Belgian Jacques Monsieur Indicted in Plot to Smuggle Jet Parts From U.S. to Iran
Thursday, September 3, 2009
A Belgian arms dealer who allegedly tried to smuggle fighter-jet engines and parts from the United States to Iran has been indicted, U.S. officials announced Wednesday, days after he was arrested in New York City after stepping off a flight from France.
Jacques Monsieur, 56, was charged Aug. 27 by a federal grand jury with six counts of conspiracy, smuggling, money laundering, and violating weapons-trafficking laws and export controls related to a U.S. trade embargo on Iran.
Co-defendant Dara Fotouhi, 54, an Iranian national who lives in France and allegedly works with the government of Iran, is still at large, the Justice Department said in a statement.
At a brief hearing Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Katherine Nelson of the U.S. District Court in Mobile, Ala., unsealed the case and a June search warrant at Monsieur's request, court records show.
John Morton, head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), told reporters in a conference call that Monsieur pleaded not guilty, but wire services said that the arraignment was delayed and that Monsieur had not entered a plea.
Reached by telephone, Arthur J. Madden III, Monsieur's attorney, said, "At this point, any comment would be inappropriate."
The case is the latest U.S. effort to counter what authorities describe as Tehran's pursuit of banned weaponry. It comes as the United States and other countries renew efforts to pressure Iran to scale back its nuclear ambitions.
Authorities say Monsieur, nicknamed "The Field Marshal," according to U.S. officials, in February contacted a person he thought could supply him with engines for F-5 fighter or C-130 cargo transport aircraft. That person turned out to be an undercover ICE agent. Monsieur subsequently met with undercover agents in Paris and London, authorities say.
Monsieur shipped arms to Bosnia and Croatia in the 1990s, which he reportedly later said was done with the approval of the CIA and French intelligence, according to a 2002 report by the Center for Public Integrity. The group stated that Monsieur was a participant in the Iran-contra affair, but his relations with Washington deteriorated after his work with Iran, for which he allegedly tried to procure uranium as well.
Morton declined to comment on the center's findings.