By Paige McGlone, CNN • Updated 17th July 2017
Scores of mostly Iranian small merchant ships have been linked to international smuggling activities, and authorities hope to shake up what they say is an illegal and deeply entrenched trade.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
“The Justice Department alleged that more than 1,000 weapons, destined for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and seized in the eastern Mediterranean, were destined for Iran, Israeli agents, and Hezbollah militants.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions today announced that in a sweeping haul of weapons and cash, the United States will forfeit what is reportedly the largest-ever seizure of Iranian-origin weapons from ships caught in US waters. The Commerce Department reports that imports of Iranian goods have tripled in recent years.
Before US law required some sellers of firearms and ammunition to register with the federal government, Ali Babadi, an Iranian gun-shop owner, was believed to be America’s biggest seller of armor-piercing bullets for licensed firearm manufacturers.
Babadi was arrested by federal agents in Brooklyn for illegally selling illegal armor-piercing ammunition. Three years after being convicted of illegally selling to individuals, Federal prosecutors recently announced in New York that Babadi had been captured smuggling thousands of pounds of guns and ammunition to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in an operation run by the US Attorney in Brooklyn.
Other recovered guns and ammo were originally from Iran, including an 8x10mm version of the M-4 that had been exported by Iran to Iraq. FBI agents also seized $500,000 from Babadi’s girlfriend after an 8-month undercover operation.
“This unprecedented criminal enforcement action that seeks to expose the illegal weapons smuggling network responsible for the importation of prohibited and deadly weapons to the people of Iran and Iran’s proxies is a prime example of how federal agencies and the Department of Justice are teaming up to ensure justice for victims and a safer world,” said US Attorney Robert Capers in a statement.
Sessions also issued a directive calling for federal gun makers and dealers to be more diligent about verifying identities and reputations of customers and the source of ammo when receiving shipments.
Iran denies that it has engaged in illicit shipping activity and says the Justice Department’s allegations are based on evidence that is either illegally obtained or impossible to confirm.