Thursday, September 3, 2009

Voulez-vous acheter des armes avec moi, ce soir? (UPDATED)

Are we entirely sure that this isn't actually an episode of "Rocky and Bullwinkle"?

A Belgian arms dealer who allegedly tried to smuggle fighter-jet engines and parts from the United States to Iran has been indicted, U.S. officials announced Wednesday, days after he was arrested in New York City after stepping off a flight from France.

Jacques Monsieur, 56, was charged Aug. 27 by a federal grand jury with six counts of conspiracy, smuggling, money laundering, and violating weapons-trafficking laws and export controls related to a U.S. trade embargo on Iran.

But wait, it gets even better:

Authorities say Monsieur, nicknamed "The Field Marshal," according to U.S. officials, in February contacted a person he thought could supply him with engines for F-5 fighter or C-130 cargo transport aircraft. That person turned out to be an undercover ICE agent. Monsieur subsequently met with undercover agents in Paris and London, authorities say.
The dude's name is Jacques Monsieur? His real name? Was the ICE agent who arrested him named Joe America? I know the guy is Belgian and not French, but is there a more hilariously stereotypical frog-eater name? (Half of this blog is French, ok? So I get some slack on the ethno-national slurs.) And then he goes by "The Field Marshal"?

I'm going to go ahead and nominate Jacques Monsieur, AKA The Field Marshal as my Favorite Francophone Villain. I know he's trying to sell plane parts to the bad guys and all that, but this is just too funny.
UPDATE: Here's a lot more info on The Field Marshal from some place called the Center for Public Integrity. (Slightly dated, as it seems to have been written around 2002.) Sounds like he's had his mitts in the Congo mess, so maybe Lil has something to add to this.


  1. Gulliver, Wired also has more on this here.
    It has the indictment and everything. Worth a look.

    The Center for Public Integrity is a reputable investigative think tank so the info there is likely largely accurate.

    I did a quick search and found this Small Arms Survey report from 2001. Of course, the source from the box on p. 13 comes something written by none other than Johan Peleman, a Belgian investigator (he's profiled in the film Gunrunners and you should really see it). Peleman is typically extremely thorough and well-informed.

    This lovely tidbit from the Library of Congress provides a bit more (p. 20).

    "The Belgian Jacques Monsieur also based an active arms smuggling enterprise in Belgium in the 1990s. Monsieur moved arms from Russia, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Bulgaria to Angola and various other African states, allegedly with support from the French oilgiant Elf Aquitaine. In October 2002, Monsieur returned to Belgium to stand trial for arms smuggling; he also is wanted in France. Authorities also linked Monsieur with the sale of French missiles and artillery shells to a Croatian trafficking group for use in Balkan conflicts between 1991 and 1993.Like Bout and Minin, he has no known connection with narcotics trafficking."

    The report is from 2002 (which says not much has changed). So, it seems like the story on Monsieur is that he’s a weapons trader/trafficker in the mold of Bout and Leonid Minin—both of whom are widely known to have supplied weapons to almost any conflict you can think of, especially in Africa.

    Finally, a Thai court rejected Viktor Bout's appeal for bail and the US appealed the Thai court's decision not to extradite him so now we wait and see on that front too. That link is here. One thing that's not quite right in that article though, Bout is on the Liberia sanctions list, which means he's under an international (not just US) assets freeze and travel ban, based on his role in getting weapons to Liberia.

    So what does all this mean exactly? That the US is working hard to detain, arrest, and try suspected weapons traffickers. And also that it's doing so pretty systematically.

    Finally, you can make fun of French/Belgian names all you want...

  2. Okay, it seems I really am interested in the topics presented here, despite my dramatic 'that's it, I need to move on to other parts of the blogosphere' statements in my last post. I thought I should go spend some time at some art of fashion blogs, but it seems I just can't quit you. Oh, wait, that didn't come out right.....

    Lil - I am having such a little love affair with current French pop/alternative music and films. If you were to occasionally drop names for me to listen to, or watch, around here, when appropriate, I wouldn't mind a bit.....

    *Regarding the above post: You know what I always wonder? How exactly do you fall into a business like this?

  3. Er, some art or fashion blogs, I dunno, I kind of lost it before and just wanted to move on or something

    Speaking of fashion blogs, The Sartorialist has a current post up about images in fashion, or something like that, and one of the images is the famous Afghan woman from National Geographic which remains an enduring visual icon.

    **No, I do not spend all my time on the internets. I just have a system that gets me interesting quirky stuff, quickly, and without much time or, it is not RSS.

  4. Madhu--nice to see you! Will do my best on the French pop/alternative music and films though having not lived there for ten years, I'm a bit rusty on my popular culture.

    And on the fashion blog front, that's a necessity when you're interested in these depressing things and, as it seems you do (from what you've written here and elsewhere) have an intense job. You need to and keep your brain busy/distracted but not challenged. I know I do.

  5. Lil -- Great links, thanks. The Wired story links to a French interview in 2004 in which Monsieur claims to be an intel officer posing as an arms dealer. How awesome is this?!

    Jacques Monsieur : Je suis un marchand d’armes qui sort de l’ordinaire, parce que le commerce d’armes n’était pas ma principale activité. Elle en cachait une autre : à savoir celle pour laquelle j’ai été condamné en Iran, c’est-à-dire le renseignement.

    RFI : Pourquoi avoir choisi cette couverture ?

    Jacques Monsieur : Il y a plusieurs raisons à cela. La raison principale, c’est que cette couverture me permettait de beaucoup voyager et d’entrer dans certains pays difficiles d’accès et surtout d’entrer dans les départements qui nous intéressaient. J’ai accompli un certain nombre de missions pour le compte de l’armée belge, principalement dans les pays de l’Est, ainsi que pour le compte de l’OTAN, puisque la Belgique fait partie de l’OTAN.

  6. Gulliver--that's a fascinating interview, I'd missed it.

  7. Great links, thanks. More references from the Small Arms Survey on small arms brokering:

    Monsieur Monsieur could certainly compete for Belgium's shadiest character.

  8. Hmm--the small arms world is also the security sector reform/conflict analysis (at least in Africa) world...colleagues everywhere:)