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American man sentenced for conspiring to funnel missiles, rifles to Taliban

By Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 10:28 PM EDT, Wed September 25, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Alwar Pouryan and a co-conspirator were found guilty in August
  • They had talks with a DEA agent they thought was with the Taliban
  • They thought they had a deal for $25 million worth of arms, ammo, training
  • Both Americans were arrested in Romania, extradited to U.S. to stand trial

(CNN) -- A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced an American citizen to 25 years in prison for conspiring to sell missiles, rifles and other weapons to the Taliban, the U.S. attorney's office for Manhattan announced.

The sentence for Alwar Pouryan -- which includes 10 years of supervised release after he leaves prison -- comes the month after he and a co-defendant were found guilty following a two-week bench trial by U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald.

"Alwar Pouryan was an American who was all too willing to do business with the Taliban -- agreeing to provide that narco-terrorist organization with lethal, military-grade weapons that would have put countless innocent lives at risk," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

"The sentence handed down today is a just and appropriate penalty for an individual who so callously sold out his country."

According to the Bahara's office, the 38-year-old Pouryan and his co-conspirator Oded Orbach began communicating in fall 2010 with a person they believed represented the Taliban -- but who actually worked for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

In conversations by phone, e-mail, Skype and in person in Ghana, Ukraine and Romania, Pouryan and Orbach offered specifics about what types of arms they'd sell and for how much.

The weapons discussed included anti-tank missiles, grenade launchers and M-16 assault rifles, not to mention ammunition. Pouryan and Orbach were told surface-to-air missiles were especially needed to protect Taliban-run heroin facilities in Afghanistan from U.S. helicopter attacks, according to the federal prosecutor's office.

Evidence presented during the trial included e-mails from Orbach to third-party weapons suppliers, asking about obtaining some of the items.

Feds: 7 men charged with conspiring to supply Taliban

After hashing out price lists and other details, the two sides reached a deal: more than $25 million worth in weapons, ammunition and training, of which Pouryan and Orbach would pocket $800,000 in commission.

Until, of course, the plot unraveled with the two American men's February 2011 arrest in Bucharest, Romania. Pouryan and Orbach were extradited more than three months later to the United States, where they stood trial.

Five other men tied to the plot -- all of whom coordinated with the same undercover agent, some of whom worked directly with Pouryan and Orbach -- were arrested in Liberia and likewise brought to the United States.

Four of them allegedly agreed to oversee a shipment to Benin of Taliban-owned heroin, which the Taliban could profit from after it was eventually flown to the United States, the U.S. Justice Department stated in 2011. All five consented to sell the Taliban cocaine that the Afghanistan-based Islamist group could then sell for a profit, according to the agency.

The 55-year-old Orbach, who is currently being held in New York according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, is set to be sentenced on November 1 by Judge Buchwald.

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