AP – by Timothy Jacobs
RIGA, Latvia (AP) – Latvian authorities said Thursday they seized an illegal shipment of weapons at Riga international airport from Russia that was destined for Iran.
Customs officials found 28 tons of military equipment, including night vision devices for tanks and parts for jet fighters and anti-aircraft guns waiting to be shipped on a charter flight Tuesday evening, Latvian customs spokeswoman Dita Klavina said.
Counterintelligence experts from the Latvian military concluded the equipment was probably meant for use by “terrorist organizations for their equipment repairs and modernization,” said security police spokeswoman Kristine Apse. They determined the equipment was not likely destined for use by the Iranian army because it is old, she said. The shipment had a declared value of US$315,000 and was financed through offshore bank accounts. Apse said police are investigating a Latvian company thought to be involved but offered no further details. Customs official Kristine Valdniece said agents grew suspicious of the shipment after finding tank tracks at the site where it was stored and what appeared to be military parts inside wooden boxes. “There was something wrong with the documentation,” said Valdniece. “To ship military equipment, you need a license – and there was none.” Yevgeny Dumalkin, an official at the Russian Embassy in Riga, said the embassy had no immediate comment. According to Klavina, the Latvia’s customs department has not yet contacted their Russian counterparts about the shipment. A spokesman at the Iranian Embassy in Stockholm who declined to give his name said he was unaware of the incident and could not comment. Latvian security police have opened an investigation into smuggling of “goods of strategic importance.” No arrests have been made.