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Italian authorities investigate Iranian arms trafficking

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Investigators are looking into fourteen people suspected of facilitating a €300 million illicit arms deals (which included dual-use drones) between Italy and Iran

Weapons smuggling? Three shadowy emissaries of the Tehran government, in charge of the clandestine purchase of a shipment of weapons worth more than 300 million euros, are under investigation in Rome in relation to international terrorism, according to the Italian newspaper Repubblica.

  • However, Mohamad Hamed Adibpour, Mehran Aalipour Birgani and Esamil Nasab Safarian are untraceable – most likely in Iran.
  • Eleven Italian citizens, who are local arms sellers and businesspeople, are also being probed. The preliminary hearing judge is slated to express her opinion on May 26.

It’s a bigger (spy) story. This investigation spun off another one, which entered the Italian chronicles in October 2020 following a homicide-suicide episode near Rome that resulted in the death of one Said Ansari Firouz.

  • The son of a former Iranian ambassador to Italy, he was reportedly tasked with supplying the Iranian regime with high-autonomy dual-use drones (which can be made to drop bombs) and several types of firearms, including assault and sniper rifles as well as machine guns.
    • He allegedly operated from Italy as a middleman, linking demand to supplies and moving within an intricate network of spies. He had previously tried to broker other two arms deals.
  • He was shot by his conational Foloty Cave, who then turned the gun on himself.

It gets complicated. According to il Messaggero, Mr Firouz was also collaborating with the Italian intelligence agencies, who had asked him to report on the arms deal he was brokering on behalf of the Iranian regime.

  • The paper found phone calls from his personal cell phone to the Italian government offices (which also hosts some intelligence officers) in November 2016 while he met with delegates from Tehran.
  • Going by the investigation reports, Mr Firouz believed he had been caught in an internal clash between secret agents. 

And it’s not a first. Italy has long been a crossroads of spies, including Iranian ones.

  • Recent examples include that of Danial Kassrae, who was accused of espionage, expelled from Albania and flown to Italy in the summer of 2020. He was believed to be working for MOIS, Tehran’s intelligence agency, and reportedly attempted to infiltrate and recruit Iranian-Albanian MEK members – the biggest Iranian political opposition group.
  • In 2021 the Alpi Aviation case – concerning an attempted Chinese takeover of an Italian drone-maker – resurfaced the fact that the Italian authorities had already investigated the company for allegedly violating the international arms embargo on Iran, which included dual-use items.

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