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July 14, 2023Washington, DC, United StatesFirearms, Ammunition and Explosives, Operational

HSI Washington, D.C. investigation results in seizure of Iranian weapons destined for Yemen

WASHINGTON — An investigation by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C.; Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) has interrupted a substantial shipment of weapons and munitions from Iran to Yemen.

Between May 2021 and January 2023, the U.S. Navy seized the weapons, which included more than 9,000 rifles, 284 machine guns, approximately 194 rocket launchers, more than 70 anti-tank guided missiles, and more than 700,000 rounds of ammunition, during routine maritime security operations conducted in and around the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. The seizures were made as the vessels were in transit from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to militant groups in Yemen.

“It is paramount this significant amount of seized weapons and ammunition never reach its intended destination,” said HSI Washington, D.C. Special Agent in Charge Derek W. Gordon. “HSI Washington D.C., with DCIS and the assistance from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, will continue to identify, disrupt, and dismantle Iran’s illicit flow of weapons at every level to prevent Iran’s illicit activity in the region and globally.”

According to the investigation, these weapons came from four interdictions of stateless vessels: two from 2021 and two from 2023. These interdictions led to the discovery and seizure of four large caches of conventional weapons, including long arms and anti-tank missiles, and related munitions – all of which were determined to be primarily of either Iranian, Chinese, or Russian origin.

“This seizure demonstrates DCIS’ continued commitment to stopping illicit weapons trafficking by the IRGC,” said Special Agent in Charge, Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), Mid-Atlantic Field Office Christopher W. Dillard. “DCIS, along with its law enforcement partners, will use all tools to hinder the efforts of those who unlawfully threaten the safety and security of the United States.”

These actions address the illicit trafficking of advanced conventional weapons systems and components by sanctioned Iranian entities that directly support military action by the Houthi movement in Yemen and the Iranian regime’s campaign of terrorist activities throughout the region.

“The government of Iran, through its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, remains bent on smuggling weapons of war to militant groups in violation of U.S. sections and international law,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “As this seizure demonstrates, the Department of Justice will work in lockstep with our U.S. Government partners to deny the Iranian regime the means to undermine our nation’s interest and threaten the security of our people.”

According to the investigation, the weapons seizures could serve as evidence of a larger, sophisticated scheme by the IRGC to clandestinely ship weapons to entities that pose grave threats to U.S. national security. This forfeiture action is a product of the U.S. government’s coordinated effort to enforce U.S. sanctions against the IRGC and the Iranian regime and are merely allegations.

“The United States Attorney’s Office has again taken action to prevent Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from spreading violence and bloodshed across the world and threatening the security of our nation and allies,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves of the District of Columbia. “As proven before, where we have jurisdiction, this office will use all the tools available in our power to prevent criminals and terrorists from threatening global stability.”

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. This team was also responsible for the March 2023 forfeiture action, which remains pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

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’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.