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By Bernard Vaughan
NEW YORK Jan 10 A U.S.-Syrian citizen, accused
of conspiring with convicted international arms dealer Viktor
Bout and others to try to buy two aircraft from U.S. companies
in violation of economic sanctions, has been arrested in
Richard Ammar Chichakli was arrested at the request of U.S.
authorities, the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan said on
Thursday. He was charged in a nine-count indictment and faces up
to 180 years in prison if convicted on all of the charges.
"As alleged, Richard Ammar Chichakli consorted with the
world's most notorious arms trafficker in the purchase of
aircraft that would be used to transport weapons to some of the
world's bloodiest conflict zones," Pr eet Bharara, US Attorney
for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement.
Chichakli's attorney could not be immediately identified.
There was no immediate response to an emailed request for
comment sent to a website set up in Chichakli's defense.
Bout, a Russian arms dealer, is serving a 25-year prison
term in the United States. He was convicted last year of
conspiring to sell weapons to the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia, a rebel group.
Bout's case caused a rift with Moscow, which called his
arrest and trial unfair. In November, the U.S. Justice
Department turned down Russia's request to return Bout to
Chichakli is charged with one count each of conspiracy to
violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, money
laundering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, and six counts of
Chichakli, whom federal prosecutors say had a close
relationship with former Liberian President Charles Taylor, has
been a "close associate" of Bout's since at least the mid-1990s,
according to federal prosecutors.
In 2004, President George W. Bush issued an executive order
prohibiting 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 had also been subject to United Nations
Security Council sanctions on their travel and ability to
After these sanctions were in place, prosecutors contend,
Bout and Chichakli created companies in the names of others to
hide their involvement.
Through one company they created, Samar Airlines, they tried
to buy two Boeing aircraft from U.S. companies in 2007
and wired more than $1.7 million through New York banks into
U.S. accounts in connection with the deal, prosecutors said in
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
(Editing by Martha Graybow and Bernadette Baum)