Czech Republic is Arms-Smuggling Crossroads

The Czech capital city of Prague has become a center of drug and weapon smuggling.

The Czech government is trying to crack down on the smugglers, but as with all black markets, the smugglers find ways around the authorities.

The London Observer reported on one government raid. Black-clad masked gunmen stormed a posh nightclub where a private party was underway. The gunmen, Czech antiterrorist police, suspected Russian mafia bosses, but ended up with nothing. All seventy guests were released without charge.

The Czech Republic is a popular place for smugglers partly because of its location in the center of Europe and partly because of contacts with the former Soviets. The Czechs mostly serve as middlemen, linking weapon providers with willing customers.

Russian army officers use Czech middlemen to smuggle arms to Bosnian Serbs, while Germans use them to smuggle arms to Bosnian Croats and Muslims. African countries also make use of Czech contacts. Officials estimate that $4 billion of the Czech smuggling trade is laundered in Moscow and Israel.

The Czechs are actually famous in the arms industry for several well-made products, including Semtex (an explosive), Tamara (passive radar capable of detecting Stealth technology) and pistols.

I suspect that smuggling is popular in the Czech Republic for another reason as well. As one of the most free economies in the world, the Czechs attract entrepreneurs and risk-takers of all sorts.

Source: London Observer article reprinted in the July 23, 1995, San Francisco Examiner.