Chichakli to serve 5-year federal prison term

Richard Chichakli, the convicted financial associate of imprisoned Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, was sentenced to his own stint in federal prison Thursday, ordered to serve a five-year term for his role in aiding Bout’s efforts to elude U.S. sanctions.

U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley’s ruling in a New York courtroom was below federal sentencing guidelines and rejected federal prosecutors’ request that Chichakli spend 9 years in prison. But Pauley also ordered Chichakli to pay $70,000 in restitution and forfeit $1.7 million _ a harsh toll for a man who has railed repeatedly at the government for destroying his livelihood as a Texas accountant.

Pauley said he took into account Chichakli’s claims of post-traumatic stress after Persian Gulf War service with the U.S. Army in the early 1990s and childhood devastation in his native Syria.

“It’s not like me to beg for mercy,” Chjchakli said, according to an Associated Press account. “I cannot do that. I beg for humanity.”

The judge complimented Chichakli on his efforts to defend himself in court–though the judge earlier questioned the defendant’s decision to do so. But Pauley also said Chichakli had shown a “warped sense of right and wrong. It’s hard to figure out how he keeps up with all the fictions he created in this case.”

For years, Chichakli has had a history of making statements and then denying he had said them _ boasting of his work for Bout, for example, then insisting he had little to do with the Russian. At trial, Chichakli acknowledged he knew Bout, but said little of his extensive work Bout for more than a decade, both in Texas, where Chichakli set up several front companies tied to Bout’s network, and then in Russia, where both men retreated after the U.S. and UN levied harsh financial sanctions against the pair for their role in aiding and arming deposed Liberian dictator Charles Taylor. Taylor is himself serving a prison terms on international war crimes charges.

In his trial last December, Chichakli was convicted by a federal jury of working with Bout in buying two air cargo planes to aid in arms sales and elude financial sanctions against them. Bout was convicted in 2011 for conspiring to kill Americans in an arms deal that turned out to be a sophisticated federal sting operation against him. Bout is now serving a 25-year prison term in a federal medium-security prison in Marion, Ill.

—Associated Press, “A Syrian associate of international arms dealer Viktor Bout who served in the U.S. Army was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison on conspiracy and wire fraud charges.”