PRAGUE — Czech police on Oct. 18 said they had charged five nationals suspected of smuggling arms, including parts for T-55 and T-72 tanks, mostly to fellow NATO and EU-member Poland.
“Five Czech nationals aged 37 to 64 have been charged with the particularly heavy crime of exporting military materials without due authorization or license,” a statement by the UOOZ organized crime police unit said.
“The materials were exported above all to Poland. I have no information about whether they were exported from Poland to third countries — that would be pure speculation,” UOOZ spokesman Pavel Hantak told AFP, refusing to speculate whether once in Poland, the arms were smuggled out to states subject to arms embargoes.
“The investigation is still underway,” he added.
A sting operation had been in the works for about a year and culminated in September with dozens of raids in the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia.
The five gang members risk up to 10 years behind bars if found guilty as charged.
The alleged mastermind of the operation has been taken into temporary custody, but the four other suspects were freed on their own recognizance after charges were pressed against them, the statement said.
Police said the men had smuggled mostly parts for Soviet-designed T-55 and T-72 tanks and tank-like BVP armored infantry vehicles, as well as night vision equipment including goggles, motor parts and weapon guidance systems.
According to the UOOZ, the smuggled materials came from legitimate Czech arms makers.