Seattle, Washington - Hicham Diab, of Tripoli, Lebanon, and Nafez El Mir, a Canadian citizen residing in Lebanon, were arrested Thursday after they traveled to a Seattle warehouse and began hiding firearms in a vehicle they planned to ship to Lebanon. Diab and El Mir appeared in federal court Friday afternoon, charged with conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers and U.S. Annette L. Hayes for the Western District of Washington made the announcement. Both men were ordered detained pending additional hearings set for next week.
According to a criminal complaint unsealed today, in 2016, Diab began communicating with a person in the U.S. who Diab believed was willing to locate firearms for him to smuggle to Lebanon. The person in the U.S. alerted Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) about the contact. Over the course of 2017 and 2018, undercover HSI agents posed as people able and willing to supply firearms sought by Diab in furtherance of his smuggling scheme. In October 2018, Diab made plans to come to the U.S. and successfully wired funds for the purchase of firearms and a vehicle in which to hide the firearms. Diab arrived in Seattle on Nov. 7, and was accompanied by El Mir who, according to Diab, had experience smuggling firearms hidden in automobile panels.
On November 7 and 8, Diab went with the undercover agents to a warehouse containing firearms that had been secured by HSI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and inspected the firearms, which included: twenty Glock handguns, a Smith & Wesson .50 revolver, one FN Fiveseven pistol, an AR15 rifle kit and a M203 grenade launcher. Diab and El Mir, during their November 8 warehouse visit, began hiding the firearms in door panels and bumper space inside a sport-utility vehicle. El Mir also discussed ways to get the vehicle shipped to Lebanon with the hidden weapons. The men were arrested the evening of Nov. 8, as they exited the warehouse.
Conspiracy to violate the Arms Control Export Act is punishable by up to five years in prison.
The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, the sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The case is being investigated by HSI and the ATF. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Woods, with assistance from the Department of Justice’s National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.