Maybe you caught the latest news on arms trafficking: a Belgian man widely believed to be one of Europe’s top arms merchants has been indicted in, of all places, Mobile, Alabama. The charges: arms smuggling and money laundering. Turns out the trafficker, one Jacques Monsieur of Belgium, was the subject of a detailed report in 2002 by the Center’s International Consortium of Investigative Journalists — part of ICIJ’s Making a Killing project, which looked at the increasing use of mercenaries by governments worldwide. Monsieur was arrested in New York on Friday after stepping off a flight from France, according to press reports. His attorney told the Associated Press that he plans to plead not guilty at his arraignment next week.
The federal indictment alleges that Monsieur, 56, contracted with an undercover U.S. federal agent to buy military aircraft parts from the United States for sale to Iran. Monsieur exchanged emails with the agent as recently as August 17. The United States is at least the fourth government to arrest and charge Monsieur for arms trafficking.
The United States is also, according to Monsieur, one of many governments that has allegedly used him as middleman for arms sales to countries under sanction by the United Nations. In 2000, Monsieur told a French judge the CIA had asked him to sell arms to Croatia in 1991, then under UN embargo, and that Croatia and Bosnia proved to be his best markets for the next four years. As Making a Killing reported, Monsieur has done business with the Iranian military since 1992, securing military parts from the United States. He acted as middle man for an arms trade between Iran and Congo-Brazzaville until 1997, providing Brazzaville with $61.4 million worth of weapons.
Monsieur was indicted in France in 1999 for weapons trafficking, and arrested and indicted in Iran a year later for spying. He was sentenced in Tehran in 2001 and promptly released, only to be arrested five months later in Istanbul and extradited to Belgium on charges of arms trafficking. He faces six counts in the U.S. indictment, alongside Iranian national Dara Fotouhi, who allegedly worked with Monsieur on Iran’s behalf. The case is being heard in Alabama because Monsieur and Fotouhi allegedly wired $110,000 to a Mobile bank for purchase of aircraft parts.