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October 12, 2023Washington, DC, United StatesFirearms, Ammunition and Explosives

HSI Washington, D.C. investigation leads to more than 1M rounds of Iranian ammunition being transferred to Ukrainian armed forces

WASHINGTON — More than 1 million rounds of ammunition seized from Iran last year have been transferred to Ukraine following an investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C., the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) of the Department of Defense’s Office of Inspector General, and the Department of Justice (DOJ). The U.S. government transferred the 1.1 million rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition to the Ukrainian armed forces Oct 2.

“It was of utmost importance that this significant amount of seized weapons and ammunition was never used for its intended purpose,” said HSI Washington, D.C. Special Agent in Charge Derek W. Gordon. “HSI Washington D.C., with the cooperation of DCIS, DOJ, and assistance from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, was not only able to disrupt Iran’s illicit flow of weapons to their proxies, but at the same time, we were able to use the seized ammunition to aid the people of Ukraine.”

U.S. Naval Forces Central Command seized the ammunition on or about Dec. 1, 2022, while conducting maritime security operations in and around the Gulf of Oman.

“With this weapons transfer, the Justice Department's forfeiture actions against one authoritarian regime are now directly supporting the Ukrainian people's fight against another authoritarian regime,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “We will continue to use every legal authority at our disposal to support Ukraine in their fight for freedom, democracy and the rule of law.”

As a result of the joint investigation, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command seized the ammunition from a flagless vessel in the Arabian Sea enroute from Iran to Yemen, where sanctioned groups, including Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), directly support the Houthi movement in Yemen and the Iranian regime’s campaign of terrorist activities throughout the region.

“Our office will continue to use all the tools in our arsenal to disrupt the IRGC’s efforts to sow discord,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Matthew M. Graves. “The transfer of these assets to the Ukrainian armed forces will now aid an important partner in its fight against unwarranted aggression.”

The DOJ filed a civil forfeiture action against the seized munitions, resulting in a July 20, 2023, order by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia transferring title to the United States.

The government’s forfeiture action was part of a larger investigation of an Iranian weapons-smuggling network. The network was involved in the illicit trafficking of advanced conventional weapons systems and components by sanctioned Iranian entities.

“The forfeiture and transfer of a major ammunition cache, once destined to serve the Iranian regime’s destabilizing efforts abroad, represents the Justice Department’s commitment to countering authoritarian aggression around the world,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “Together, with partner agencies and departments, we remain steadfast in our mission to ensure the nation’s security by vigorously enforcing U.S. sanctions and imposing costs on hostile regimes in accordance with the rule of law.”

The investigation details a sophisticated scheme by the IRGC to clandestinely ship weapons and munitions to entities contrary to U.S. interests.

HSI Washington, D.C. and DCIS Mid-Atlantic 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.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.