A U.S. prosecutor in New York says an associate of a notorious Russian arms dealer has been arrested in Australia.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced Thursday that Syrian-born American Richard Ammar Chichakli is in custody.

He was arrested Wednesday on charges that he conspired with Viktor Bout and others to try to buy aircraft from two companies in the United States. The prosecutor says such a purchase would violate economic sanctions.

Bout is a former Soviet air officer. He was dubbed the "Merchant of Death" because of his 1990s-era notoriety for running a fleet of aging Soviet-era cargo planes to conflict-ridden hotspots in Africa.

He was sentenced to 25 years in prison after his conviction following extradition from Thailand in 2010.