Rocket Launchers Sold On To Suspected Terrorist, At Least Seven Still Missing
UPDATE : A Commonwealth prosecutor claims police covertly recorded one of the two former Australian Army men accused of stealing and selling anti-tank rocket launchers as he threatened to kill anybody who revealed they were trying to sell the deadly weapons on the Sydney blackmarket.
Suddenly, once the alleged weapons thieves are before a court, the number of rocket launchers stolen has risen to 10, from the original seven that police and the Australian Defence Force claimed earlier this year had been stolen.
Police made the unusual move of announcing to the media that they were going to arrest a captain in the Australian Defence Force for allegedly stealing and selling military rocket launchers hours before the arrest took place earlier today.
The Army captain's alleged partner in the thefts of the rocket launchers is a former officer in the Australian Defence forces.
Eight rocket launchers were stolen from an Army depot between 2002 and late 2006, but only one has been recovered by police.
A court heard earlier this year that five of the anti-tank weapons had been sold to a 'terrorist suspect' in Sydney, via a reputed arms dealer. Police believe the two men arrested had tried to sell the rocket launchers for $5000 each.The rocket launchers were anti-tank M72s. They can pierce armour almost one foot thick, and are capable of completely destroying civilian vehicles, killing everyone inside.
The search for the seven missing rocket launchers is growing more intense. A critical deadline looms. The APEC summit of world leaders to be held in Sydney in September.
Australian Federal Police and the nation's chief intelligence agency, ASIO, are believed to be under pressure from American and Russian secret services to find the missing weapons, as preparations begin on security details for the APEC summit.
Russian president Vladimir Putin and US president George W. Bush are amongst the dozens of world leaders expected to attend the two day series of meetings and conferences.
The NSW government has already announced that the Friday before the weekend meeting will be a public holiday for city workers, and all roads in and out of the central business district are expected to be closed down. The security operation surrounding APEC will be the biggest in Australian history.
Despite the connection to organised crime and a suspected terrorist, the two Army-linked men accused of stealing the rocket launchers are expected to only be charged with breaches of firearm laws and the theft of Commonwealth property.
From news.com.au :
Their arrests bring to four the total number of people arrested over the weapons theft.
Abdul Rahman was arrested at a house in Leumeah, in Sydney's southwest, late last year and charged with 17 offences over the stolen rocket launchers.
Police allege Rahman, 28, had supplied five of the weapons to one of the men arrested in anti-terrorism raids in Sydney in November 2005.
STORY CONTINUES BELOW.....
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From a January 4, 2007, report on this blog :
A massive investigation involving the Australian Federal Police and the nation's chief spy agency has led to the arrest of a 28 year old man in Sydney for allegedly trying to sell rocket launchers believed to have been stolen from the Australian Army to a man now being held on terror-related charges.
The man now facing charges - a known gun dealer and convicted double-murderer - also believed to have been in possession of 20 kilos of Power Gel explosives, was already under investigation following a sting operation where undercover detectives paid him $50,000 in a failed attempt to recover one of the deadly weapons.
It would appear there is plenty more to this story that has not yet been made public. The 28 year old man was described by one investigator as one link in a chain involving stolen Australian Army weapons and ammunition and powerful underworld crime figures.
But were the rocket launchers part of a terror plot? Or some powerful weaponry for crime gangs out for explosive revenge attacks?
The police refuse to confirm one story or the other.
When the story of the missing rocket launchers broke last month, police and Army spokespersons refused to confirm to journalists that the launchers had been stolen from Australian Army stockpiles.
A theory that the launchers may have been smuggled into Australia was floated instead.
No wonder. Now serious questions are being raised about why private security companies are being used to patrol Australian military bases and, presumably, are tasked with securing stockpiles of rocket launchers and explosives.
Incredible. Who defends the Australian Defence Force bases after midnight? Private security guards.
The fact that rocket launchers, capable of destroying vehicles or even taking down airliners, were missing somewhere in Australia triggered one of the biggest joint ASIO-Federal Police investigations in years.
As the APEC summit draws nearer, it is expected that US Secret Service and CIA agents will become involved in the hunt for the missing weapons, as they are unlikely to allow President Bush to visit Sydney when such a massive security breach remains unresolved.
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January, 2007 : The Enemy Within? Australian Air Force Engineer Charged With With Possessing Bombs And Explosives
Rocket Launcher Found On Sale At Rubbish Tip, For $2!
Arrested Army Captain Was A Munitions Expert