Portugal arrested several ex-military officers suspected of having smuggled diamonds and gold during their deployment in a United Nations operation in Central African Republic.
On November 8, Portuguese authorities issued 100 search warrants all over the country regarding an investigation about criminal activities involving elite members of the Portuguese army in Central African Republic.
The “Operation Myriad” is related to “diamond and gold smuggling, drug trafficking, counterfeit money and money laundering” that happened during the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Central African Republic. Approximately 320 inspectors were mobilized by the Portuguese Criminal Police with the search warrants.
Eleven people, including 2 civilians, an attorney, current and former soldiers, are being detained and interrogated. A former commando sergeant and alleged leader of the diamond smuggling operation is part of them.
The Portugal news agency Lusa reported that 60 other people and 40 companies were involved in this illegal business activity. Portuguese military aircraft were allegedly used to transport goods to Europe without control.
Portuguese military forces were alerted about the activities in December 2019. It started with the complaints of an officer who didn’t want to be involved in the trafficking and a translator who wasn’t paid for a deal he participated in.
The minister of Defense told he informed the United Nations about it in early 2020 and dismissed the soldiers.
The United Nations peacekeeping operation MINUSCA started in 2014 to protect the population of Central African Republic, a country suffering from decades of instability entrenched in a civil war since 2013. The control of diamond mines further fuels tensions in the conflict opposing two different ethnic groups.
The President of Portugal, during an official visit in Cap Verde, assured the suspects were isolated cases and wouldn’t damage the image of the Portuguese army.