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Illegal weapons cache has gone under the hammer

Auctioneer Werner Kessler with part of Dino Bellasi's arsenal Keystone

The government has auctioned an illegal weapons cache, amassed by a disgraced former member of the intelligence services. Around 200 weapons were sold in Berne on Saturday.

The auction attracted wide public interest because of the high-profile scandal surrounding the weapons. Around 300 potential bidders came to the event in Berne.

In addition to the weapons, several personal items belonging to the disgraced intelligence officer were sold: tobacco pipes, oriental carpets and valuable watches.

The arsenal included semi-automatic assault rifles, pump action shotguns, pistols and accessories such as silencers, and telescopic and infrared sights.

It was assembled by a former member of the intelligence services, Dino Bellasi, who was arrested last year on suspicion of having embezzled nearly SFr9 million ($5 million) of defence ministry funds.

He claimed he had been ordered to secretly divert the funds to finance a special intelligence unit, and that the weapons were part of the arsenal for the unit.

His allegations sparked a massive inquiry into the activities of the intelligence services, leading to the suspension of the intelligence chief, Peter Regli, and several other leading officials.

Bellasi bought the guns with government funds, but later admitted the entire story about the special unit was a fabrication.

The proceeds from the auction will go into the government’s coffers. It is expected to raise about SFr1.5 million.

The auctioneer, Werner Kessler, described the condition of the weapons as “perfect”, saying Bellasi was “extremely meticulous” in his maintenance of the arsenal.

Also on sale were Soviet-made Kalashnikovs – semi-automatic rifles which are the weapons of choice for guerrillas all over the world.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR