75 tons of arms illegally sold to Ecuador

March 26, 1995|By New York Times News Service

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- About 75 tons of arms from Argentina, which is a mediator in the border dispute between Ecuador and Peru, were illegally sold to Ecuador during its brief war with Peru over the region last month.

Argentina's deputy foreign minister, Fernando Petrella, said that the government had been duped by arms traffickers into signing what officials thought was an agreement to sell the weapons -- 105- and 155-mm cannon, rifles, pistols, heavy machine guns and mortars -- to Venezuela for $34 million. When the shipment was taken to the Buenos Aires airport, its destination papers were changed from Caracas, Venezuela, to Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Western intelligence officers said that the governments had determined that arms dealers fabricated documents used to close the sale, forging the required signatures of Venezuelan officials, and that Argentine military officials had provided clearance for the weapons to be shipped to Ecuador.

Venezuelan military officials said that they had never ordered or received the weapons from Argentina and that it was not their practice to use an arms dealer. The officials also said the Venezuelan signatures on the documents had been forged.

The intelligence officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the investigation was focusing on three companies: Hayton Trade S. A.; Fine Airlines Inc.; and Metales Restor -- as well as on the Argentine military.

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