News & Information

 

Appendix A: Chronology of Nuclear Smuggling Incidents

The Continuing Threat from Weapons of Mass Destruction

Appendix A: Chronology of Nuclear Smuggling Incidents


March 27, 1996


---------- 1996 ----------

17 March

Tanzanian police arrested one individual last week and seized a container of radioactive cesium.

9 March

Romanian police announced on 8 March that they are holding two individuals for attempting to sell stolen radioactive material, according to press reports. A po lice spokesman announced that two had in their possession 82 kg of radioactive material including low enriched uranium. Officials also found reportedly secret documents stolen from the Research and Design Center for Radioactive Metals.

4 March

UPDATE (12 February): According to press reports, Lithuanian officials have determined that the 100 kg of radioactive material seized last month from an armed gang is uranium-238. This material was stolen from a company responsible for maintenance at the nearby Ignalina nuclear power plant.

23 February

According to press reports, the Belarus Committee for State Security (KGB) seized five kilograms of cesium-133. The radioactive metal reportedly was sealed in glass containers. Belarus authorities are investigating the incident, according to press.

12 February

Lithuanian authorities announced that they had arrested seven people and seized nearly 100 kg of radioactive material, according to press reports. The mate rial, believed to be uranium, will undergo further tests to ascertain its makeup and origin. It was emitting 14,000 microroentgens per hour. Some reports stated that the material was a component of a nuclear fuel assemply which has been missing from the n early Ignalina nuclear power plant for several years. The Ignalina plant manager claims that the seized material is not nuclear fuel or equipment used at his facility.

1 February

Swiss federal prosecutors announced on 1 February the arrest of a Swiss citizen of Turkish descent for attempting to sell a sample of "slightly-enriche d" uranium in Switzerland, according to press. Swiss authorities stated that the individual claimed the sample was part of a larger cache still in Turkey. Turkish police using information from their Swiss counterparts, then arrested eight people and seized 1.128 kg of similar material. Press reports indicate that the uranium was similar to that used in nuclear power plant fuel rods. Swiss authorities reportedly are conducting tests to determine the uranium's country of origin.

25 January

According to press reports, German authorities have charged a merchant and his lawyer with crimes stemming from their attempt to sell radioactive cesium to another merchant who was a police informant. The cesium reportedly was transported to Germany from Zaire on board a commercial airliner.

21 January

UPDATE (7 November 95): The German parliamentary commission investigating the 1994 plutonium smuggling incident, reportedly has uncovered German gove rnment documents indicating that the three smugglers offered to supply 11 kilograms of Russian-origin, weapons-grade plutonium, which they claimed was enough to build three nuclear weapons, according to press reports.

18 January

According to press reports, German authorities have charged a merchant and his lawyer with crimes stemming from their attempt to sell radioactive cesium-137 smuggled from Zaire to another merchant who was a police informant. The cesium reportedly was transported to Germany from Zaire on board a commercial airliner.

17 January

A Palestinian in Dubai, UAE has offered to sell three kilograms of reportedly Russian-origin red mercury to a Lebanese-American businessman, according to US diplomatic reporting.


---------- 1995 ----------

28 December

According to press reports, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested nine members of a criminal organization in Novosibirsk and seized a quantit y of radioactive material. The material was identified in press reports as "enriched" uranium-235. The material had been transported to Novosibirsk by middlemen, possibly from Kazakstan. The ultimate destination may have been South Korea, accord ing to press reports.

2 December

UPDATE (9 Nov 95): According to Italian press reports, Italian prosecutors have arrested an individual, Roger D'Onofrio, with reported links to the U S Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Italian-American mafia as part of their investigation of smuggling radioactive materials, money-laundering and arms trafficking. D'Onofrio, 72, reportedly has dual Italian and U.S. citizenship and retired from t he CIA only two years ago. The ring he is alleged to have been part of is said to have been active from the early 1990s up to this year. Italian investigators reportedly suspect that D'Onofrio is the mastermind behind an international ring which laundered dirty money and smuggled gold, weapons, and radioactive material. His name also appears in another investigation into an arms smuggling operation between Italy and the Middle East, according to press reports. D'Onofrio was taken into preventive custody o n charges of money laundering and acting as a broker in illegal currency dealing. According to press, the prosecutors had so far ascertained money laundering for over 2.5 billion dollars on behalf of secret service and organised crime sources in complicit y with diplomats, the ruling families in Kuwait, Morocco and Zambia, bankers, prelates and others.

1 December

UPDATE (23 November ): According to US diplomats in Moscow, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) delivered an official statement to US official s regarding the radioactive material discovered in Izmailov park on 23 November. The container, which held cesium-137, posed no public health threat. Radiation levels of the cesium were between 10 to more than 50 millicurrie. The radioactive material may have been used as an instrument calibration source used in flaw detection equipment.

30 November

A former Greenpeace president revealed that the organization had been offered a nuclear warhead by a disgruntled former Soviet officer keen to highlight la x security, according to press accounts. The former Greenpeace official stated in a recently published book that a Soviet officer with access to nuclear weapons offered Greenpeace an 800 kg nuclear Scud warhead for public display in Berlin. The offer was made shortly before 7 September 1991.

29 November

Russian security officials have recovered four containers with radioactive cesium, stolen from an industrial plant in the Urals and arrested the thieves, a ccording to press reports. Federal Security Service (FSB) officers found the 90-kilogram (198-pound) containers in a shaft of an old mine, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. One of the alleged thieves, the Bakal mining plant's electrical engineer, had in itially kept them at his vegetable garden but moved them to a safer place after the theft had been discovered, claimed security officials. Two officials of a local penitentiary were his accomplices, they further alleged. Each container held a capsule with cesium 137, a radioactiveisotope used in geological research, as well as in medicine. The containers were similar to the one allegedly planted by Chechen rebels in a Moscow park.

23 November

Acting on a tip from Chechen separatist leader Basayev, Russian television reporters discovered a 32 kg container--reportedly holding cesium-137--in a Mosc ow park. The container was reportedly removed and turned over to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). FSB officials stated that an official investigation was underway and that no further comments would be made until the inquiry was completed, accor ding to press reports. Television reports quote a highly-placed FSB officer as stating unofficially that the object was a piece of a hospital x-ray machine. Basayev claimed earlier this month that several containers of radioactive material attached to exp losive devices had been planted in Russia. In a television interview aired on 15 October, Russian Interior minister Kulikov stated that Chechen separatist leader Basayev might have radioactive waste or radioisotopes taken from the Budyonnovsk hospi tal seized by Chechen rebels last spring.

23 November

UPDATE (7 Nov 95): A German court sentenced Adolph Jaekle, a German businessman, to 51/2 years in prison for smuggling weapons grade plutonium into the country, according to press reports. Investigators made the first in a series of contraband plutonium seizures in Germany when they raided Jaekle's home, in the southern town of Tengen in May, 1994, and found a lead cylinder containing 6.15 grams ofpl utonium 239. Jaekle had pleaded not guilty to the plutonium charge, arguing that he did not know what the substance was.

11 November

Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officials arrested two Lithuanian citizens in Smolensk for smuggling 10 kgs of "uranium-238" into Russia, according to Russian television rep orts. Three Russians also were arrested for attempting to sell the uranium. Both the Lithuanians and the Russians claimed that poverty had induced them to attempt to traffic in smuggled nuclear materials. According to press accounts, Russian authorities s tressed that the material was not weapons grade and had no commercial or industrial uses.

9 November

Italian prosecutors reportedly have asked Spanish authorities for permission to question the Archbishop of Barcelona about his role in an international criminal syndicate involved in smuggli ng radioactive materials, according to Italian press accounts. Accusations against the Archbishop arose after Italian officials tapped a telephone conversation in which the Archbishop was named as playing a leading role in the criminal enterprise. Both th e Archbishop and the Vatican have vehemently denied the accusations. The Spanish Justice ministry has characterized the Italian request as "not very well thought out." The Italian investigation grew out on an earlier probe into money laundering operations which reportedly uncovered information that a criminal enterprise involving a self-professed Italian intelligence official, was attempting to sell 7.5 kg osmium for $63,000 per gram, according to Italian press accounts.

7 November

During a search of a car at the Polish-Czech border, Polish Border Guards discovered 11 cigarette pack-size containers filled with strontium-90, according to press accounts. This incident is the first case in 1995 involving smuggling radioactive material through Poland.

7 November

UPDATE (10 Aug 94): Adolf Jaekle, accused of smuggling Russian-origin plutonium following a May 1994 raid on his home, denied any involvement in nuclear smu ggling, according to press reports. Jaekle insisted that the container of plutonium was planted at his home and that the container was not the same one he took from a Swiss associate for metal reprocessing.

7 November

Iranian press reports indicate the Iranian law enforcement authorities have arrested five Iranians and seized nine packets of uranium in tehran and two other cities. No details were released regarding amount of material or whether it was enriched or not.

25 October

The cleaning staff at Moscow's Sheremetyevo 2 airport found a small lead container packed with radioactive substances in the men's restrooms, according to p ress reports. Experts reportedly are attempting to determine the exact composition of the three sources of ionizing radiation found in the container. The speculation, in the Russian press, was that a nuclear smuggler lost his nerve and abandoned the mater ial during an aborted smuggling attempt.

19 October

UPDATE (10 Aug 94): According to a 19 October article in Der Stern, nuclear weapons smugglers involved in smuggling Russian-origin plutonium into Ger many in August 1994 have stored eight to ten kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium in Berlin. The article also implicates highly placed Russians in the smuggling activity.

14 October

Russian mafia figures reportedly were behind the 1993 theft of radioactive beryllium from a Russian nuclear laboratory and the failed attempt to sell the ma terial in the West, according to press reports. The theft, which was widely reported in 1993, was seized by police in Lithuania and remains today in the bank vault where it was first discovered. According to press, the smugglers were preparing to sell the beryllium to an Austrian middleman who in turn had a mystery buyer who reportedly was willing to pay as much as $24 million for the material. The buyer, although never identified, was said to be Korean. Beryllium, which is used in missile guidance system s, is a highly efficent neutron reflector, according to public statements by nuclear scientists.

10 October

Russian authorities claim that there have been no identified incidents in which weapons-grade radioactive material has been smuggled out of Russia, accordin g to press reports. In a press conference, Russian General Terekhov of the Interior Ministry, stated that of the 16 cases involving theft of radioactive materials, none could have been used to make nuclear weapons. He also ruled out any involvement by Rus sian organized criminal organizations in the thefts. The general claimed that the thefts were spontaneous actions by individuals working at nuclear facilities. The Russian officials concluded the press conference by stating that there is no black market i n nuclear materials.

1 September

According to press reports, Bulgarian police had broken an international nuclear smuggling ring composed of Russians and Ukrainians. Police spokesmen, decl ining to disclose details only said that the materials seized were of strategic value and included rare metals. The arrests were the culmination of a year-long undercover operation. Senior policie officials comented that they were still investigating the final destination of the materials, some of which were radioactive.

15 June

Press reports indicate that so far in 1995 Romanian authorities have seized 24 kgs of uranium powder and tablets and 1994 they arrested 24 people for involveme nt in nuclear smuggling and seized 10.35 kgs of uranium powder and tablets. From 1989 to 1993, the Romanians reportedly broke up five gangs, arrested 50 people, and seized 230 kgs of nuclear material.

13 April

Slovak police culminated a long investigation with the discovery of 18.39kg of nuclear material, 17.5 kg of which apparently is U-238, in a car stopped near P oprad in eastern Slovakia. Altogether, three Hungarians, four Slovaks, and two Ukrainians were arrested. This gang was connected to three other nuclear material smuggling incidents.

5 April

Four brass containers weighing 2 kilos each containing radioactive americium-241 and cesium-137 were stolen from a storeroom of isotopes in Wroclaw, Poland.

4 April

Press reports that 6 kg of U-235, U-238, radium, and palladium were found in a Kiev apartment. Occupants were ex-army, a lieutenant colonel and a warrant offic er, and material reportedly came from Russia.

2 April

Documents recovered by Japanese police in the investigation of Aum Shinrikyo involvement in the Tokyo subway sarin gas attack reportedly indicated that the ter rorists were collecting information on uranium enrichment and laser beam technologies. A spokesman for Russia's prestigious nuclear physics laboratory, Kurchatov Institute, acknowledged that at least one Aum Shinrikyo follower was working at the institute .

14 March

Polish police in Bielska-Biala province arrested a man for possession of uranium .

8 March

Italian police arrested one Nicola Todesco for murder in a plutonium smuggling case gone awry when the murder victim did not have the money to pay for a quanti ty of plutonium smuggled out of Bulgaria. Todesco claimed he threw 5g of plutonium into the Adige river, but no trace of it was found after an extensive search. (Comment: Although an official Italian spokesman believed the plutonium was "enriched for military use," it had not been analyzed and may be another scam involving 'plutonium screws' from smoke detectors.

25 January

According to Talinn news broadcasts, Lithuanian border police, using U.S.-supplied stationary radiation detectors, seized two tons of radioactive wolfram hi dden in a secret compartment in a truck trailer. (The "wolfram" is tungsten, which has a short half-life, and probably was "infected" by a radioactive contaminant.) The incident occurred at the Lithuanian-Belorus border, and the truck' s owner and two other men were arrested. A similar incident occurred a week earlier at another border post but no details are available.


---------- 1994 ----------

14 December

Czech police seized 2.72 kg of material--later identified as 87.7 percent enriched U-235--in Prague; this is the largest recorded seizure of such material. Police arrested a Czech nuclear physicist and two c itizens of the Former Soviet Union. The uranium apparently came from the FSU and was to be smuggled to Western Europe.

10 December

Press reporting indicates Hungarian border guards seized 1.7 kg of uranium and arrested four Slovak citizens. The material (depleted uranium and reactor fu el grade) reportedly was concealed in a fruit jar and was to be smuggled into Austria.

6 December

In a long article in Pravda, it was reported that three staffers of the Institute of Nuclear Physics were convicted of stealing 4.5 kg of uranium.

10 November

Press reporting indicates Hungarian police discovered 26 kg of radioactive material in the trunk of a car. Three suspects were subsequently arrested.

November

Press reporting indicates German police seized 1 milligram of cesium-137 in early November and arrested two suspects.

19
October

Press reporting indicates Turkish police arrested an Azeri national trying to sell 750 g of uranium.

17
October

Press reporting indicates Russian authorities seized 27 kg of U-238, an unknown quantity of U-235 and detained 12 members of a criminal gang.

October

Press reporting indicates that in mid-October, four Indian villagers were arrested attempting to sell 2.5 kg of yellowcake, i.e. uranium extracted from ore.

13
October

Press reporting indicates Bulgarian officials seized four lead capsules suspected of containing radioactive material. The capsules were found on a bus enrou te to Turkey and police detained the two bus drivers.

10
October

Press reporting indicates Romanian authorities arrested seven people and seized 7 kg of uranium and an unidentified quantity of strontium or cesium.

01
October

Press reporting indicates Romanian police arrested four people trying to sell over 4 kg of U-235 and U-238.

October

Press reporting dated 26 October indicates Russian authorities arrested three men trying to pass 67 kg of U-238 to unidentified individuals in the city of Psko v.

28 September

Press reporting indicates that a container with radioactive substances was found on a street in Tallinn.

28 September

Romanian authorities arrested several indivduals who were attempting to sell 4.55 kg of uranium tetrachloride (61.9 percent uranium) for $25 thousand per kg, according to press reports

28 September

Press reporting indicates Slovak officials arrested four Slovaks trying to smuggle almost 1 kg of U-235 (judged not to be weapons-grade) into Hungary.

26 September

Press reporting indicates the discovery of a glass flask containing unspecified "weak radioactive material" at the Wetzlar railroad station in G ermany.

September

A Pole tried to sell 1 kg of U-235/238 in Germany. A German court subsequently sentenced him to two and a half years in prison for trading in radioactive ura nium.

11 September

Press reports indicate German police arrested a Zairian national attempting to smuggle 850 g of uraninite into Germany.

07 September

Press reports indicate Russian police arrested three people in Glazov trying to sell 100 kg of U-238.

05 September

Press reports indicate Bulgarian authorities arrested six Bulgarians in connection and seized 19 containers of radioactive material.

30 August

Press reports indicate thieves broke into a chemical plant in Tambov and stole 4.5 g of cesium 137.

29 August

Press reports indicate Hungarian police arrested two men and seized 4.4 kg of material believed to be fuel rods from a reactor in Russia.

20 August

Press reports Russian authorities arrested two men attempting to steal 9.5 kg of uranium 238 from the Arzamas-16 nuclear weapons research facility.

18 August

Press reports indicate Estonian police arrested a man and seized 3 kg of U-238 he had buried under his garage.


According to press reporting, about 100 uranium-contaminated drums were stolen from South Africa's Atomic Energy Corporation plant in Pelindaba, Transvaal.

12 August

Press reports indicate that St. Petersburg police arrested three men trying to sell 60 kg of unidentified nuclear material.

12 August

Press reports indicate German police in Bremen arrested a German who claimed to have 2 g of plutonium; the sample contained only minute amounts of legally ob tainable plutonium.

10 August

Press report indicates that over 500 g of nuclear material were seized at Munich airport. The trial began on 10 May 1995 of two men for possession of 363g (12.8 ounces) of weapons-grade plutonium-239.

August

Unconfirmed press report says 3 kg of enriched uranium were seized in August in southwestern Romania.

July

Press reporting dated 19 July indicates Turkish National Police arrested seven Turks and seized 12 kg of weapons-grade uranium.

July

According to 6 July press reporting, Russian authorities in Shezninks discover 5.5 kg of U-238 previously stolen from the Chelyabinsk-65 nuclear facility.

July

According to a 2 November press report, police in Timisoara, Romania, arrested five Romanians trying to sell 2.6 kg of Russian uranium.

13 June

Press reporting indicates a seizure of 0.8 g of uranium 235 (enriched to 88%) occurred in Landshut, Germany.

June

According to 6 June press reporting, Russian security official announces the arrest of three Russians in St. Petersburg who allegedly tried to sell 3.5 kg of HEU.

June

According to an 8 July press report, Russian authorities arrested three officers from the Northern Fleet accused of having stolen 4.5 kg of U-238 from their base in Nov 93.

June

According to a 2 November press report, police in Pitesti, Romania, arrested three Romanians trying to sell 3 kg of uranium tablets.

May

According to 30 July press reporting, 56 g of material, including 6 g of plutonium 239, were seized and Adolf Jaekle, a German citizen, was arrested in G ermany in May.


---------- 1993 ----------

November

In a case stemming from an incident in November 1993 in which a Russian naval officer stole 4 kg of 20 percent enriched U 235 nuclear fuel rods from a p oorly guarded area at Severomorsk, a Russian court found the officer guilty but gave him a suspended sentence because he admitted the act. Two accomplices were sentenced to three years at a labor camp.


Posted: Apr 03, 2007 08:54 PM
Last Updated: Apr 03, 2007 08:54 PM