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Homeland Security

24 August 2004

U.S. Indicts Six Men For Exporting Arms to Terrorist Groups in Colombia

Arms were shipped to Colombia via Venezuela

By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- A federal grand jury in Miami, Florida, has indicted six men on charges of conspiring to export arms via Venezuela to several terrorist groups in Colombia.

In an August 19 statement, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency said a nine-count indictment was returned against the men. More than 200 weapons and 700,000 rounds of ammunition were seized in the case, along with all of the tools and parts necessary for the building of many more automatic weapons, the ICE said.

The indictment said the weapons and ammunition were purchased by the defendants in the United States and sold for profit to the highest bidders, usually in Venezuela and Colombia. Many of the weapons and ammunition purchases were made by buyers and suppliers acting on behalf of the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and a right-wing Colombian paramilitary group, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). The U.S. State Department has designated both the FARC and the AUC as terrorist organizations.

The defendants, Rafael Samper, Edgar Semprun, Antonio Tarrab, Raul Gomez DeMolina, Bilmer Paz, and Rodney Sharp, were charged with violations of two U.S. laws -- the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, and the Gun Control Act of 1968 -- for their participation in an organization that provides arms, ammunition, and other military supplies to organized terrorist groups in South America.

Jesus Torres, ICE Miami Special Agent-in-Charge, said the arrests "send a clear message that ICE remains vigilant in its efforts aimed at preventing these dangerous weapons from ending up in the wrong hands," adding: "It must be among our highest priorities to intercede and interdict the export and trafficking of arms and ammunition to groups who may seek to engage in terrorism or who pose a potential threat to our national security and public safety."

The defendants "conspired to illegally ship firearms and ammunition to designated terrorist groups in Colombia through Venezuela," said Marcos Daniel Jimenez, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. "Those who illegally possess and export firearms are a threat to not only our community but also the citizens and residents of other countries."

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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