Former Ivory Coast Defense Minister Bertin Kadet told Radio France Internationale that the man arrested by the FBI was an army colonel named Yao N'Guessan.
Kadet said N'Guessan was sent to New York to purchase crowd control armaments in advance of the Ivory Coast's October elections.
The FBI said N'Guessan allegedly was engaged in a deal worth more than $3.8 million for 4,000 handguns, 200,000 rounds of ammunition and 50,000 tear gas grenades when he was apprehended.
The funds to purchase the armaments had already been transferred to the United States.
Opponents of Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbago say the arms purchase was intended to keep his party in power.
The United Nations imposed an embargo on arms to the Ivory Coast in 2004.