US embassy cable - 02TEGUCIGALPA2555

HONDURAS TO INVESTIGATE NACO ARMS THEFT

Identifier: 02TEGUCIGALPA2555
Wikileaks: View 02TEGUCIGALPA2555 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Tegucigalpa
Created: 2002-08-09 16:51:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: MASS MCAP PARM PGOV PREL HO
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L TEGUCIGALPA 002555 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FPR WHA/CEN 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/11/2012 
TAGS: MASS, MCAP, PARM, PGOV, PREL, HO 
SUBJECT: HONDURAS TO INVESTIGATE NACO ARMS THEFT 
 
REF: USDAO TEGUCIGALPA 091651Z AUG 02 
 
Classified By: POLCHIEF FRANCISCO PALMIERI, Reasons 1.5 (b) and (d) 
 
1.  (U) SUMMARY:  On August 28, the Honduran Armed Forces 
(HOAF) designated Army Auditor General Colonel Rodolfo Reyes 
Argueta to investigate the alleged robbery of 230 of 790 
AKMS-type assault rifles from the arms cache in Naco.  The 
weapons were stored under court injunction in a Honduran 
military facility, and were discovered missing on July 31 
during a spot check conducted by a prosecutor from the Task 
Force against Organized Crime.  END SUMMARY. 
 
------------------------ 
SETTING THE BATTLE SCENE 
------------------------ 
 
2.  (SBU) The small town of Naco hosts the 4th Logistical 
Base (CALE) and a large cache of weapons and artillery.  In 
1985, Longlac Enterprises, a Panamanian-registered arms 
importer, sent weapons to Honduras on deposit for use by the 
HOAF.  After years of poor storage and neglect, the cache 
became a serious hazard, and in 1993 an explosion killed two 
people.  In 2001 the GOH destroyed the unstable weapons, and 
moved the remaining weapons to a more secure storage facility 
- to eliminate the threat to the nearby population and to 
reduce the risk of pilferage. 
 
3.  (C) Meanwhile, Longlac sold the cache of arms to 
Miami-based Samco Global Arms.  For several years, there has 
been a complicated legal battle over the ownership of the 
weapons and who is responsible for removing them.  Currently, 
the Honduran courts control the storage facility and the 
inventories.  The legal battle became even more complicated 
when Samco sued the GOH in Miami and the GOH counterclaimed. 
(COMMENT: Post is concerned that the weapons might fall into 
the hands of arms traffickers or terrorists, and we have 
advised the GOH of the U.S. willingness to assist in the 
destruction or disposal of the remaining cache once ownership 
is established. END COMMENT.) 
 
---------------------- 
MISSING ASSAULT RIFLES 
---------------------- 
 
4.  (C) On July 31, 2002, the prosecutor from the Task Force 
against Organized Crime conducted a spot check, accompanied 
by a Court Clerk from the Fourth Circuit of the Honduran 
Criminal Court, a DAO military attache, and a team of arms 
experts from the Defense Intelligence Agency.  The prosecutor 
conducted the spot check using an inventory attested to by 
affidavit of the Chief Judge of the Fourth Criminal Court of 
San Pedro Sula and the Commander of the CALE dated July 31, 
2001.  Moreover, the affidavit certified that the cache was 
being stored under court order and that the keys to the 
storage facility were maintained in the custody of the Court. 
 
5.  (C) Among other arms and ammunition, the inventory 
included 790 AKMS assault rifles that are Chinese-made AKMS 
type 56-1-copies of the Soviet folding stock AKMS.  The 
recent spot check revealed that 230 of the AKMS are missing, 
presumably stolen.  (NOTE:  The Honduran press erroneously 
reports that there are "more than 500 AK-47s" missing.  See 
Reftel for more detailed information about the missing 
weapons.  END NOTE.) 
 
------------------- 
HOAF INVESTIGATION? 
------------------- 
 
6.  (U) On August 28, the high command of the HOAF designated 
Army Auditor General Colonel Rodolfo Reyes Argueta and 
"Captain of Justice" (comparable to the U.S. JAG) Fernando 
Ruiz Figueroa to investigate the alleged theft of the arms. 
Post has no information on either of the individuals that the 
HOAF appointed to investigate the theft. 
 
7.  (C) COMMENT:  Post concurs with DAO,s assessment in 
Reftel that the theft was an inside job involving military 
personnel.  While the military guards are the likely 
suspects, it is highly probable the HOAF officers were also 
involved.  Embassy staff will monitor what progress (if any) 
is made in this investigative effort of the HOAF, but is 
pessimistic that the investigation will move forward.  The 
GOH and HOAF do not enjoy a good track record with respect to 
rooting out and addressing corruption.  END COMMENT. 
PIERCE 

Latest source of this page is cablebrowser-2, released 2011-10-04