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Moldova's ex-defense minister charged with gun smuggling

CHISINAU, September 15 (RIA Novosti) - Valery Pasat, Moldova's former defense minister and head of the country's information and security service, has been accused again of weapons smuggling, the Prosecutor General's Office said Friday.

The new charges were brought against Pasat after 14 bullets, a pistol and a revolver were found in his apartment.

The Prosecutor General's Office said the investigation shows the pistol was presented to Pasat by a Romanian defense minister in 1997, and the revolver by a chairman of the National Security Committee of Kazakhstan in 2000, during official visits to these countries.

"According to the law, people who occupy seats in government are not subject to customs inspections," the Prosecutor General's Office said. "However, all items the carrying of which is prohibited must be declared to customs. The former defense minister and the head of the information and security service ignored the law."

Pasat's lawyer, Georgy Amikhalakioae, said his client declared both guns to customs, and later filed a registration application with the country's Interior Ministry.

"Eventually, the guns were registered and supplied with the necessary documents, including on the right to keep and bear arms," the lawyer said.

Pasat was arrested at Moldova's Chisinau airport March 11, 2005. The prosecution said Pasat closed a deal in 1997 to sell MiG-29 Fulcrum warplanes that caused the state losses totaling $53 million.

Prosecutors also said Pasat concluded a deal to sell Uragan salvo-launching systems through a foreign firm at cut-rate prices, resulting in losses to the state of $1.8 million.

Pasat maintains the case against him is "a political reprisal on the part of Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin."

The Moldovan Prosecutor General's Office denies the case is politically motivated.

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