Police in Italy said they seized a large arsenal of military weapons, including an air-to-air missile, machine guns and rocket launchers during raids on Monday. Authorities said the finds are without precedent.
Anti-terrorism police in northern Italy have seized an air-to-air missile during raids on far-right extremist groups. (Photos: VCG)
Officers arrested three men, including Fabio Del Bergiolo, who ran for the Italian Senate as a political candidate for Forza Nuova, an extreme right party, in 2001. He was held for allegedly acting as an intermediary to sell weapons, while the other two suspects are Swiss citizen Alessandro Monti, 42, and Fabio Bernardi, 51, who were detained for allegedly possessing and trying to sell a French-made Matra air-to-air missile.
The missile was without an explosive charge but is said to be re-armable by specialists.
The missile, 3.54 meters long, was made in France and once belonged to the Qatari armed forces. Del Bergiolo tried to sell it for 470,000 euros (about 529,000 U.S. dollars), it was claimed.
Investigations are underway to determine how it arrived in Italy.
The raids were sparked by a probe into far-right extremist groups who had fought alongside Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine last July, according to a police statement.
The raids were sparked by a probe into far-right extremist groups.
Police intercepted a WhatsApp message about selling the missile, which put Del Bergiolo under close surveillance. An arms expert helped police to contact the suspects about purchasing the Matra missile on behalf of a third party which brought authorities to the home of Del Bergiolo, where an array of illegally held military weapons, including a Scorpion machine gun, 306 gun parts and 20 bayonets were found.
His collection also included Nazi memorabilia, including Nazi swastikas and street signs from the Nazi era, including one reading "Adolf-Hitler Platz."
The political party Forza Nuova denied any connection with Del Bergiolo, releasing a statement Monday distancing itself from him.
Police found a huge stash of arms as well as neo-Nazi propaganda and Hitler memorabilia.
CNN reports that Bergiolo's lawyer defends his client as a "weapons enthusiast," and the possessions have no connection with terrorism. Italian police stated the missile was without explosive charge, but re-armable by people specialized in the field. Counterterrorism official Eugenio Spina also told reporters that there was no evidence to suspect there was an active plot to use the weapons.
Italian police have carried out several raids in recent weeks on far-right extremists around Turin. A man was arrested earlier this month for advocating fascism and possessing illegal weapons.