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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09ASUNCION3
2009-01-05 22:28:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Asuncion
Cable title:  

PARAGUAY ARRESTS SOLDIERS FOR STOLEN (USG-ORIGIN?)

Tags:   PARM  MASS  PTER  PA 
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VZCZCXYZ0001
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHAC #0003/01 0052228
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 052228Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASUNCION
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7498
INFO RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEAHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/USSOCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/USSOCOM WO WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
						C O N F I D E N T I A L ASUNCION 000003 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR PM/WRA MADAMS AND WHA/BSC MDASCHBACH

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2033
TAGS: PARM MASS PTER PA
SUBJECT: PARAGUAY ARRESTS SOLDIERS FOR STOLEN (USG-ORIGIN?)
EXPLOSIVES

REF: 08 ASUNCION 726

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires, a.i. Michael J. Fitzpatrick for reaso
ns 1.4 (b) and (d).

-------
SUMMARY
-------



1. (C) Paraguayan police arrested two Paraguayan Army
soldiers January 5 for possessing and attempting to sell
apparently U.S.-sourced military ordinance -- including
hundreds of packets of C4 plastic explosives -- possibly
stolen from military stockpiles. The suspects -- apprehended
while driving a stolen car filled with the ordinance -- were
arrested after they tried to sell their cargo to a police
officer. Police are now investigating the exact origins of
the ordinance and possible accomplices. The Embassy is
assisting in tracking available serial and lot numbers
through DoD and ATF. END SUMMARY.



--------------------------


POLICE BUST WOULD-BE ARMS TRAFFICKERS


--------------------------





2. (C) Paraguayan police arrested two Paraguayan Army
sergeants at 0330 January 5 near Piribebuy, Paraguari
Department, for possessing and attempting to sell 187
kilograms (267 packets) of C-4 plastic explosives, including
21 rigged with detonation cord; 41 detonators; 25 M-1 rifles,
and six packages of electric fuses. (NOTE: The M-1 rifles,
some stamped "Springfield Armory," are rusting and in very
poor condition; the C-4 explosives, on the other hand, are
relatively new and appear to be in all-too-usable condition.
END NOTE.) Police seized the two suspects and their (stolen)
automobile filled with military ordinance. Police estimated
that the suspects possessed ordinance possibly stolen from
the Defense Ministry's War Materials Directorate (DIMABEL)
facility in Piribebuy.



3. (C) Interior Minister Rafael Filizzola held a morning
press conference January 5 to present the matierals and
explain the arrests. President Fernando Lugo told Charge
later that day that the National Police informed him that one
of the suspects made an unsolicited offer to sell the
ordinance for USD 150,000 to a police officer in late
December. Lugo said the police officer reported the incident
to his chain of command, prompting the police to launch a
sting operation. Despite doubts over the veracity of the
story, police initiated negotiations with the suspects and,
after several false starts, the suspects actually presented
their car stuffed with the ordinance. Although the suspects
eagerly promised to sell an even greater variety of weapons
"next week," once the surprised undercover cop inspected the
car loaded with C-4 plastic explosives -- some of it
apparently primed -- the police decided to seize it and
arrest whomever they could immediately. President Lugo told
Charge police and prosecutors are now tracing the numbers in
the suspects' cellphones for other possible leads and
accomplices in the case.




--------------------------


ORIGIN OF THE ORDINANCE


--------------------------





4. (C) Police are now tracking down the origin of the
ordinance, and investigating what other individuals --
possibly military personnel -- are involved in the theft.
Police are focusing on whether the suspects -- one of whom is
stationed at DIMABEL -- stole the ordinance from DIMABEL's
storage warehouse. Police reported that they are pursuing a
third individual who fled from the arrest scene. (NOTE:
Lugo told Charge that the police could not confirm whether
the suspects were members of an organized arms trafficking
ring. He had doubts, however, that two low-level Army
sergeants would be so brazen as to attempt to steal such a
quantity of high-explosives without involvement of far more
senior officers. END NOTE.)



5. (C) The Embassy is cooperating with the Paraguayan
government -- by tracing the serial and lot numbers through
DoD and ATF -- especially given the probability that some or
all of the ordinance is of U.S. origin. The Paraguayan
military destroyed most of its expired munitions with USG

assistance in July and September 2008, greatly reducing the
risk that expired, unstable munitions could fall into the
hands of illicit arms traffickers -- or explode (reftel).
With PM/WRA and DoD support, the munitions destruction
resulted in the elimination of 138,700 pounds of expired
munitions, including land mines, bombs, and expired
ammunition, and reduced Paraguay's total munitions stockpile
by over 75 percent. (NOTE: Those M-1 carbines remaining in
Paraguay's stock that were not destroyed were to have been
used for parts, parades or museum display. END NOTE.) Some
explosives used to destroy these munitions were provided by
the USG; the Embassy is working with U.S. military and
civilian law enforcement agencies to fully account for all
ordinance allocated to complete this project.



--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------





6. (C) The investigation into the source of the ordinance
and how it came into the possession of military personnel cum
arms traffickers is still preliminary, but the likelihood of
diversion from official channels is of course quite
troibling. The police's effective response in investigating
and apprehending the suspects red-handed, on the other hand,
provides a rare victory for Paraguayan law enforcement -- and
an early win for the Lugo government in the new year. END
COMMENT.

Please visit us at http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/asuncion

FITZPATRICK