Italian police arrest seven over 'smuggling weapons' to Iran

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Italy arrested seven people on suspicion of trafficking arms to Iran yesterday.

Italian police working with authorities in Britain, Romania and Switzerland arrested two Iranians and five Italians in several European cities.

One of those held was an Iranian journalist accredited with Rome's foreign press club. The Iranian suspects are believed to be members of the Iranian secret services. Another two Iranian suspects remain at large.

The investigation uncovered a ring which sent weapons to Iran from Italy and via third countries. The operation prevented tracer bullets, explosives from eastern Europe and explosive material for incendiary bombs being sent to Iran, as well as 1,000 German-made rifle sights and 120 military diving jackets.

"Their system... often involved buying merchandise abroad and moving it between Italy and other nations to hide the final and real destination, which was Iran," Italian anti-terrorism prosecutor Armando Spataro told a news conference.

Britain became involved after rifle sights were seized at London's Heathrow airport and police arrested a man believed to be the gang's contact in Britain.

"This international ring of arms traffickers was playing on ambiguity – that is to say, the seized material... could be used for civil and military purposes," Attilio Iodice, a provincial police commander, told a news conference. "Investigations showed this was material that was destined solely for military purposes."

Police named all nine suspects wanted in Italy, including the Italian head of an import-export company and a lawyer. Another Italian cited is normally resident in Switzerland.