As of Wednesday, a 50-year-old Miami, Florida, man is facing up to five years behind bars and $250,000 in fines for attempting to sell what he believed to be guns previously owned by Saddam Hussein and the Hussein family. Perhaps more problematic for David Philip Ryan, however, is not so much what he believed, but what he knew at the time of the attempted sale, which was that the guns, at the very least, were stolen and “100 percent absolutely and totally positive” from Iraq.
Ryan willingly pled guilty Wednesday to a federal judge, and admitted that he indeed did try to sell what he believed to be the former dictator’s firearms. Saddam Hussein, readers will remember, was hung back in 2006.
Overall, The Washington Post reports that according to the indictment, Ryan was trying to hustle seven guns he believed were owned by Saddam and his family before they were “stolen and smuggled out of Iraq, and illegally imported into the United States.”
It turns out a lot of looting throughout and in the aftermath of the Iraq War led to a good deal of national swag disappearing, inevitably ending up being sold on the black market to anonymous, wealthy folks whose money, in turn, ended up funding groups like ISIS. That’s the long and short of The Post’s overview on the matter, anyway. Donald Rumsfeld didn’t give a shit about the looting, so it ran loose and rampant.
Ryan knew the guns were likely hot, but they would also be a hot commodity – good business if done quickly, discreetly. One could assume a good return might be had for selling an executed notorious former dictator’s fire arms…
But Ryan got caught, so now he faces five years and a quarter of a million dollars in fines.
The Homeland Security Investigation limb of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is tasked with tracking down and returning lost and stolen national treasures from foreign countries. Apparently, it’s been quite busy since the advent of the Iraq War. It’s successfully found and returned over 1,200 relics and artifacts to Iraq alone over the last six years. In the last week, it’s done as much for 60 more, some of which did, in fact, belong to at least one of Hussein’s palaces – a soap dish.
So Ryan’s story that he had Hussein’s guns for the selling was certainly, at the very least, plausible – but still, considering they were the stolen property of a former dictator, illegal.
Director of ICE Sarah R. Saldaña said:
These ancient treasures we are returning do not belong in the hands of any private collection or any one owner. They belong to the people of Iraq where they will be displayed and protected. ICE will not allow the illicit greed of some to trump the cultural history of an entire nation.
Special agent heading the ICE office in Newark, N.J., Andrew McLess, said:
We are talking about weapons of a dictator who brought untold suffering during his reign. These weapons are not for sale to the highest bidder.
Currently, the guns have been determined to definitely be from Iraq, but it is still unclear as to whether or not they were ever owned by Saddam Hussein or his family. The firearms are estimated to be worth somewhere between $250k to $350k.
You can read more about the matter, here.