A man in California, USA has been arrested for illegally brokering the sale of military-grade weapons to the Nigerian government under former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Ara Dolarian, 58, was arrested last week in the central California city of Fresno.
He also accused of money laundering and could face 20 years in prison if he is convicted.
The US attorney’s office said on Monday that Dolarian had accepted more than $8 million for brokering a deal to sell bombs, rockets and guns from Eastern Europe and South Africa to Abuja.
Prosecutors said Dolarian’s Fresno-based arms brokering company was not authorised to make international deals.
In 2013 and through 2014, Dolarian was denied licences to broker international arms deals by the US Department of State, according to court documents.
Despite not being authorised to sell weapons, the DOJ alleges Dolarian attempted to broker a multi-million dollar transfer of high-explosive bombs, rockets, military-grade firearms and aircraft-mounted cannons from Eastern Europe and South Africa to the government of Nigeria.
Dolarian is accused of executing sales contracts in 2014 with the Society D’Equipments Internationaux (SEI), a French arms brokering company acting on behalf of the Nigerian government, for an $8.5 million deal to purchase munitions and explosives. Dolarian allegedly accepted approximately $8.3 million from Nigeria and its broker, SEI.
An application for this deal before the US State Department in June 2014 was also never approved, according to the release.
Shortly after receiving the funds, Dolarian used them to pay off personal expenses, such as federal and state tax debts, and to buy a BMW SUV, according to the U.S. Attorney’ office.
The US government seized more than $6 million from Dolarian’s accounts in February 2015.
If convicted Dolarian — who made his first court appearance Thursday — could face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine for unlicensed arms brokering, five years and a $250,000 fine for conspiracy and a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $500,000 or up to twice the value of the arms sold, whichever is greater.
The final determination of sentencing would be made by the court.
Dolarian, who now lives in Bulgaria, was arrested at the Fresno home of his mother.
The Fresno Bee newspaper reports his business neighbours thought he was importing and exporting tea.