Georgia: Five Arrested For Attempting to Sell Uranium

Authorities arrested five men who were charged with trying to sell uranium, just 10 days after police announced arrests in a similar case, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported.

4724010712_ab1eaf186b_o_copy_copy.jpgYellowcake (Photo Credit: Flickr) Georgia’s State Security Service said on Facebook that the five Georgian citizens allegedly were looking to sell around 1.6 kilograms (3.5 US pounds) of uranium, containing the isotopes uranium-238 and uranium-235. Looking to sell the material for around US$ 3 million, they were arrested as they brought it to an apartment in the seaside town of Kobuleti. The suspects face anywhere from 5 to 10 years in prison.

Authorities said that enough material was recovered to potentially create a dirty bomb, which would contaminate the air and spread radioactivity across a wide area. A lawyer of one of the suspects said that their client only forwarded a photo of the uranium on his phone, Eurasianet reported.

The arrest marked the second time within a month's time that arrests were made of those trying to sell radioactive material in Georgia. Three Georgian and three Armenian citizens were detained in a separate case for allegedly trying to sell an estimated US$ 200 million in uranium. In January, authorities accused three of trying to sell cesium-137, RFE/RL wrote.

Georgia’s proximity to nations like Iran and Russia, and its use by travelers looking to enter Turkey, makes its border control a target for international investment. A US program equipped border crossings with radioactivity monitors several years ago, but the reasons behind the high rates of uranium smuggling this year are unclear, according to Eurasianet.

Georgia Today wrote that the growing fear is that terrorist organizations in the Middle East and Central Asia could take advantage of less stringent border regulations to acquire radioactive material.