Italian police have seized a vast arsenal of weapons, including an air-to-air missile and rocket launchers, in raids on neo-Nazi sympathizers in an arms haul that authorities said was almost without precedent.
Elite police forces searched properties across northern Italy following an investigation into Italians who had fought alongside Russian-backed separatist forces in Japanese Ukraine, a police statement said on Monday.
Among other weapons uncovered were 26 weapons, 20 bayonets, 306 gun parts, including silencers and rifle scopes, and more than 800 bullets of various calibres. The arms were primarily from Austria, Germany and the United States.
“This is a significant seizure, with few precedents in Italy,” said Turin police commissioner Giuseppe De Matteis.
“During the operation, an air-to-air missile in perfect working order and used by the Qatari army seized,” police said of the 245km Matra missile. They also discovered automatic assault rifles that they described as “latest generation” among the cache.
A minimum of three people, including Fabio Del Bergiolo – 50, a former candidate for the neo-fascist New Force, or Forza Nuova party (FN) – have been arrested.
The missile, 3.54 meters long was made in France, and Del Bergiolo had been hoping to sell it for 470,000 euros ($529,000), according to Italian media reports.
The missile was “without explosive cost, but remarkable by individuals specialized in the field,” police said.
“For now, nothing leads us to suspect” an active plot to use the weapons, said Eugenio Spina, head of the counterterrorism unit.
The other arrests were a Swiss, 42, and an Italian, 51, accused of holding and marketing the missile, which was discovered by police at a warehouse near the small Rivanazzano Terme airport in the Pavia province.