Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that RICHARD AMMAR CHICHAKLI, an associate of convicted international arms dealer Viktor Bout, was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to five years in prison. CHICHAKLI, who was arrested in Australia in January 9, 2013, and then extradited to the United States in May 2013, was convicted on December 13, 2013, following a four-week jury trial, 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 six separate counts of wire fraud, in connection with the attempted aircraft purchases. U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III, who presided over the trial, imposed today’s sentence.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Richard Chichakli conspired to violate international sanctions by attempting to buy commercial aircraft from an American company, even though it was illegal for that company to do business with him. He illegally tried to conceal his own identity and the involvement in the transactions of international arms trafficker Viktor Bout. Now Richard Chichakli will again be engaged in the same enterprise as Viktor Bout: serving time in a federal prison.”
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 from overseas bank accounts into accounts in the United States.
CHICHAKLI was convicted of one count of conspiring to violate IEEPA, one count of money laundering conspiracy, one count of wire fraud conspiracy, and six counts of wire fraud. In addition to a prison term of five years, CHICHAKLI was sentenced to two years of supervised release, was ordered to pay forfeiture in the amount of $1.7 million and was ordered to pay a $900 special assessment fee.
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 Drug Enforcement Administration (“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, the United States Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control, 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.