Attempt to smuggle 5,000 M4 rifles to Azerbaijan foiled

Attempt to smuggle 5000 M4 rifles to Azerbaijan foiled

(Sun Sentinel)

Two men are facing federal charges they tried to do a $1 million deal in Broward County that would have illegally sent anti-aircraft ammunition to Iraq and Sudan.

Henri Shushan, 39, of Tamarac, and Venyamin Golynkin, 65, of Belarus, were arrested last week in Pompano Beach after an extensive undercover investigation by the FBI.

Federal prosecutors said the men were involved in a plot to illegally export a total of 500,000 rounds of 23mm anti-aircraft ammunition, which is fired from a large cannon, to Sudan and Iraq. The U.S. bans export of defense items, including weapons and ammunition, to both countries, authorities said.

Both ammunition orders were being paid for by an entity in Iraq, prosecutors said. The deals involved sending ammunition for ZU-23 cannons to both countries — 150,000 rounds to Sudan and 350,000 rounds to Iraq, prosecutors said during a hearing Wednesday in federal court in Fort Lauderdale.

Shushan, an Israeli citizen who moved to the United States about two years ago and has legal permanent resident status, is also expected to be charged with trying to illegally smuggle guns and ammunition to Azerbaijan, prosecutors said.

“I have never hurt anybody,” Shushan told the judge in court. He said he had nowhere to flee to and was adamant that he did not break the law.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia Valle ruled Wednesday that Shushan is a potential danger to the community and might flee if he were released from jail. She ordered he will remain jailed without bond while the case is pending. She said the initial evidence against Shushan was “very strong” and the allegations were very serious.

If convicted, he faces at least four years in federal prison, prosecutors said.

Golynkin appeared briefly in court Wednesday. Speaking through a Russian interpreter, he asked the judge to postpone his bond hearing until next week.

Both men are jailed in Broward County.

Shushan faked documents that made it look like the ammunition would be legally exported and discussed how to make it appear the order was going to Cyprus, South Africa and other countries, investigators said.

Shushan, who runs an arms dealership in Pompano Beach and a consulting service in Dania Beach, has been under investigation since early 2015, prosecutor Michael Walleisa told the judge. An undercover FBI agent and an undercover source worked on the investigation and recorded their meetings, phone calls and texts with Shushan, he said.

The Nov. 15 meeting in Pompano Beach, which was conducted mostly in Hebrew, was recorded and interpreted live for FBI agents who were secretly monitoring it before they swooped in and made the two arrests, Walleisa said.

In October, Shushan told the undercover source that his client had wired $800,000 to Shushan’s bank account from Iraq but the U.S. bank rejected it, agents said.

In early November, Shushan said the plan had changed and Golynkin would travel from Belarus to South Florida to inspect the ammunition and arrange payment, according to court records. Shushan described Golynkin as a “trusted associate” of the client, prosecutors said.

Golynkin arrived on a flight from Moscow to New York on Nov. 13 and told officials he was visiting family in New York and meetintg a friend in Tampa to talk about starting a car business, agents said. Agents later found out he had Shushan’s phone number and other paperwork linked to the attempted $800,000 wire transfer and a note that read “money was received” in another language.

Shushan was “upset” during the Nov. 15 meeting in Pompano Beach because Golynkin brought no money but Golynkin said he would arrange a $100,000 wire transfer, investigators said.

After his arrest, Golynkin told agents he was approached in Belarus by a longtime friend who is originally from Syria. The friend offered Golynkin $2,500 to come to the United States and inspect “hunting rifles.” He told the agents he knew it was a $1 million deal with a $100,000 deposit, but did not know it involved 23mm ammunition.

Walleisa told the judge Shushan began breaking the law very soon after he moved to the U.S. from Israel about two years ago. Shushan traveled to Germany, Austria, Guatemala, Russia, Colombia and Azerbaijan in the last two years, agents said.

Prosecutors said Shushan had received several hundred thousand dollars from outside the U.S in the first eight months of this year and more than $170,000 from Azerbaijan in October.

Shushan asked the confidential source to help him illegally ship 5,000 M4 rifles to Azerbaijan, via another country, in November, prosecutors said. He later delivered rifle components to an undercover FBI agent and paid about $10,000 to the undercover source, investigators said.

Shushan also tried to export more than 10,000 rounds of .408 sniper ammunition to Azerbaijan via Canada but a company in Washington state halted the order and reported it to authorities, Walleisa said. Shushan then paid the undercover source $5,200 to help him try to smuggle 52,000 rounds of the .408 ammunition to Azerbaijan, authorities said.

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