National Security

Pentagon Paid A Once-Indicted Arms Dealer $1B To Supply Ammo To Ukrainians

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The Department of Defense (DOD) has paid about $1 billion to an arms dealer who was once indicted for allegedly bribing foreign officials to supply equipment to the Ukrainians, The New York Times reported Saturday.

The Pentagon has paid Florida-based Global Ordnance about $1 billion for contracts to supply ammunition, including rockets and shells, to Ukrainian forces to use in the struggle against the invading Russian forces, according to the NYT. Marc Morales, who leads Global Ordnance, was the subject of a Department of Justice (DOJ) indictment in 2009 that alleged he had participated in a conspiracy and money laundering activities, with the DOJ further alleging Morales was recorded on tape talking about ways to illicitly pay off foreign officials.

Because FBI agents mishandled their relationship with a key informant and the investigation into Morales, prosecutors dismissed the charges against him, according to the NYT. Morales’ involvement in the Ukrainian arms trade demonstrates how the urgency to defend the country’s territory has given rise to global arms market dynamics that empower little-known contractors to win large contracts that may have otherwise dried up after the U.S. pared down down its military presence in the Middle East. (RELATED: Mamma Mia! Ukraine’s Latest Corruption Scandal Is All About…Pasta?)

In addition to the Pentagon contracts, Morales reportedly has established a side operation worth $200 million in which he sells supplies directly to the Ukrainians.

“Contrary to what we may see in the movies, long-term success depends upon knowing, fully respecting, and following the rules of all countries involved,” Bryan Van Brunt, who serves as general counsel for Global Ordnance, said to the NYT. Van Brunt maintained that the company follows all applicable statutes in correspondence with the NYT.

The U.S. has supplied over $40 billion worth of military aid, and much of the equipment provided is sophisticated and expensive weaponry, such as the HIMARS rocket launcher system, according to the NYT. Morales and other contractors with extensive connections in international arms markets are useful for supplying smaller, more basic varieties of ammunition, much of which is lower-end or Soviet-caliber, from all over the world.

Morales demonstrated his proficiency in fulfilling military contracts in Afghanistan and Syria, according to the NYT. When Russia escalated its assault on Ukraine into a full-fledged invasion, Ukrainian officials removed many of the arms procurement transparency policies that the country had instituted over the years to battle the graft that is reportedly rampant within the Ukrainian political system, according to the European Union.

Corruption in the military has been a problem for the Ukrainian forces in the many months since the war escalated, the NYT reported previously.

Global Ordnance has been the subject of an investigation by Ukrainian anti-corruption agencies regarding an agreement that government officials allege was mishandled, according to the NYT.

Neither Global Ordnance nor the Pentagon responded immediately to requests for comment.

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