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11 December 2014

Moldova police arrest seven suspected uranium smugglers

INTERPOL commends efforts to keep radioactive material out of hands of terrorists

LYON, France – Seven members of an organized criminal group suspected of smuggling uranium have been arrested in Moldova.

Following an investigation into the activities of the criminal group, Moldova Police and the General Prosecutor’s Office carried out searches in the capital Chisinau and two other towns, where they seized 200 g of uranium-238, 1 kg of mercury and 1 kg of an unidentified radioactive material. Mobile phones, computers and accounting documents were also recovered.

Support to the operation was provided by the INTERPOL National Central Bureau (NCB) in Chisinau and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Police said the uranium, smuggled into the country by train, has a value of EUR 1.6 million. The radioactive substance can be used in the production of dirty bombs, which could cause massive destruction in the hands of a terrorist group.

The seven suspects arrested are aged 32 to 75 and are members of an organized criminal network with specialized knowledge of radioactive substances. Moldova police are liaising with their counterparts in the region to identify other members of the group.

“INTERPOL applauds the skillful work of the Moldova police in preventing such a dangerous product from potentially falling into the hands of terrorists,” said INTERPOL’s Director of Counter-Terrorism, Public Safety and Maritime Security, Pierre St Hilaire.

“This seizure, combined with INTERPOL’s work through its counter-terrorism initiatives Project Geiger and Operation Fail Safe which enhance the capacity of our member countries to deny terrorists access to these weapons, is an important step forward in reinforcing the UN’s global strategy to prevent terrorists from developing or acquiring nuclear, chemical or biological weapons,” added Mr St Hilaire.

Through its Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives (CBRNE) initiatives including Project Geiger and Operation Fail Safe, INTERPOL supports law enforcement efforts to prevent and detect the illicit trafficking of uranium and other potentially dangerous materials worldwide. At the 2012 and 2014 Nuclear Security Summits held in Korea and The Netherlands, world leaders encouraged all countries to share information on individuals involved in the trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive materials via INTERPOL.

“This successful operation highlights the need for a coordinated international approach to prevent criminals from travelling across borders with radiological substances and either using them to create weapons or selling them to the highest bidder,” said Jeffrey Muller, Assistant Director of INTERPOL’s CBRNE team.

INTERPOL’s CBRNE activities form part of the Organization’s larger counter-terrorism strategy, which forms a key component of international efforts to enhance the ability of countries to prevent and combat all manner of threats as called for by UN counter-terrorism resolutions.

Highlighting INTERPOL’s critical role,  in September the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2178 (2014) recognizing the Organization’s initiatives to counter the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters, including through global law enforcement information sharing and procedures to track stolen or forged identity papers and travel documents.

Moldova police arrest seven suspected uranium smugglers