms
smuggling operation by assembling a fleet of airplanes capable
of shipping large quantities of weapons and military equipment
to some of the world's most violent conflict zones.
Chichakli also had close ties to former Liberian dictator
Charles Taylor, officials said.
A 2004 executive order issued by President George W. Bush
prohibited any transactions or dealings in the United States by
individuals affiliated with Taylor. That prohibition, which had
already been extended to Bout, was placed on Chichakli in 2005.
Bout and Chichakli subsequently created companies in the
names of others to mask their involvement, including a company
they formed called Samar Airlines, according to court documents.
Prosecutors charge that the company attempted in 2007 to buy
two Boeing aircraft from U.S. companies, and wired more
than $1.7 million through New York banks into U.S. accounts in
connection with the deal, according to court documents.
The U.S. Treasury Department blocked the funds that had been
transferred into the bank accounts of the U.S. aviation
companies when it learned of Chichakli's connection, prosecutors
The website defending Chichakli contends that the two men
were legitimate business partners on a number of ventures, but
that after the 2004 U.S. sanctions, "there was no business
relationship between Richard Chichakli and Victor Bout."