Portugal’s Judiciary Police have arrested ten suspects, including military personnel, suspected of secretly airlifting and then selling diamonds, gold and drugs while on UN peacekeeping missions.
On Monday, Portuguese authorities conducted massive searches at a hundred locations, which reportedly included a military compound and banks, all across the country as part of a probe into a gemstone and drug-smuggling ring within the country’s military.
Among the suspects are personnel from the Republican National Guard and the Public Security Police who are suspected of having used military airplanes to airlift the precious and illegal goods from the Central African Republic where they were serving as part of the UN peacekeeping.
According to the police, once the diamonds were in Portugal, the suspects then moved them on to Belgium and sold them there. The ill-gotten proceeds were allegedly invested in bitcoin cryptocurrency. It has not been revealed yet how much money the group raked in, though some media outlets mention diamonds being sold at ‘millionaire prices’.
The suspects were also reportedly involved in the drug trade at home.
The Portuguese armed forces have issued a statement in which they confirmed they had first received a tip-off about personnel on international missions being involved in diamond smuggling as early as December 2019.
In an apparent attempt to save face in the international arena, Portugal’s foreign minister pointed out that “he never heard anyone mention the Portuguese forces involved in international missions in any context other than the need to beef up their presence.”
At present, 180 Portuguese peacekeepers are deployed in the resource-rich and war-torn Central African Republic.
UN blue helmets from a number of countries have found themselves at the center of multiple scandals in recent years. Perhaps most shockingly, they have been accused by human rights groups of raping civilians in countries like Haiti, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.
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