A Greek arms dealer pled guilty Wednesday in a U.S. federal court to attempting to aid a Colombian rebel group.
Ioannis Viglakis, 53, was arrested last year in Panama and subsequently extradited to the U.S., where he pled guilty at the U.S. Southern District Court of New York of attempting to provide weapons such as grenade launchers to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
“By providing functioning rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other military-grade weapons to an individual he believed to be a FARC associate, Ioannis Viglakis was attempting to arm a known terrorist organization that he understood would use those weapons against Americans and Colombians,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.
In an undercover sting operation that began in 2011, a Drug Enforcement Administration confidential source held meetings with Viglakis feigning to be a FARC associate who needed to attack American forces stationed in Colombia.
According to a DEA press release, Viglakis “offered to provide the FARC with functional, bona fide, military-grade weapons” – such as assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenade (“RPG”) launchers and surface-to-air missiles. In return the Greek national would receive a payment in the form of cocaine and cash.
In the following months, Viglakis told the DEA source that he would provide the source with several RPG launchers as a sample. In July of 2012, according to court documents, Viglakis arranged for the delivery in Europe of six live RPGs and three working RPG launchers – setting up his arrest in Central America the following month.
“This investigation clearly demonstrates DEA’s unique ability to disrupt and dismantle the arms-trafficking networks that supply weapons to the most significant global narco-terror organizations," DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said. “DEA will continue to aggressively pursue international arms dealers and narco-terrorists who are focused on harming our nation's security.”
Viglakis’ day in court comes as the FARC announced a 30-day holiday ceasefire, starting on December 15.
FARC and Colombia have been working on peace talks in the Cuban capital since November of 2012. While the two sides had a breakthrough last month with the announcement they had agreed on a political future for the left-wing group should a peace deal be reached, recent attacks by FARC have marred the peace talks.
The FARC, and the smaller guerilla group the National Liberation Army (ELN) have been locked in a conflict with the Colombian government for five decades that has killed more than 200,000 people.