The indictment was followed by a June 24 hearing on AEY by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, in which chairman Henry Waxman wondered aloud how a "company run by a 21-year-old president and a 25-year-old former masseur" could land such a contract. The answer, that there had been no limit stipulated in the agreement for the age of the ammunition—or the contractors—did not please him. Trebicka was now working with investigators from the Justice Department and another congressional oversight committee. Federal prosecutors met with him in Miami to take his testimony against AEY. But their aggressive questioning frightened him, and after one meeting he hired a lawyer, then bolted.

Back in Albania, Trebicka told friends he worried for his life. To escape the stress, he took an early-fall bird-hunting trip. On September 12, 2008, his body was found splayed in the middle of a remote dirt road in the southern woods. His truck was more than 100 feet away, its windshield crushed. A U.S. traffic-accident expert hired by the Albanian authorities to investigate reportedly determined that Trebicka was bounced out of the open-topped vehicle after it hit a dip in the road. But many in Albania are skeptical. "If it was an accident," Kokalari says, "it was one-in-a-million."

AEY's lawyers have argued that ammunition made in China but sold to Albania decades before Tiananmen does not violate the intention of the ban. The trial date is set for September 2009. During a December preliminary hearing, Diveroli sat in the front row of the courtroom, waiting to hear whether the feds would release some of his seized assets, including $3 million and his new Mercedes. "I don't care about the three mil," he said, grinning at his attorney. "I want my car back." (The government released the vehicle, along with $4.2 million.)

In the rear of the room, Packouz and Podrizki sat together, hunched over. Packouz had left AEY well before the indictments, after an argument with Diveroli over money. "I didn't get paid a cent on that contract," he said angrily. Outside, the two friends studiously avoided Diveroli, who headed off alone across an empty plaza. In five days he would turn 23. He had no plans to celebrate.