Seattle man sentenced to one year in prison for smuggling firearms into Iraq

Co-conspirator Bellevue man to be sentenced in March.

An Iraqi citizen who conspired to ship guns to Kurdish militia members in Iraq through Seattle was sentenced in January to one year in prison and three years of supervised release for smuggling weapons from the U.S.

The sentencing for the Seattle resident Rawnd Khaleel Aldalawi happened on Jan. 11 in U.S. District Court in Seattle and comes after an investigation found more than 47 firearms concealed in two vehicles being shipped through Turkey to Kurdistan.

Co-defendant Paul Stuart Brunt, a Bellevue resident, pled guilty in July 2018. His sentencing is scheduled for March 1.

Brunt told investigators he was approached by Aldalawi, and another unknown party, in late 2016 about helping to purchase vehicles in the U.S. to be shipped to Iraq, the initial complaint says. Weeks after this first conversation he was asked if weapons — to be sent to the Kurdish army in the Kurdistan area — could be shipped in the cars. He was offered $5,000 to help in their efforts.

Brunt purchased all of the weapons from gun shows and stores in the surrounding Puget Sound area. One of the firearms discovered by authorites was traced back to a gunshow in Monroe purchased by Brunt in 2017.

The guns were packed secretly within side panels and cavities of vehicles purchased by Brunt and shipped from the Port of Seattle through Turkey and to Iraq. In the first shipment of February 2017, authorities found 30 guns within three cars. In the second, found later that year, 47 undeclared firearms were found in two vehicles. The second shipment was discovered by Turkey officials and traced back to Brunt and Aldalawi.

And although Brunt reported he dealt directly with Aldalawi, he believed that Aldalawi’s family was financially backing the car and weapon purchases.

During his interview with authorities, Aldalawi explained that his family belonged to the Peshmerga military in Kurdistan, a force involved in the fight against the Islamic State group (IS). He said the Iraq government did little to aid the Peshmerga people when IS arrived.

His objective, he said, was to get the weapons to the Peshmerga forces in a “secure and legal way.”

No export licenses were obtained for the guns and the parties violated the Arms Export Control Act, an act of congress that places restrictions on gun exports and gives consideration to whether exported guns would contribute to an arms race.

“This defendant sent weapons into a war zone where U.S. troops are stationed,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes, in a release on the sentencing. “We don’t know where those guns wound up – whether in the hands of those attacking innocents, U.S. troops, or other allies. This scheme increased the risks of violent attack for those living in an already dangerous part of the world – exactly what our arms export laws are enacted to protect.”