Czech businessman arrested in Brussels on arms trafficking charges

A Czech businessman was arrested at Brussels airport on Thursday on charges of illegally exporting weapons to a number of countries, including Iraq. Dalibor Kopp, who is 44, is accused of being a major gun-runner whose customers allegedly included Islamic terror groups.

Dalibor Kopp was surrounded by plain-clothes policemen just before 6.30 on Thursday morning as he stepped off a plane from Liberia. He's currently being detained at Brussels' Forest prison, as Czech authorities prepare to request his extradition. The Czechs issued an international arrest warrant for him in 2004 after he fled the Czech Republic. He was later arrested in Liberia, but subsequently released.

According to information in the Czech media, Dalibor Kopp was first accused of arms smuggling in 1995, when he allegedly established links with the Palestinian extremist group Hamas. Mlada fronta Dnes claims he was in talks to supply Hamas with 25,000 sub-machine guns and 12 million rounds of ammunition, in a deal which was allegedly supposed to go through a Japanese middleman.

Meanwhile another newspaper, Hospodarske noviny, claims he was involved in a plan to import marihuana and hundreds of sub-machine guns from Kazakhstan. The former Czech ambassador to Kazakhstan, a former military intelligence officer, was allegedly involved in the deal; he was sacked in 2002. Mr Kopp is also wanted for allegedly supplying weapons to militants in Iraq in 2004 and also shipping guns to Liberia - an Interpol official was quoted as saying that Dalibor Kopp was "a great danger for peace in West Africa".

Mr Kopp was arrested on an Interpol warrant and will remain in Belgian custody until the Czech authorities file an extradition request. It's then up to Belgium to decide whether there are strong enough grounds to send him back to the Czech Republic. If he's found guilty of the crimes of arms trafficking he could spend up to 10 years in prison. Dalibor Kopp maintains his innocence.