Ahmad Feras Diri, 42, of London, was arraigned today on charges alleging a conspiracy to illegally export laboratory equipment, including items used to detect chemical warfare agents, from the United States to Syria.
The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Peter J. Smith of the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Special Agent in Charge John Kelleghan of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) Philadelphia Office and Special Agent in Charge Sidney Simon of the U.S. Commerce Department’s Office of Export Enforcement (OEE) New York Field Office.
The indictment was returned by a Scranton, Pennsylvania, grand jury on Nov. 20, 2012, and charges Diri; Mowea Diri, Ahmad’s brother and a citizen of Syria; d-Deri Contracting & Trading, a business located in Syria; and Harold Rinko, a U.S. citizen, with criminal conspiracy, wire fraud, illegal export of goods, money laundering and false statements. On Sept. 16, 2014, Rinko pleaded guilty to the criminal conspiracy charge before U.S. District Judge Edwin M. Kosik of the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
On March 14, 2013, Diri was arrested by the Metropolitan Police in London in connection with the charges in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and was extradited to the United States by the United Kingdom on Nov. 12, 2015. Diri appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick of the Middle District of Pennsylvania today and pleaded not guilty to the indictment.
The indictment alleges that from 2003 until Nov. 20, 2012, the three men conspired to export items from the United States through third party countries to customers in Syria without the required U.S. Commerce Department licenses.
According to the indictment, the conspirators prepared false invoices that undervalued and mislabeled the goods being purchased and listed false information regarding the buyers’ identity and geographic location. The indictment alleges that the items were to be shipped from the United States to Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom, and thereafter transshipped to Syria.
According to the indictment, the items allegedly included: a portable gas scanner used for detection of chemical warfare agents by civil defense, military, police and border control agencies; a handheld instrument for field detection and classification of chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals; a laboratory source for detection of chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals in research, public safety and industrial environments; a rubber mask for civil defense against chemicals and gases; a meter used to measure chemicals and their composition; flowmeters for measuring gas streams; a stirrer for mixing and testing liquid chemical compounds; industrial engines for use in oil and gas field operations; and a device used to accurately locate buried pipelines.
“According to the charges in the indictment, Ahmad Feras Diri conspired with his brother and others to evade U.S. export laws and illegally send chemical laboratory equipment to Syria,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “These violations of U.S. export law threaten our national security, and we will continue to hold accountable those who seek to circumvent restrictions. I want to thank the agents, analysts, prosecutors and our U.K. law enforcement counterparts who are responsible for the arrest and charges in this case.”
“This extradition demonstrates HSI’s commitment to use all its resources to prevent sensitive and restricted technology from being exported to Syria through the black market,” said Special Agent in Charge Kelleghan. “No good comes of illegal exports to Syria, especially during this time of gross misgovernment and civil strife. As the principal enforcer of export controls, HSI will continue to do everything in its power to ensure that sensitive technology doesn't fall into the wrong hands in Syria. I applaud our colleagues at the Department of Commerce, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, along with our law enforcement counterparts in the United Kingdom. This coordinated effort helped us make this complex investigation a success.”
“I commend our colleagues from HSI and the United Kingdom, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, for their outstanding work with the Commerce Department on this case,” said Special Agent in Charge Simon. “Our special agents work tirelessly every day to pursue those who flout our export control laws and attempt to supply rogue regimes with technology that threatens our national security. OEE will seek and arrest violators wherever located, worldwide, and we will continue to leverage our unique authorities as the only federal law enforcement agency exclusively dedicated to enforcing dual-use export violations.”
Pursuant to regulations of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Export Administration, a license is required to export goods and services from the United States to Syria, excepting limited and certain categories of humanitarian food and medicine.
Indictments are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.
The case is being investigated by ICE-HSI and U.S. Commerce Department’s OEE New York Field Office. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs also provided significant assistance. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd K. Hinkley of the Middle District of Pennsylvania and Trial Attorney Mariclaire Rourke of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.