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25 May, 2016 18:28

Romanian man claims to be CIA asset to beat arms trafficking charge

Romanian man claims to be CIA asset to beat arms trafficking charge

A Romanian man on trial for brokering an arms deal to the FARC is offering an alibi that could be straight from an ‘Archer’ plot: He claims he set up the weapons sale to undercover US agents... at the behest of the CIA.

Virgil Flaviu Georgescu, a Romanian security consultant who obtained American citizenship through marriage, is on trial in New York City for his role in what prosecutors say was a $17 million weapons deal. He is accused of brokering an illegal deal between Cristian Vintila, a Romanian government employee, and Massimo Romagnoli, a former member of the Italian parliament who is based in Greece, to sell machine guns and rocket launchers to members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), a Communist guerrilla group the US has designated as a foreign terrorist organization.

The weapons were to be used by the FARC to kill Americans.

However, those FARC buyers “were, in fact, confidential sources… working for the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and acting at the direction of DEA agents,” the indictment said.

In December 2014, the three defendants were arrested in Podgorica, Montenegro, as they attempted to close the deal. The men “conspired to sell an arsenal of weapons, including machine guns and anti-aircraft cannons, with the understanding that the weapons would go to the FARC to be used by the FARC against the United States,” the US Department of Justice said in a press release at the time.

The DEA’s confidential sources recorded a series of telephone calls and in-person meetings with the three men, for which Georgescu served as a broker. The defendants agreed to provide the “large quantities” of weapons to the supposed FARC representatives “with the specific understanding that the weapons would be used to kill Americans and, in particular, to shoot down American helicopters and airplanes.” On top of that, Romagnoli was to procure fraudulent end-user certificates (EUCs) for the military-grade weaponry.

Georgescu, Vintila and Romagnoli were extradited to the US in February 2015 and charged with two separate terrorism offenses: conspiracy to kill US officers or employees and conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization. The three defendants each face life in prison for the first charge and a maximum sentence of 15 years for the second, according to the Justice Department.

In court this week, though, Georgescu claimed that he actually arranged the deal on behalf of the CIA.

Indeed, the Romanian-cum-American called the CIA tip line in 2012 to warn that he had been approached by a fellow countryman in Los Angeles, California to broker a weapons sale, but had declined to participate, according to transcripts of the calls obtained by CNNMoney from the court file. Instead he wanted to expose the criminals.

"Yes, I was just try to be useful to the US government, because I love that country, and you know I am so proud to be a US citizen," Georgescu told a CIA phone operator, the transcript reads. "I am not going to help these people... maybe is a case for you."

He added that he had once worked with the FBI in Las Vegas, Nevada as a cooperative witness, had performed secret operations and offered to work for the spy agency.

"Every time when FBI needed me for Russians, Romanians which they do a lot of bad things in US, I help them," Georgescu said. "And with my help, a lot of government confiscated a lot of cash, a lot of houses, a lot of cars... you know... I bring some money to the Uncle Sam all the time."

The CIA phone operator, an agency employee staffing a tip line that receives both credible information about national security matters and conspiracy theories and unsolicited offers of help, promised to look into the matter, the transcript reads.

"Let me work for you, and I give you more information," Georgescu told the operator. "You just give me a call, or someone, and tell me, 'go forward’. And I go forward."

That call never came.

Over the next two years, Georgescu spent $7,000 traveling to Albania, Bulgaria, Germany, Italy and Montenegro, working to broker the deal. Still, he told federal prosecutor Ilan Graff and members of the jury from the stand, he was working for the CIA.

"Let's talk about the one-man investigation you embarked on," Graff said, pointing at the transcript, CNNMoney reported. "Can you show me where... it tells you to obtain a weapons supplier from Russia?"

"Everything I did, I did for the United States government and the people in this country," Georgescu repeatedly answered.