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Jacques Monsieur arrested in Turkey

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BRUSSELS, Belgium — A Belgian man alleged to be one of Europe's biggest gunrunners -- and who has threatened to reveal secrets about the involvement of intelligence agencies and oil corporations in his illicit trade -- has been arrested in Turkey.

Jacques Monsieur, also known as the Marshal, was arrested in Istanbul on Saturday. Belgium, which has indicted him on charges of arms trafficking, is seeking his extradition.

Monsieur’s clients included the Republic of Congo, Iran, the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), Chad, Croatia, Bosnia, Qatar, Togo, and Burundi, the Center’s International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has learned. Monsieur’s weapons dealing forms part of the ICIJ’s study into the global commerce of war, which will be released this fall.

Since the mid-eighties, when Monsieur was a participant in the Iran-Contra affair, his name has regularly cropped up in reference to the illegal weapons trade as he grew to be one of the largest traffickers in Europe. His downfall began in 1998 when U.S. intelligence agencies — with which he claimed to have worked in the eighties and early nineties, when he sold weapons to Croatia — asked the Belgians to investigate him for selling embargoed American spare parts and aviation technology to Iran. The French also launched an investigation against him in Bourges in 1998, and seized computer hard drives, letters and faxes that gave illuminating details of his arms trafficking activities.

In May 1999, the French indicted Monsieur for “illegal commerce in weapons of war without a license from the Defense Ministry.” He was to testify in a French court at the end of 2000, but he disappeared in November 2000. He next turned up in Iran, where he was arrested and charged with spying. He was tried in Tehran in December 2001, but was released after he paid a fine, and had not been heard from since.

Monsieur has said he would tell all about his deals, which could severely embarrass the French intelligence services, former officials of the since-purchased Elf Aquitaine Oil Company of France, and African heads of state. In 2000, he threatened Elf’s former executives that he would expose their involvement in the trade of weapons in exchange for oil, and their manipulation of African politics, if they did not settle debts they had guaranteed on his behalf.

Monsieur is still wanted in France on the 1999 indictment for illegally selling weapons.

Last Saturday he was picked up during a routine police raid in Istanbul. He is being held there pending a request for his extradition from Belgian authorities.

The prosecutor’s office in Brussels refused to comment, other than to confirm the arrest.

Monsieur’s lawyer, Marc Preumont, refused to comment on the arrest, other than to say that Monsieur was ready to face the Belgian judges.