Belgian arms dealer Jacques Monsieur was surely surprised when he was arrested in New York last week after stepping off a flight from France. He might have been less surprised — or he may not have made the trip at all — if he had known that Google had turned over his Gmail records to the feds.
A search warrant executed several months prior to Monsieur’s arrest demanded “information associated with ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ that is stored at premises owned, maintained, controlled, or operated by Google, lnc…” An accompanying order required Google to keep secret details on the search warrant to prevent Monsieur or other defendants of being tipped off to the investigation.
On August 27, Monsieur was arrested in New York.
The recently unsealed indictment accuses Monsieur of trying to arrange an illegal sale of F-5 engines to Iran through what ended up being an undercover agent. “[I]n March 2009, Monsieur met with the undercover agent in Paris, where Monsieur again requested engines and parts for the F-5 fighter jet,” says the Department of Justice. “In May 2009, an undercover agent met with Monsieur in London, where Monsieur introduced Dara Fotouhi as a business associate, and again discussed the illegal export of F-5 fighter jet engines from the United States to Iran.”
The plan was to claim the engines were destined for Colombia, when in fact they would be shipped on to the United Arab Emirates and then on to Iran.
Monsieur is used to narrowly escaping brushes with the law in what some claim is a 20-year career in arms dealing. Known as the “Field Marshal,” Monsieur has escaped prosecution several times. “In September 2000, Monsieur told a French judge of having been contacted in 1991 in Brussels by the CIA, and, with the blessing of the French DST, of having sent tens of millions of dollars of weapons to Croatia,” the Center for Public Integrity wrote in a report on Monsieur’s arms dealing. “From 1991 to 1995, he found his best markets in Croatia and Bosnia, even though the two countries were under a United Nations embargo.”
In what may be a prelude to his eventual legal defense, Monsieur in a 2004 press interview apparently claimed he was really a spy and not an arms dealer.
Monsieur’s arrest comes at an interesting time for the prosecution of alleged arms dealers; the United States is currently trying to extradite Russian national Viktor Bout, who was arrested in a sting operation in Thailand. Though the Thai courts have so far refused to extradite him to the United States, they are also not willing to release him.