Monday, August 13, 2007

Italian Arms smugglers supplying the Iraqi interior ministry

If this isn't fantapolitica, what is ?

Operation Parabellum, the investigation led by Dario Razzi, anti-Mafia prosecutor in this central Italian city, began in 2005 as a routine investigation into drug trafficking by organized-crime figures, branched out into an inquiry into arms dealing with Libya, and then widened to Iraq.

Court documents obtained by the AP show that Razzi's break came early last year when police monitoring one of the drug suspects covertly opened his luggage as he left on a flight to Libya. Instead of the expected drugs, they found helmets, bulletproof vests and the weapons catalog.

Tapping telephones, monitoring e-mails, Razzi's investigators followed the trail to a group of Italian businessmen, otherwise unrelated to the drug probe, who were working to sell arms to Libya and, by late 2006, to Iraq as well, through offshore companies they set up in Malta and Cyprus.

Four Italians have been arrested and are awaiting court indictment for allegedly creating a criminal association and alleged arms trafficking — trading in weapons without a government license. A fifth Italian is being sought in Africa. In addition, 13 other Italians were arrested on drug charges.

In the documents, Razzi describes it as "strange" that the U.S.-supported Iraqi government would seek such weapons via the black market.

Investigators say the prospect of an Iraq deal was raised last November, when an Iraqi-owned trading firm e-mailed Massimo Bettinotti, 39, owner of the Malta-based MIR Ltd., about whether MIR could supply 100,000 AK-47 assault rifles and 10,000 machine guns "to the Iraqi Interior Ministry," adding that "this deal is approved by America and Iraq."

It seems that Mr Razzi is a given to understatement. I'd say totally weird not just "strange"

Interestingly, La Repubblica doesn't seem to have anything up on Bettinotti (I searched for Razzi and found a lot of articles about rockets). Neither does il corriere della sera.

I think fantapolitica scooped them :-)

No comments: