World News

Montenegrin admits to smuggling arms to Paris on eve of Islamist attacks

MUNICH (Reuters) - A Montenegrin caught in Germany with a car full of weapons a week before November’s Islamist attacks in Paris confessed at the start of his trial on Friday to acting as a gun runner, but denied knowing what was planned with the arsenal.

The man in his early 50s, named by prosecutors only as Vlatko V., was stopped by police on Nov. 5 on the motorway between Salzburg and Munich. His navigation system showed he had come from Montenegro via Croatia and Slovenia, and was heading to an address in Paris.

Police found an arsenal of weapons hidden in his Volkswagen Golf, including eight Kalashnikov assault rifles, pistols, hand grenades, explosives and detonators.

Vlatko V. is charged with transporting the weapons to Paris for use in a serious but unspecified act of violence.

On Nov. 13, Islamist militants killed 130 people in the French capital in a series of coordinated gun and bomb attacks. At least some of the weapons they used originated from the conflicts that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia, possibly brought from the Balkans along well-established smuggling routes.

Andrea Titz, spokeswoman for the Munich court, said the defendant’s lawyer had said in court that his client had known he was smuggling weapons, but that he had no knowledge of their intended use.

Titz said the number of weapons found led prosecutors to believe that they had been intended for a specific attack.

“Whether there is a link to the attacks on Nov. 13 is questionable,” she added. “At present no link can be established.”

Due to his confession, Vlatko V. is likely to receive a reduced jail sentence of between three years and nine months and four years and three months, Titz said.

The trial is due to run until the end of next week.

Reporting by Reuters TV in Munich and Michael Nienaber in Berlin; Editing by Kevin Liffey; Additional reporting and writing by Caroline Copley