NEWS

Probe into Leros navy base theft exploring different scenarios

VASSILIS NEDOS, YIANNIS SOULIOTIS

TAGS: Crime

Greek authorities were on alert on Tuesday following reports that a significant amount of military equipment has disappeared from a naval base on the southern Aegean island of Leros.

Both the Hellenic Navy and the Greek Police’s counterterrorism unit launched investigations on Tuesday after the former issued a statement saying that anti-tank missiles, ammunition and grenades were found to be missing from the island’s base following a routine inspection on Monday afternoon.

Counterterrorism officers were on the island within hours of the navy’s announcement.

The matter was being treated as extremely serious as defense authorities ruled out the possibility of a mistake in the inventory almost immediately.

The scenarios under consideration include the possibility that the thieves cooperated with someone inside the facility as there were no signs of forced entry into the area where the equipment was being kept.

A second possibility is that the intervention was the work of a domestic guerrilla group. In a third scenario, the perpetrators could be members of a foreign-based group or agency.

According to well-informed sources, foreign intelligence services are contributing to the Greek authorities’ investigation.

Although there is no concrete evidence to suggest that the perpetrators behind the theft were foreign, it is considered noteworthy that the equipment was taken from an island close to Turkey at a time when Ankara is ratcheting up tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean but also in the Aegean.

In any case, Greek officials believe that the perpetrators have an understanding of special forces operations. Removing and transporting the equipment, which is bulky and heavy, would not have been easy and would have required specialist knowledge.

Police experts are examining security camera footage but have yet to find any clues or leads to the perpetrators. As the last inventory of equipment at the base was carried out on December 31 last year, and the theft could have taken place at any time since then, investigators have a lot of footage to get through.

Commenting after the navy’s announcement, Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said he had given orders for the probe into the disappearance to be exhaustive and for zero tolerance to be shown to the perpetrators when they are found.

Meanwhile military facilities across the country carried out inspections to ensure that no other equipment is missing.

In a previous on Leros two years ago, authorities had investigated the theft of 280,000 tons of oil that had been destined for use by the navy.

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