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Weapons-for-drugs conspirator guilty on narco-terror charges

FARC rebels

A 43-year-old Swedish man who tried to negotiate a weapons-for-drugs deal with a group he believed to be a Columbian narco-terror group pleaded guilty on Jan. 17 to charges of providing support for terrorists.

Paul Mardirossian pled guilty in a Manhattan federal court to five counts stemming from an international Drug Enforcement Administration sting operation. He believed he was selling rocket propelled grenades, automatic rifles and other weapons to representatives of the Marxist Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (“FARC”), a Colombian terrorist group. Mardirossian, a Swedish citizen, agreed to supply the FARC with military-grade weapons, including rocket-propelled grenade launchers and assault rifles, in exchange for large quantities of cocaine, said a Jan. 17 statement by the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York.

“Paul Mardirossian was ready, willing, and able to supply military grade weapons to people he thought were terrorists for the express purpose of harming Americans,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. “In return, he would receive prodigious quantities of cocaine that would ultimately poison thousands of people and net him huge profits. Today’s guilty plea is the latest result of our ongoing efforts to dismantle the inter-connected networks of drug dealers and arms suppliers.”

The case is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.

According to the statement by the office, Mardirossian began meeting with the undercover DEA agent in February 2010, in Spain and Panama and agreed to provide military-grade weapons to the FARC, including AK-47 assault rifles, grenade launchers, and ammunition, in exchange for the cocaine.

During a meeting in January 2011 in Panama City, Panama, the statement said the DEA agent and another confidential source, whom Mardirossian thought was a senior FARC member, told Mardirossian and a co-conspirator that the weapons were needed to attack a U.S. military base that was currently under construction. In subsequent meetings and contacts with the undercover agent and government informant, Mardirossian orchestrated delivery of sample weapons, including a grenade launcher and an AK-47 assault rifle, to an undercover officer in Denmark last April. He was arrested in Panama City, Panama, in late April and turned over to U.S. authorities, said the statement.

Mardirossian pled guilty to three counts of providing support to a narco-terror organization, and counts of drug trafficking and money laundering. He faces a possible sentence of 65 years in prison on all counts, said the statement.  

He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 17, 2012.

The charges, arrest, and prosecution of the defendant, said the statement, were the result of close cooperation between the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the Special Operations Division of the DEA, the DEA Copenhagen Country Office, the DEA Madrid Country Office, the DEA Panama Country Office, the DEA Rome Country Office,the U.S. Department of Justice Office of International Affairs and National Security Division, the U.S. Department of State, the government of the Republic of Panama, and the Danish Security and Intelligence Service.