Swiss hold two in suspected Kosovo arms ring probe

Bern, Switzerland, Aug 29, 2000 -- (Reuters) Two people suspected of helping to smuggle anti-tank weapons to ethnic Albanian guerrillas in Kosovo last year were arrested in Switzerland more than a month ago, Swiss federal prosecutors revealed on Tuesday.

They said the two were arrested and continue to be held in Switzerland as part of an investigation into what authorities called an international arms ring.

"Two people who were arrested on July 13, 2000 remain in investigative custody due to the danger they might collude or try to flee," a statement said.

A spokesman for the Federal Prosecutor's Office said one Frenchman and one Kosovo Albanian were being held.

The probe centers on Swiss-based Kosovo Albanians and their Swiss and French business partners believed to have helped buy and transport weapons under suspect export documents, prosecutors said.

Authorities probing Swiss arms law violations have seized around CHF 700,000 (USD 408,000) in several raids in western Switzerland since the case came to light last month.

The Federal Prosecutor's Office said Kosovo Albanians living in Switzerland in 1999 commissioned the French businessman to buy weapons for the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), the ethnic Albanian guerrilla group that was fighting Serb rule in the southern Yugoslav province.

According to prosecutors' account, the suspects paid the Frenchman and his Swiss partner around CHF 4.5 million in cash between April and July 1999. They then bought anti-tank weapons and ammunition worth around one million francs in an eastern European country.

Export papers said the arms were supposed to be sent to an unnamed African country, but the shipment went instead to Albania in July 1999. Financing for the deal was part in cash, part via a Geneva-based company that prosecutors did not name.

The case has now been handed over to Geneva authorities.

Original article