North East Wales

Wrexham imam Abdurraouf Eshati jailed over Libyan arms plot

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Media captionAbdurraouf Eshati and the receipt found on his mobile phone

A Libyan man who lived at a mosque in Wrexham and sometimes led prayers as an imam has been jailed for six years after admitting his part in a network plotting an £18.6m arms deal.

Abdurraouf Eshati admitted collecting information for terrorist purposes.

The 29-year-old was sentenced at London's Old Bailey over the bid to get arms to the war-torn country.

The charge related to two documents on the purchase of ammunition and cargo plane hire.

Judge John Bevan QC said on Tuesday: "It's obvious that his involvement means that it was felt he could be trusted as a confidant in relation to large-scale arms supply."

Forger's kit

Eshati was due to stand trial on Monday but changed his plea.

The court was told electronic documents found outlined a plan to send 1,100 tonnes of ammunition to Libya, via a contact in Italy, in support of the Zintan people there.

During their investigation, police searched Eshati's room at Wrexham Islamic Cultural Centre where they found a number of letter-headed documents which were blank, apart from a stamp and a signature which the prosecution said was a forger's kit.

Image caption Police raided Eshati's address in Stirling Avenue, Wrexham

It is understood Eshati lived at the mosque and would occasionally lead prayers when no one else was available but he did not take any of the main prayer meetings.

Eshati was caught trying to get to France in the back of a lorry with 19 other people at the port of Dover in Kent on 30 November, last year.

On his mobile phone, police found an invoice from an arms supplier for the sale and delivery of ammunition to Tobruk in Libya and a document about chartering a cargo jet for £163,000 for use in Libya.

Eshati also had images on his phone of militia group activists, a beheading and armaments in action which, the prosecution said, showed his allegiance to the Zintan people.

Image caption Eshati lived at the mosque and occasionally led prayers as an imam

On his arrest, he told police he had been in Britain since 2009 on a visa and later as an asylum seeker.

Eshati said his father had been a senior figure in the Gaddafi regime and was now in prison in Tripoli while his two brothers had been murdered. This, however, was a false claim.

On Monday, he admitted seeking leave to remain in the UK by deception on or before 14 December 2012, by falsely claiming he was at risk of persecution if returned to Libya.

Image copyright Metropolitan Police
Image caption An eastern European arms warehouse found by Italian authorities after Eshati's arrest

Dr Ikram Shah from the Wrexham Islamic and Cultural Centre said in a statement the members want to disassociate themselves from Eshati's actions and added they feel betrayed by what he has done.

Speaking after the hearing, Det Ch Supt Terri Nicholson, head of operations at the Metropolitan Police's counter terrorism command, said: "There is no doubt trading arms in this way would endanger the lives of many Libyans, with the potential for use in other conflicts."

The Crown Prosecution Service said Eshati's arrest and the finding of these documents led to Italian authorities discovering large scale illegal arms supplies being imported from eastern Europe to conflict zones in Libya and other places.

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