Interesting doings by the Italian Police

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From My Way News/AP:
Italy Probe Unearths Huge Iraq Arms Deal
In a hidden corner of Rome's busy Fiumicino Airport, police dug quietly through a traveler's checked baggage, looking for smuggled drugs. What they found instead was a catalog of weapons, a clue to something bigger.

Their discovery led anti-Mafia investigators down a monthslong trail of telephone and e-mail intercepts, into the midst of a huge black-market transaction, as Iraqi and Italian partners haggled over shipping more than 100,000 Russian-made automatic weapons into the bloodbath of Iraq.

As the secretive, $40 million deal neared completion, Italian authorities moved in, making arrests and breaking it up. But key questions remain unanswered.

For one thing, The Associated Press has learned that Iraqi government officials were involved in the deal, apparently without the knowledge of the U.S. Baghdad command - a departure from the usual pattern of U.S.-overseen arms purchases.
Emphasis mine -- the USA has always granted the Iraqi people a high level of autonomy -- hell, the elections put some nasty people into office and we are working with them because we have to. Also nepotism and corruption are considered legitimate business tools in that culture. This deal still sucks big-time though... A bit more:
Operation Parabellum, the investigation led by Dario Razzi, anti-Mafia prosecutor in this central Italian city, began in 2005 as a routine investigation into drug trafficking by organized-crime figures, branched out into an inquiry into arms dealing with Libya, and then widened to Iraq.

Court documents obtained by the AP show that Razzi's break came early last year when police monitoring one of the drug suspects covertly opened his luggage as he left on a flight to Libya. Instead of the expected drugs, they found helmets, bulletproof vests and the weapons catalog.

Tapping telephones, monitoring e-mails, Razzi's investigators followed the trail to a group of Italian businessmen, otherwise unrelated to the drug probe, who were working to sell arms to Libya and, by late 2006, to Iraq as well, through offshore companies they set up in Malta and Cyprus.
One last little bit:
Investigators say the prospect of an Iraq deal was raised last November, when an Iraqi-owned trading firm e-mailed Massimo Bettinotti, 39, owner of the Malta-based MIR Ltd., about whether MIR could supply 100,000 AK-47 assault rifles and 10,000 machine guns "to the Iraqi Interior Ministry," adding that "this deal is approved by America and Iraq."

The go-between - the Al-Handal General Trading Co. in Dubai - apparently had communicated with Bettinotti earlier about buying night visors and had been told MIR could also procure weapons.
And Dubai was supposed to be fairly neutral. Trust but verify. And watch your back.

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