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Arrests in Italy Reveal Iran's Efforts to Buy Illegal Weapons

5 years ago
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The arrests in Italy earlier this month of seven people accused of arms trafficking and espionage reveals a complex network of illegal weapons smuggling and sales that leads back to Iran.

Italian court documents allege that a
representative for Beretta, the gun maker, led a ring of Italian arms dealers and Iranian spies who were illegally selling ammunition, helicopters, and other military hardware to Iran, ProPublica reported Wednesday.

On March 3, the Beretta rep, Allessandro Bon, four other Italians, and two Iranians believed to be intelligence agents were arrested in Turin on suspicion of trafficking arms to Iran in violation of UN sanctions. Prosecutors said they were sending weapons to Iran from Italy via a third country or countries. Two other Iranians are still being sought.

Investigators closed in on the men after German sniper scopes were discovered among Taliban militants fighting NATO troops in Afghanistan, according to ProPublica.

The investigation by reporter Sebastian Rotella into wiretaps and court documents reveals a global effort by Iran to buy weapons:

Using layers of front companies and smuggling pipelines run by Iran's increasingly powerful security forces, Iranian buyers prowl black markets in search of suppliers ready to take a risk for a profit, according to investigators and Western intelligence officials interviewed for this article.

U.S.-led international sanctions haven't stopped the illicit sales, experts say, because European countries have longtime commercial ties to Iran and aren't inclined to crack down, particularly in the current economic slump. Italy alone did more than $9 billion worth of legitimate trade with Iran in 2008.

Based in Milan, the arms ring operated undetected for at least three years, he wrote:
The cast of characters includes a political boss known as a "bulwark of Christ," an Iranian journalist turned accused spy and a fast-talking lawyer with an alleged audacious plan to set up a covert Iranian base in Italy.
Read the full ProPublica report here.
Filed Under: Iran, Investigations

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