Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 January 2020

Austrian police thwart gang in $3.3m nuclear 'weapon' deal with militia

Three men arrested in plot to sell nuclear materials

Officers stop a gang suspected of smuggling nuclear materials.
Officers stop a gang suspected of smuggling nuclear materials.

An international crime group has been arrested after trying to smuggle nuclear materials worth €3 million (Dh11 million) to sell to militia.

Undercover officers infiltrated the nuclear smuggling ring and discovered the men were preparing to sell a container of radioactive matter to an unnamed faction.

Austrian police, in conjunction with Europe's crime agency Europol, and the General Police Inspectorate of The Republic of Moldova, arrested the gang in Vienna.

It is understood the nuclear matter was uranium-235, an isotope that can be used as a fuel for nuclear power plants and also as a component in nuclear weapon manufacturing.

Investigators are examining what the package was destined to be used for and have not disclosed its origins.

Video footage shows the gang at Chisinau airport in Moldova.

In one image the men can be seen pulling a light green container believed to contain the nuclear material out of a blue fabric sports bag.

In another bundles of thousands of Euros can be seen in a car.

An undercover cover agent from Moldova had infiltrated the gang prior to their apprehension in a year-long operation.

Armed police surrounded the gang as they sat in a black Sedan.

Officers can be seen pointing guns into the car and smashing the windows of the vehicle with batons during the arrests.

A spokesperson for Europol said: “The cooperation, that included transnational investigative measures, targeted a group of criminals when they attempted to sell nuclear container which allegedly contained radiological material to an army for €3 million.

“During the comprehensive operation three individuals were arrested in Vienna, Austria, two of them had criminal records, and one of them had been already convicted for a similar crime in the past.

“Trafficking in nuclear and radiological materials is presently assessed as a potential risk to the EU internal security. Despite the good work being done by law enforcement agencies, the likelihood of the illegal movement of nuclear and radiological materials remains due to the increased availability of misappropriated radiological sources from different conflict zones and their further trade.”

In total three men have been arrested, one man has previous convictions for smuggling nuclear materials.

The arrests happened on November 24.

Austrian authorities have declined to comment on the case.

There have been 126 incidents involving nuclear materials worldwide this year, a fifth have taken place in Europe.

Updated: December 9, 2019 06:00 PM

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