A Lebanese-Canadian businessman is being sued in United States District Court in Manhattan for allegedly facilitating “one of the most harmful — and uniquely illegal — weapons transfers in the war in Syria.”
Ahmad Abdel Falah and his business partner Keis Amir were found liable for the transfer of a 600-mm artillery shell casing found in a landmine blast site, a powerful weapon used to pound populated areas, thus causing mass casualties.
Investigators with the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office, Israel’s National Police and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment conducted a joint investigation into the circumstances surrounding the damage caused by the shell.
In 2013, the Canadian government under the Justice for Canada Act, a law in effect since 1917, was charged with being part of the crime through its contract with the corrupt arms merchant.
The shell casing was found in a 2013 explosive device that accidentally blew up a convoy that had made its way through Syria and Iraq to meet with a Canadian arms export facilitator, Zahava Kotecki.
The shell casing — which was one of a number of previous shipments to Syria in 2011 — contained large quantities of high explosive.
“The U.S. government has closely followed and investigated the transfer of these types of artillery shells to Syria, which has resulted in the death and injury of innocent civilians, including children,” said Assistant Attorney General John Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
“Those who profit from the export of war materials need to recognize the serious consequences of knowingly violating U.S. and international law,” he said.
The Syrian-Canadian, then 22, was working as a resident and businessman for two major weapons companies in Ontario and was looking to expand his export business, bringing with him munitions to Syria and Iraq, according to a press release from the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office.
During an inspection, the bomb site inspector found numerous munitions packages inside a car he was renting, and an explosion reportedly occurred as the host drove away with the car.
Canada denied that Abdel Falah or his cousin, Amir — who was the final driver, the court papers state — were responsible for the explosion.
Investigators believe the blast was caused when a container carrying a 650-mm artillery shell casing was unintentionally loaded onto a load of steel rods for a later shipment.
The U.S. Department of State in 2012 and 2013 partnered with Israel and several U.S. agencies, to prosecute Abdel Falah and Amir for violations of international arms embargoes involving heavy weaponry destined for Syria.
The defendants are now found liable for the transfer of the same shell casing found at the site of the 2013 blast.
“This ruling strengthens the partnerships of the U.S. and Canada, our two closest allies, in combatting the global scourge of the transfer of weapons of mass destruction, including banned weapons such as artillery shells,” Cronan said.
Mohammed Klahine is a producer at Fox News. He was in Israel in 2014 covering the fighting in Gaza. Follow him on Twitter: @MohammedKlahine.