NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors asked a judge on Monday to sentence a Syrian arms dealer convicted of conspiring to sell weapons worth $1 million to Colombian rebels to decades in prison.
Monzer al-Kassar, 63, described by prosecutors as one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers, was convicted in November of agreeing to sell weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, to protect a cocaine-trafficking business and attack U.S. interests.
Kassar, a longtime resident of Spain known as the “Prince of Marbella” for his lifestyle in the glitzy seaside town, will be sentenced in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday, along with Felipe Moreno Godoy, a Chilean, 59.
Kassar was extradited after Spain received assurances from U.S. authorities he would face neither the death penalty nor a life sentence without chance of parole.
In a sentencing memo on Monday, prosecutors asked for Kassar to serve a prison sentence “substantially in excess” of the 25-year minimum he faces, but “less than life.”
“From his palatial estate along Spain’s Costa del Sol, Al Kassar commanded an arms trafficking network of criminal associates and front bank accounts that spanned the globe,” the memo said.
In this case, the memo said, he agreed to supply 12,000 weapons to the FARC, which “he believed intended to use the arms to kill Americans.”
Kassar’s defense lawyers, who argued during the trial he was a legitimate arms dealer, asked in separate court papers for a sentence of 25 years, the minimum he can receive.
“There were crimes of greed, not crimes of terrorism,” said the lawyers. “All this for a crime — really, a DEA sting operation — in which nobody was harmed,” they said, referring to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Kassar “will likely die in prison in a foreign country ... thousands of miles from his wife and children,” the lawyers said.
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.
Both were convicted on a host of charges including arms sales, conspiracy to kill U.S. officials, conspiracy to aid a terrorist organization and money-laundering.
The U.S. embassy in Madrid said Kassar had been selling weapons since the 1970s to the Palestinian Liberation Front and clients in Nicaragua, Bosnia, Croatia, Iran, Iraq and Somalia.
Reporting by Christine Kearney, editing by Mohammad Zargham