Tamil weapons dealer sentenced

A fugitive Sri Lankan has been given the maximum sentence of 45 months for his role in the theft of 80 assault rifles from a Swiss army depot two years ago.

This content was published on October 31, 2008 - 20:05

The district court in canton Bern handed a sentence of 42 months to one of the three Swiss defendants, and gave suspended sentences of 14 and 24 months to two accomplices.

One of the thieves was said to have been inspired by the conflict between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil rebels.

His Tamil acquaintance apparently had the right connections to smuggle the weapons into Sri Lanka.

But the Swiss were caught out by an undercover agent and eventually arrested. Most of their booty stolen from a depot in canton Fribourg was recovered.

The court ruled in favour of the harsh sentences because, it said, the thieves were unconcerned by the suffering the weapons could cause.

The theft provided ammunition for army critics at the time who were calling for a ban on military weapons being stored at home. The defence ministry said that more than 4,300 army guns had been lost or stolen over the past ten years.

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