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Press Release

Manhhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Conviction Of Richard Chichakli, Co-Conspirator Of International Arms Dealer Viktor Bout, On Money Laundering, Wire Fraud, And Conspiracy Charges

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that RICHARD AMMAR CHICHAKLI, an associate of international arms dealer Viktor Bout, was found guilty today, by a jury in Manhattan federal court, of conspiring with Bout and others to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (“IEEPA”) by attempting to purchase commercial airplanes from American companies in violation of U.S. sanctions. CHICHAKLI was also found guilty of money laundering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, and several counts of wire fraud, in connection with the attempted aircraft purchases. He was convicted following a four-week jury trial before U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As the evidence at trial established, Richard Chichakli conspired to violate international sanctions by working to purchase aircraft for and with Viktor Bout, formerly one of the world's most notorious weapons traffickers. But for the intervention of our law enforcement partners, Chichakli would have played a vital role in furthering Bout's objectives.”

According to evidence at trial and documents previously filed in Manhattan federal court:

CHICHAKLI conspired with Viktor Bout and others to violate IEEPA by engaging in prohibited business transactions with companies based in the United States. The focus of these transactions was the purchase of commercial airplanes for a company that Bout and CHICHAKLI controlled, and the ferrying of those aircraft to Tajikistan. At the time of these unlawful transactions, both CHICHAKLI and Bout had been designated by the U.S. Treasury Department as Specially Designated Nationals (“SDNs”), which meant that individuals and businesses in the United States were prohibited from engaging in financial transactions with them. CHICHAKLI sought to evade these SDN sanctions by, among other things, concealing his identity and his SDN listing, and by concealing Viktor Bout’s involvement in the airplane transactions. In connection with this fraudulent scheme, CHICHAKLI helped to make a series of wire transfer payments, totaling more than $1.7 million; these payments were sent from overseas bank accounts into accounts in the United States.

CHICHAKLI was convicted of one count of conspiring to violate the IEEPA one count of money laundering conspiracy, one count of wire fraud conspiracy, and six counts of wire fraud. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison on the IEEPA conspiracy count, and a maximum of 20 years in prison on each of the other eight counts. CHICHAKLI is scheduled to be sentenced on March 14, 2014 at 2:00 p.m.

CHICHAKLI’s co-conspirator, Viktor Bout, is currently serving a 25-year prison term as a result of his November 2011 conviction in this District in connection with his conspiring to sell millions of dollars of weapons to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative efforts of the Special Operations Division of the DEA, and specially thanked the DEA Canberra Country Office, and the DEA Digital Evidence Laboratory. Mr. Bharara also thanked the Australian Federal Police, the Victoria State Police, and the Australian Attorney General’s Department, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice Office of International Affairs and National Security Division, and Interpol.

The case is being handled by the Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Christian R. Everdell, Ian McGinley, and Jenna M. Dabbs are in charge of the prosecution.

Updated May 13, 2015

Press Release Number: 13-386