Weapons destined for Ukraine show up on black market
So far Ukraine has received tens of billions of dollars worth of military aid and many of the weapons may have wound up on the black market, potentially affecting several European countries, the Finnish chief investigator said on a radio show. Although the eradication of the arms trade has only been sporadically addressed overseas, after the case became public, the US State Department suddenly felt the need to launch a comprehensive investigation.
The US State Department has recently announced that it will conduct increased monitoring of weapons being delivered to Ukraine. The State Department’s comprehensive investigation, which is coordinated with the Defense Department, Commerce Department, Justice Department, Homeland Security Department and other government agencies, focuses on tracking advanced U.S. weapons systems.
Man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) and anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMS) are of particular importance, as their path is easier to follow anyway. However, the real challenge is the fate of small arms, such as rifles and ammunition, which is much more difficult to track.
The US State Department emphasized that no specific case had been discovered so far, but cautiously noted that it is conceivable that weapons could end up in the wrong hands.
„The Ukrainian government has committed to properly safeguard and account for transferred defense equipment of US origin, although we recognize that the chaotic nature of combat may make this difficult,”
reads the statement, which goes on to say that „Wars can provide opportunities for weapons to fall into private hands via theft or illicit sales, sometimes creating black markets for arms that endure for decades. A variety of criminal and non-state actors may attempt to acquire weapons from sources in Ukraine during or following the conflict, as occurred after the Balkans Wars in the 1990s”.
The department’s announcement coincided with a statement by Christer Ahlgren, chief investigator of Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation to the local Yle radio station. He believes that there is a strong suspicion that weapons intended for Ukraine have already appeared in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, and that the necessary smuggling routes have already been established.
According to the chief investigator, the smuggling takes place partly through international motorcycle gangs, for example, the Bandidos MC gang has members in every major Ukrainian city, making the heist, in principle, much easier. Weapons enter Finland primarily through the ports, because the controls at these points is much weaker than, for example, at the airports, where smugglers are more easily caught. The Mr Ahlgren also recalled that during the war in Yugoslavia, the situation was very similar, since a lot of weapons were smuggled from Yugoslavia into various countries.
Europol, which provides assistance to the member states’ law enforcement authorities in the effort against serious international crimes and terrorism, has recently indicated that there is a danger that the weapons intended for Ukraine will fall into the hands of criminal organizations. But NATO and the EU have also issued an alert in the summer about arms smuggling in Ukraine. The authorities first wanted to eradicate this part of the black market with tracking systems. Vilaggazdasag, a Hungarian economic newspaper, recalled that a month before, Interpol – the international organization that helps police cooperation – warned that the weapons sent to Ukraine could reach criminal organizations and that these groups would grow stronger as more and more weapons arrived in Ukraine.
V4NA have also sent questions to the Finnish Bureau of Investigation, Europol and Interpol regarding the alleged arms smuggling.