The Justice Department today announced the filing of a forfeiture complaint against over 9,000 rifles, 284 machine guns, approximately 194 rocket launchers, over 70 anti-tank guided missiles and over 700,000 rounds of ammunition that the U.S. Navy seized in transit from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to militant groups in Yemen.
“The government of Iran, through its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, remains bent on smuggling weapons of war to militant groups in violation of U.S. sanctions and international law,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “As this seizure demonstrates, the Department of Justice will work in lockstep with our U.S. Government partners to deny the Iranian regime the means to undermine our nation’s interest and threaten the security of our people.”
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office has again taken action to prevent Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from spreading violence and bloodshed across the world and threatening the security of our nation and allies,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves for the District of Columbia. “As proven before, where we have jurisdiction, this office will use all the tools available in our power to prevent criminals and terrorists from threatening global stability.”
“It is paramount this significant amount of seized weapons and ammunition aimed to cause global devastation never reach its intended destination,” said Special Agent in Charge Derek W. Gordon of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C. “HSI Washington D.C., with the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) and the assistance from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, will continue to identify, disrupt and dismantle Iran’s illicit flow of weapons at every level. Offenders who violate U.S. export laws will be brought to justice, as we are committed to protecting our nation worldwide.”
According to court documents, the noted weapons came from four interdictions of stateless dhow vessels: two from 2021 and two from 2023. These interdictions led to the discovery and seizure of four large caches of conventional weapons, including long arms and anti-tank missiles, and related munitions – all of which were determined to be primarily of either Iranian, Chinese or Russian origin.
This action follows the government’s March 2023 forfeiture action against over one million rounds of ammunition enroute from Iran to Yemen. The network for both actions 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 forfeiture complaint alleges a sophisticated scheme by the IRGC to clandestinely ship weapons to entities that pose grave threats to U.S. national security.
This forfeiture action is a product of the U.S. government’s coordinated effort to enforce U.S. sanctions against the IRGC and the Iranian regime and are merely allegations.
The HSI Washington Field Office and the 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. This team was also responsible for the March 2023 forfeiture action, which remains pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stuart D. Allen, Brian P. Hudak, Rajbir S. Datta and Anna D. Walker for the District of Columbia and Trial Attorneys S. Derek Shugert and Joshua Champagne of the National Security Division are litigating the case, with support from Paralegal Specialists Brian Rickers and Angela De Falco.