pounds 1m arms case collapses

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The Independent Online
AN INVESTIGATION was ordered last night into a police drug squad after the collapse of a million-pound inquiry into international gun smuggling.

The case involved the alleged importation of pounds 3m of anti-tank missiles, mines, machine-guns, rocket launchers, automatic rifles and ammunition from Serbia to the United Kingdom.

After the collapse of the trial of four Greek men at the Old Bailey yesterday, the judge asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate aspects of the case, some of which involved the West Midlands drugs squad. The four men were freed when the prosecution offered no evidence against them.

It had been alleged the arms were to be brought by Irish terrorists between October 1997 and March 1998. The international police operation run by the National Crime Squad is thought to have cost more than pounds 1m. The case collapsed after it emerged that vital evidence from the key police informant could not be trusted.

John Bevan QC, for the prosecution, offered no evidence after he said it became clear that the activities of a police informant and five officers from the West Midlands drugs squad had blighted the case. The alleged corruption centres on the way the West Midlands drugs squad handled an informant who tipped off the police and newspapers about the arms shipment. The court heard that five officers have lost their jobs after a police investigation.