UK resident involved in Syrian export scheme extradited to US to face charges
A dual citizen of the United Kingdom and Syria was extradited from the U.K. and was subsequently arraigned for his alleged role in a criminal conspiracy to export laboratory equipment, including chemical warfare agent detection equipment, from the United States to Syria.
The charges and extradition follow an extensive international probe led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
London resident Ahmad Feras Diri, 42, recently lost his extradition fight in the United Kingdom. He was arrested by the Metropolitan Police in London March 14, 2013, in connection with the pending U.S. charges but fought the extradition. The federal indictment was unsealed in April 2014 and stems from an investigation led by HSI Philadelphia special agents in partnership with the Department of Commerce (DOC) Office of Export Enforcement.
He was indicted by a grand jury in November 2012 along with Moawea Deri, another Syrian citizen, and Harold Rinko, 73, of Hallstead, Pennsylvania. The company with which Ahmad Feras Diri and Moawea Deri were associated, was also charged in the indictment.
“The indictment alleges that federal legislation and export controls seek to shut down the supply chain used by the Syrian state to support terrorism and to develop and proliferate weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons. Pursuant to regulations of the DOC’s Export Administration, a license is required to export goods and services from the United States to Syria, other than limited and certain categories of humanitarian food and medicine,” according to officials with the Justice Department.
“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 HSI Philadelphia Special Agent in Charge John 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.”
The indictment further charges the three suspects and the firm with criminal conspiracy, wire fraud, illegal export of goods, money laundering, and making false statements to federal agents.
According to the indictment, from 2003 until charged, it’s alleged through his firm, d-Deri Contracting & Trading, Diri was exporting goods originally from the United States from Rinko, who owned the Global Parts Supply business in Pennsylvania. Diri was then exporting those goods, including sensitive laboratory equipment, to his brother and business partner, Moawea, in Syria.
Rinko admitted in federal court in September 2014 that he 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 Rinko’s signed factual stipulation, the conspirators prepared false invoices that undervalued and mislabeled the goods being purchased and also listed false information about the identity and geographic location of the purchasers of the goods. The stipulation indicates that the items would be shipped from the United States to Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom, and thereafter transshipped to Syria.
Moawea Deri remains at large and is considered a fugitive.
The items exported 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 others to evade U.S. export laws and illegally send chemical laboratory equipment to Syria,” said Assistant Attorney General John 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.”