Arms dealer falls foul of gun mania

By David Usborne

NEW YORK - A little over three years ago, Efraim Diveroli was a precocious 22-year-old arms dealer celebrating landing what must be one of the more extraordinary pieces of business to come out of the war in Afghanistan: the sale for US$300 million of 40-year-old Chinese bullets to the American military.

Yesterday, he was cooling his heels in a Florida jail cell after being arrested with just a few hundred rounds of ammunition in the back of his car.

Diveroli's arrest marks the conclusion of an extraordinary descent from the cusp of moguldom.

His downfall began when he was accused of trying to sell banned weapons and pleaded guilty to conspiracy.

Now 24, a little older but apparently no wiser, he faces fresh accusations of possessing firearms as a convicted criminal.

If the federal authorities are right, this young man just can't quit when it comes to guns and bullets. As he is caught on tape telling one of the agents who arrested him: "Once a gun-runner, always a gun-runner."

At first glance, Diveroli's entry into the complex world of arms dealing was an extraordinary success. But before long the Pentagon had reason to be very unhappy with its new supplier.

With a little repackaging and obscuring of labelling, Diveroli had shipped decades-old Kalashnikovs as well as banned and thoroughly degraded ammunition from China - procured via Albania - that dated back to the 1960s.

His guilty plea to a conspiracy charge as a result of that saga left him on the streets pending sentencing in November. The judge said he had to remain in Miami and under no circumstances touch a gun. But did he comply?

Not quite, say agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which had begun investigating him again earlier this year.

The cuffs went on again last week after Diveroli met undercover agents of the bureau north of his restricted area of movement around Miami, looked at some guns with them and, in his enthusiasm, rushed to Wal-Mart to buy bullets so they might go shooting. Then he was arrested.

Conversations with undercover agents taped over recent weeks include snippets about how the defendant "was shooting at the range" one day and how on another "he and a friend were recently hunting alligators, white tail deer and hogs in the Everglades" with a .50-calibre black-powder rifle.

The violation of his court conditions was flagrant, the government contends.

More serious for Diveroli is an 18-page affidavit saying his return to the world of firearms is more than recreational.

Agents claim he has set up a front company called Advanced Munitions to solicit new gun-trading business.

The court filings describe Diveroli telling an agent that he was a consultant for a company looking to shift "100-round ammunition drums" from a South Korean factory to the US at the rate of roughly 120,000 units annually.

On another occasion he allegedly boasted having rifle cartridges for sale.

The new complaint says that Diveroli "has a large stock of ammunition in the United States" and "has been unloading his ammunition the last couple of years".

Diveroli's first scam with the Pentagon was blown open initially in 2008 by the New York Times.

The US Army rescinded all dealings with him. The embarrassment was all the more acute because the Pentagon had been duped by a man barely old enough to fight.

- INDEPENDENT

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