US Ambassador Implicated in China Arms Deal

Envoy to Albania hid aging, illegal munitions bound for Afghanistan
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 24, 2008 7:23 AM CDT
John L. Withers II, second from left, American ambassador to Albania, is under suspicion of having colluded in a corrupt arms deal.   (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)
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(Newser) – The American ambassador to Albania personally endorsed a plan to disguise the origin of munitions bought by a Pentagon contractor, according to Congressional testimony. The New York Times traveled to Albania during an earlier investigation of a shady 22-year-old arms dealer operating out of Miami Beach. But the Albanian defense minister, with the ambassador's approval, had illegal Chinese ammunition removed from the site that the reporter was visiting.

A grand jury has indicted the Miami arms dealer for selling decades-old, malfunctioning Chinese ammo to the Pentagon, which was sending it to Afghanistan. Since American law prohibits trading in Chinese weaponry, he sent it to Albania to be repackaged, relying on corrupt officials. When the Times' original story ran, one official at the American embassy sent an email reading, "No mention of Embassy involvement—thank God!"