By Chioma Iruke
The United States Government has seized about $6.1 million belonging to Nigeria, after a hired arms supplier pleaded guilty to charges including illegal dealing in military-grade weapons and money laundering.
Judge Erica Grosjean of the US District Court for the Eastern District of California, ordered the forfeiture after Ara Dolarian, an unlicensed arms dealer hired by the Nigerian Government to help circumvent US ban on arms sale to Nigeria, admitted conducting arms sale without requisite approvals.
Mr Dolarian, who initially denied any wrongdoing, was arrested on May 15, 2019, and pleaded guilty on June 27. His sentencing hearing will open on September 24, 2021, and may be concluded on October 6, 2021, court filings said.
For pleading guilty, Mr Dolarian would face years in prison and would also forfeit $6,024,806.45 cash trapped in various US banks and entities under his name and businesses. A brand-new BMW vehicle was also confiscated and would be sold by the US government, documents said.
According to court documents, Sambo Dasuki, President Goodluck Jonathan’s National Security Adviser, contracted Hima Aboubakar, the controversial promoter of Societe D’Equipments Internationaux (SEI), to help broker a deal for high‑explosive bombs, rockets, military-grade firearms and aircraft-mounted cannons to be deployed against Boko Haram insurgents.
To execute the deal, Mr Aboubakar, a citizen of Niger Republic, entered a sales agreement with Mr Dolarian, who did not have license to export arms or broker arms deals, as the US had restricted the sale of arms to countries known for flagrant human rights abuses under the Leahy amendments.
“At no point did Ara Dolarian (Dolarian), Dolarian Capital Inc. (DCI) or their affiliates receive DDTC approval to broker defense articles to Nigeria,” the US Homeland Security said in the charges.
Although Mr Dolarian had submitted an application requesting a licence to broker military equipment transactions, it was rejected by the DDTC. But that did not stop him from proceeding to present himself to Nigerian authorities as a qualified arms dealer.
The weapons were valued at $8,616,042.50, and while the sales agreement lasted between June and September, 2014, Mr Dolarian received $8,618, 647.00 in wire transfers facilitated by Mr Dasuki through the Central Bank of Nigeria and First Bank.
Court documents said Mr Dolarian through his business partner, Myron Smith, received a $4,998,647.00 from Hong Kong-based SK-Sawki Limited, owned by Mr Aboubakar’s friend.