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British troops suspected of 'guns for cocaine' trade

NICHOLAS CHRISTIAN / Scotland on Sunday | September 25 2006

BRITISH soldiers are being investigated for smuggling guns out of Iraq and allegedly exchanging them for cocaine in illicit black market deals.

Security officials have confirmed that soldiers from the third battalion the Yorkshire Regiment are at the centre of a criminal probe by the Royal Military Police, who are investigating a "guns for drugs" network.

According to a newspaper report, the alleged illegal deals are the latest blow to the British military, coming in the wake of a week when a corporal from the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment admitted he had committed a war crime against an Iraqi civilian.

Despite being against the rules, drug use is known to be on the increase in the UK armed forces. But this is the first time that military police have come across evidence that stolen weapons are being used to pay for them.

One of the first soldiers from the Yorkshire Regiment to have been arrested is alleged to have bought drugs by trading handguns, including Glock pistols smuggled from Iraq to Germany on at least six occasions. Security sources claimed some of the weapons had been exchanged for about 50 grams of cocaine with a street value of about £2,500. It is alleged that the drugs were then sold to other UK soldiers serving in Iraq.

Last night, it was unclear whether the traded weapons were British Army issue or were seized from Iraqi soldiers or police or even insurgent groups. The Ministry of Defence fears that the soldiers may have been doing business with members of organised crime syndicates in Germany. The unit involved in the alleged trade has a base north of Hanover.

According to the newspaper report, a security official was quoted as saying: "Who did the guns go to? And what purpose did they want guns for? Did they take them back to the UK and sell them on? Are they in the hands of Yardies?"

The Ministry of Defence confirmed that a criminal investigation had been carried out by the Royal Military Police into the "unlawful possession" of weapons by soldiers belonging to the battalion.

The spokeswoman said: "The Army Prosecuting Authority is currently considering the case. We cannot comment further until the outcome of the case."

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