Nigeria gives Iranian, Nigerian five years for arms smuggling

Azim Adhajani, an Iranian charged for illegal arms importation into Nigeria, gestures at the reopening of his trial inside the Federal High Court in Lagos February 16, 2011. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

LAGOS, May 13 - A Nigerian court sentenced an alleged member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and a Nigerian accomplice to five years in prison on Monday over an illegal shipment of mortars and rockets seized in the main port of Lagos in 2010.

The shipment included rockets and other explosives that had been hidden in containers of building materials when authorities found it. Iran is barred from shipping weapons abroad under United Nations sanctions.

Azim Adhajani, accused of being a Tehran-based businessman and member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, was found guilty with Abuja-based businessman Ali Usman Abbas Jega of importing illegal goods, false declaration on a bill of laden and concealment of firearms.

They and two more Nigerian suspects, customs clearing agents Ali Oroji Wamako and Mohammed Tukur, had also been charged with conspiring to re-export the illegal shipment to Banjul, Gambia, but this charge was not addressed.

Reports that Iranian security forces were ultimately trying to supply weapons to Casamance rebels in this shipment strained ties between Iran and Senegal.

Senegal’s Casamance region lies between Gambia to the north and Guinea-Bissau to the south. Separatist Casamance rebels have been fighting a low-intensity conflict for the independence of the region since the 1980s.

The seized weapons included assorted calibers of mortars and 107 mm rockets - designed to attack static targets and used by armies to support infantry units - as well as shells for a 23 mm anti-aircraft gun.

The two men have already spent more than two years in prison awaiting trial, time which will count towards their sentence.