SAVANNAH, GA – An Iraqi national has appeared in U.S. District Court in Savannah after his indictment on charges related to the attempted smuggling of firearms to Iraq.
Nihad Al Jaberi, 41, a Clarkston, Ga., resident, is charged with Smuggling, Failure to Notify a Common Carrier, and Submitting False or Misleading Export Information, said David H. Estes, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. The smuggling charge carries upon conviction a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and substantial financial penalties. There is no parole in the federal system.
Al Jaberi, an Iraqi citizen and legal permanent resident of the United States, was arraigned Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher L. Ray. Al Jaberi previously was ordered detained after a hearing in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Georgia.
“The Port of Savannah is exceptionally valuable to the coastal region, and the high volume of traffic presents an ongoing challenge to law enforcement agencies enforcing import-export laws,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “Customs and Border Protection officers perform outstanding work in interdicting illegal shipments and maintaining border security.”
As described in court documents and testimony, Al Jaberi is charged with attempting in August 2020 to export three handguns and six .308-caliber long-range rifles in a shipment in which the contents were listed as “71 Pieces of Spare Auto Parts with No License Required.” The firearms, which were discovered disassembled along with used auto parts in a container at the Port of Savannah, had been obtained through straw purchases at various Atlanta-area sporting goods stores.
“This weapons seizure clearly illustrates how closely Customs and Border Protection inspects export manifests and identifies anomalies that could potentially harm others,” said Henry DeBlock, Area Port Director for CBP Savannah.
“Special Agents of The Bureau of Industry and Security’s Office of Export Enforcement will aggressively investigate and disrupt the illicit smuggling of controlled commodities in violation of U.S. export laws,” said Ariel Joshua Leinwand, acting Special Agent in Charge Miami Field Office, U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement (OEE). “Working cooperatively with our law enforcement partners, OEE Special Agents are committed to preventing firearms, firearms parts, and ammunition from potentially falling into the wrong hands overseas.”
Criminal indictments contain only charges; defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The case is being investigated by U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security and by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and prosecuted for the United States by Southern District of Georgia Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer G. Solari and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Darron J. Hubbard, and by Northern District of Georgia Assistant U.S. Attorney Theodore S. Hertzberg.