Czech and Slovak police crack-down on weapons suppliers to the underworld

Robert Šlachta, photo: CTK

Czech and Slovak police units specialized in fighting organized crime announced on Tuesday they had arrested six members of a gang which sold weapons and explosives to the underworld in the Czech Republic and abroad. During raids at a number of Czech and Slovak locations police confiscated a vast amount of weapons and explosives.

Robert Šlachta,  photo: CTK
What the police originally thought to be an illegal trade in small arms for the Czech and Slovak underworld turned out to be a bigger racket than they imagined. Police confiscated close to 200 hundred submachine guns, more than 30 pistols, dozens of revolvers, boxes of ammunition, hand grenades, silencers, telescopic air rifles and explosives devices filled with Semtex, the powerful Czech-made military explosive made notorious by the Lockerbie bombing. The Slovak squad reported a similar haul – in the homes of the ringleaders and a number of secret warehouses.

The head of the Czech organized crime squad Robert Šlachta said the four Czechs and two Slovaks who ran the business mainly supplied customers abroad.

“We know that most of the confiscated weapons were intended for buyers outside the Czech Republic and that they were intended for the underworld. We do not yet know the nature of the crimes they were intended for.”

Illustrative photo
A large part of the weapons arsenal confiscated came from the Czech - formerly Czechoslovak army – weapons that fell into disuse after the country downsized and modernized its military in line with NATO standards. Such weapons were gradually sold off to firms dealing in arms or to firms which scrap outdated weapons. Now an investigation is underway to ascertain how hundreds of them ended up on the black market. According to Czech experts all the confiscated weapons are fully functional and many had been upgraded professionally. The devices containing the explosive Semtex were also professionally made and deemed highly dangerous.

Czech and Slovak police are now following up all the leads in what is the biggest crackdown against arms-dealers on the black market in years and are trying to trace the flow of weapons to foreign clients. The six ring leaders remain in custody awaiting trial and their chances of being let out on bail are practically non-existent. All of them face sentences of up to ten years.