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On Oct. 2, the United States transferred approximately 1.1 million 7.62mm rounds of ammunition to the Ukrainian armed forces. This ammunition had been seized by U.S. Central Command naval forces from a flagless vessel in the Arabian Sea enroute from Iran and destined for Yemen, where sanctioned groups including Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) directly support the Houthi movement. The Justice Department then filed a civil forfeiture action against the seized munitions, resulting in a July 20 order by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia transferring title to the United States.
“With this weapons transfer, the Justice Department's forfeiture actions against one authoritarian regime are now directly supporting the Ukrainian people's fight against another authoritarian regime,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “We will continue to use every legal authority at our disposal to support Ukraine in their fight for freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.”
“The forfeiture and transfer of a major ammunition cache, once destined to serve the Iranian regime’s destabilizing efforts abroad, represents the Justice Department’s commitment to countering authoritarian aggression around the world,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “Together, with partner agencies and departments, we remain steadfast in our mission to ensure the nation’s security by vigorously enforcing U.S. sanctions and imposing costs on hostile regimes in accordance with the rule of law.”
“Our office will continue to use all the tools in our arsenal to disrupt the IRGC’s efforts to sow discord,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves for the District of Columbia. “The transfer of these assets to the Ukrainian armed forces will now aid an important partner in its fight against unwarranted aggression.”
According to court documents in the civil forfeiture action, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command seized the ammunition and other munitions on or about Dec. 1, 2022.
The documents alleged a sophisticated scheme by the IRGC to clandestinely ship weapons and munitions to entities contrary to U.S. interests.
The government’s forfeiture action was part of a larger investigation of an Iranian weapons-smuggling network. The network was involved in the illicit trafficking of advanced conventional weapons systems and components by sanctioned Iranian entities that directly support military action by the Houthi movement in Yemen and the Iranian regime’s campaign of terrorist activities throughout the region.
The Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington Field Office and Defense Criminal Investigation Service (DCIS) Mid-Atlantic Field Office are leading the larger investigation of the Iranian weapons-smuggling network, with substantial assistance from the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in conducting the seizure.