Brokers of Death arms case

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The 'Brokers of Death' arms case (officially United States v. Samuel Evans et al[1]) was a US trial in the 1980s relating to the attempted shipment of $2.5bn worth of US-made arms to Iran; it was described by the Los Angeles Times in 1986 as "the largest arms conspiracy prosecution ever brought by the Justice Department".[2] The case (with indictments in May 1986, following a four-month investigation) was dropped in January 1989 after the prosecution said it could not prove the defendants did not believe their dealings were officially sanctioned. The planned deals were being arranged at the same time as the White House was secretly seeking to arrange arms sales to Iran, in what became known as the Iran-Contra affair; some evidence indicated that defendants were aware of these efforts.[3]


In December 1985, the case began when Iranian banker Cyrus Hashemi approached US Customs with a deal. Hashemi, described by Assistant Treasury Secretary John M. Walker, Jr. as a "major figure in international arms trafficking", had been indicted in July 1984 over arms dealing with Iran, and sought leniency in exchange for cooperation.[4] The US agreed to drop the charges against Hashemi in exchange for his cooperation.[2] Hashemi said he had been approached in late 1985 by Samuel Evans, an advisor to Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, leading to US Customs setting up a sting operation. The four-month investigation, costing over $100,000, led to arrests in April 1986 in New York and Bermuda, with the involvement of Special Agent Joseph F. King.[4] Evans was recorded by US Customs saying that he had received assurances of "full and complete cooperation" from Israeli officials, and was expecting to discuss the matter with Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin on his next trip.[4]

In April 1986, 17 suspects were arrested in the case, accused of planning to use false end-user certificates to bypass the US arms embargo against Iran. Three suspects were named as retired Israeli general Avraham Bar-Am, William Northrop, and Samuel Evans. The deal was said to involve over 100 aircraft, as well as tanks and missiles.[5] Tanks were promised by Bar-Am, who said they were Soviet tanks captured from the Syrian Army in 1973.[4] Indictments were issued on 5 May 1986.[6] According to Victor Ostrovsky's The Other Side of Deception, a contact at Mossad asked Ostrovsky to call Bar-Am on 8 April 1986 and tell him that the deal had been approved. Ostrovsky said he made the call, knowing that Bar-Am was walking into a trap - his contact had told him that Bar-Am's contact had been "turned" by the FBI.[7]

Evans' lawyer later told the court that Evans had first been introduced to Hashemi by Roy Furmark, a close friend of Central Intelligence Agency Director William Casey, in January 1985.[8] Furmark was alleged to have repeatedly assured Evans that according to Casey the US approved of supplying arms to Iran.[8] Northrop sought Casey's telephone logs, claiming to have spoken with Casey on a monthly basis since 1981 and that Casey knew of and approved of the deals.[2] Casey never produced the logs but a postmortem review of Casey's files affirmed these monthly contacts with Northrop. Testifying to Congress, Casey denied this connection with Northrop and stated Furmark told him in October 1986 about the possible diversion of funds from arms sales to Iran.[9][10] One of the defendants met with US Ambassador Maxwell M. Rabb in Rome, and was recorded telling Hashemi that he was waiting for Rabb to confirm official approval (Rabb later admitted the meeting but denied discussing the arms deal).[2] An arms dealer with a diplomatic passport, John Delaroque, not indicted, assured Hashemi on 7 February 1986 that the matter had gone as far as the Vice President.[11][12]

In November 1986 Iran-Contra affair revelations forced the Justice Department to launch a review of the case.[13] After a Supreme Court decision in an unrelated case narrowed mail and wire fraud prosecutions, 46 of the 55 charges were dropped in mid-1988.[14][15] The case against the 12 defendants was finally dropped in January 1989, with prosecutor Rudy Giuliani conceding that the prosecution was unable to prove that the defendants did not believe the planned deals "were officially sanctioned or that approval of the United States for such sales could be obtained".[6] The planned deals were being arranged at the same time as the White House was secretly seeking to arrange arms sales to Iran (including suspending enforcement of the Arms Export Control Act in January 1986[16]), in what became known as the Iran-Contra affair; some evidence indicated that defendants were aware of these efforts. Some defendants were close associates of Adnan Khashoggi, who became a middle-man in arms sales to Iran which were officially approved and carried out.[3]


  • Hermann Moll and Michael Leapman (1988), Broker of Death: An Insider's Story of the Iran Arms Deals Macmillan, ISBN 978-0333459423


  1. ^ James Traub, New York, 8 February 1987, The Katzenjammer Falcon
  2. ^ a b c d Los Angeles Times, 4 August 1988, Iran Arms Dealers May Use Secret CIA Links as Defense
  3. ^ a b William C. Rempel, Los Angeles Times, 5 January 1989, 12 Freed of Charges in 'Brokers of Death' Arms Case
  4. ^ a b c d Douglas Frantz, Chicago Tribune, 3 August 1986, Tapes Implicate Israel In Arms Deal
  5. ^ Arnold H. Lubasch, New York Times, 23 April 1985, 17 ARE CHARGED IN A PLOT TO SELL WEAPONS TO IRAN
  6. ^ a b Arnold H. Lubasch, New York Times, 5 January 1989, U.S. DROPS CHARGES IN IRAN ARMS CASE
  7. ^ Victor Ostrovsky, The Other Side of Deception, Chapter 12
  8. ^ a b Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 29 January 1987, Some Defendants in the Arms to Iran Case Allowed to Return to Their Home Countries, but Israelis Den
  9. ^ Bob Drogin and William C. Rempel, Los Angeles, 12 December 1986, Shadowy N.Y. Businessman : Furmark Had Roles in Big Bankruptcy, Iran Ventures
  10. ^ Bob Drogin, Los Angeles, 17 December 1986, Warned Casey 3 Times on Iran Funds, Furmark Says : Businessman Claims He Got Middlemen Together
  11. ^ Stuart Diamond, New York Times, 29 November 1986, U.S. EMPLOYED A 'STING' SETUP FOR ARMS TO IRAN
  12. ^ John J. Goldman and Gaylord Shaw, Los Angeles Times, 14 November 1986, Defendant in Iran Arms Smuggling Seeks to Subpoena Bush, 2 White House Aides
  13. ^ William C. Rempel, Los Angeles Times, 7 November 1996, U.S. to Reassess Charges Against Iran Arms Sellers
  14. ^ Stuart Diamond, New York Times, 17 July 1988, Big Arms Smuggling Case Stalls, Tangled in Legal and Political Troubles
  15. ^ Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 31 July 1987, Judge Orders Dismissal of 46 out of 50 Counts of Indictment Against Four Israeli Arms Merchants Char
  16. ^ William C. Rempel, Los Angeles Times, 30 November 1986, Behind the Scenes of Secret Iran Deal : Arms Trade: A Shadowy, Sinister World