No Leads in Theft of Weapons, Munitions from Greek Naval Base

(AP Photo/Michael Svarnias, file)

ATHENS – Greek police and military authorities are reportedly running into dead ends and a possible stonewalling of their investigation into who stole a cache of military equipment and weapons from a naval base on the island of Leros near Turkey.

The credibility of a key witness was in question, said Kathimerini in a report on the disappearance of the material, a Navy officer who wasn’t identified and had reportedly claimed another officer and two members of the navy’s Underwater Demolition Squad sought access a year ago to where it was kept.

A Navy prosecutor leading the probe traced the implicated officer, who has since been moved to a base in northern Greece and denied the report, the paper said. The guard who took over his role watching the storage area on Leros was also questioned and also denied any involvement.

The probe still hasn’t identified whether any members of the demolition team were involved with a report the squad’s leadership may be trying to protect their officers although it wasn’t said if they were cooperating or not.

The investigators had been focusing on two guards who had access to the area where it was kept as it had an electronic security system requiring a passcode which they both had.

It wasn’t reported whether there were surveillance cameras as the investigation is ongoing, said Kathimerini in a report that the probe is looking at the guards who were assigned to the base.

A third person, a member of the Hellenic Navy’s Underwater Demolition Squad, is also believed to have had access and is a suspect, the paper said previously, although officials aren’t ruling out the possibility the passcode may have been given to someone else.

Investigators are said to also think the weapons may have been stolen as part of an arms smuggling operation although it wasn’t said to whom, with anti-tank missiles, ammunition and hand grenades stolen.

But the probers are reportedly also considering whether the theft was the work of terrorist or anarchist groups who are abundant in the country and have said they will step up violence if the new ruling New Democracy goes after them as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis promised.

Another possibility, the report said, is whether it was the work of a foreign-based group or agency with the base so close to Turkey, which is ramping up provocations in the Aegean and the East Mediterranean.

The theft was discovered after a routine inventory eight months after the last one was conducted at the end of December, 2018, giving whomever took the materials plenty of time to get rid of them or pass them to someone.

The Hellenic Navy quickly denied a press report claiming that as many as 140 anti-personnel mines were stolen along with other military equipment from its base.  “The reports…are untrue and do not correspond to reality,” naval officials said in a press release, adding that it does not have in its arsenal material that has been banned by international treaties and agreements.

The Greek newspaper Estia reported the Navy stockpiled anti-personnel landmines which should have been destroyed by March 2008, after the country signed the 1999 Ottawa Convention or Mine Ban Treaty, which seeks to end their use worldwide.

The paper claims that Greece still has 400,000 APLs in military warehouses across the country which would also violate the mines ban treaty.