Bloomberg: Italy’s Finance Police said it arrested five Italians and four suspected Iranian agents on suspicion of weapons trafficking to Iran. By Flavia Krause-Jackson and Dan Liefgreen
March 3 (Bloomberg) — Italy’s Finance Police said it arrested five Italians and four suspected Iranian agents on suspicion of weapons trafficking to Iran.
The authorities blocked the export of explosive materials to Iran and intercepted a supply of 1,000 German-produced optical-precision equipment and 120 scuba-diving jackets and oxygen tanks, according to an e-mailed statement. Two of the four Iranians were Italian residents while the five Italians lived in northern Italy and in Switzerland, police said today.
Armando Spataro, the same prosecutor who requested the extradition of CIA agents for the 2003 kidnapping of a Muslim cleric, is leading the investigation, which began in June 2009 and was dubbed “Operation Sniper.”
The police believe the suspects are part of a criminal gang that sells weapons and explosives to Iran through eastern Europe, the statement said.
The arrests come as the U.S. pushes for tougher United Nations sanctions on Tehran’s government over its nuclear program. The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency said in a Feb. 19 report that Iran enriched uranium to 19.8 percent, 0.2 percentage point below the threshold needed to start the chain reaction seen in an atomic bomb.
Spataro made headlines in 2007 when he accused U.S. agents, with the support of Italian counterparts, of abducting Egyptian- born Osama Mustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, on a Milan street. An Italian judge convicted 22 suspected CIA agents and an American military official on Nov. 4. They were tried on absentia and can appeal twice.
The U.S. has been in talks with the four other permanent members of the UN Security Council — France, Britain, Russia and China — to shape a sanctions resolution on Iran, possibly aimed at the Revolutionary Guard Corps that is involved in the nuclear work. Iran insists its nuclear aims are peaceful, while it has barred UN inspectors from some facilities.