Alleged smugglers in custody in the Sky News gun running case. Coverage confirmed as ‘a set up’. Reporters say it’s for real

Organized crime prosecutors are conducting seven searches in Bistrita Nasaud and Targu Mures in the Sky News reportedly gun running case. Four people are to be brought for hearings at the Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT), while the man who brokered between the journalists and the alleged smugglers is already being heard.

DIICOT chief prosecutor Daniel Horodniceanu stated on Wednesday that the investigation confirmed it was a frame up. “What we envisaged has been eventually confirmed, it was a script planned by the British journalists,” Horodniceanu said.

Judiciary sources had told Mediafax earlier in the morning that there is the suspicion that the case is ‘a frame-up’ and that according to this ‘script’ the alleged smugglers would have received money for it. The sources revealed that the agent who brokered the encounter would have admitted that everything was a set up.

The broker is Aurelian Mihai Szanto, a Romanian 40-year-old freelancer settled down in UK seven yers ago, who would have confessed to the investigators that the British journalists had told them how to get dresssed, namely to wear military outfit, and what to say when they were asked about “the gun running in Romania.” They were also paid for that with sums ranging form EUR 500 to EUR 2,000.

The sourced also disclosed that the investigators had found all the guns presented in the Sky News coverage and that these weapons were indeed hunting arms that were legally held.

The sources recounted that in mid July, the broker Szanto Aurelian Mihai would have been contacted by Sky News reporters who told him they wanted to have a coverage on the gun smuggling in Europe. After that, on July 29, Szanto together with several employees of Sky News arrived in Targu Mures and then in Cluj on August 1, where they rented a car driven by the agent, who was also translator and a figurant in the video footage. Other men were part of the footage, one of them being Szanto’s godson.

Investigators say that four of the weapons presented would belong to Szanto and another two guns to his godson.

The sources also revealed that the UK journalists would have asked to shoot in a mountain setting, and the broker’s godson chose a hill in Mariselu localitu, Bistrita Nasaud.

During hearings at DIICOT, Aurelian Szanto explained that he had been told that it’s fiction documentary.

“I was contacted by somebody who had contacts at Sky media trust, if I agree to shoot a documentary in Romania related to gun running in Eastern Europe. That person told me that it’s a documentary aiming at informing the population. They told me: we want two people presenting some guns to warn over the weapon sales. I had a friend whom I knew he had hunting guns. I called him from UK and asked him if he agrees to shoot this documentary, of course not free of any charge. We were to get a remuneration for acting, for presenting and I was going to be paid for my translation job,” said Aurelian Szanto.

“They told me: don’t worry, when the coverage is on air, the display will say that all characters in this documentary are fictitious. They asked me to present war guns. I told them I couldn’t offer war weapons. They also assured me that the documentary would be presented in December, like it’s not going to be like news to denigrate Romania’s image. Some thousands euros have been negotiated, but not quite much,” the man also claimed.

Prosecutors have started criminal prosecution for smuggling and not complying with the regime of arms and ammunition.

Romanian officials, including the organized crime chief and the Romanian Police claim that the assault weapons presented in the coverage are actually hunting gunshot arms. Moreover, the authorities say there is no proof certifying the video footage has been taken in Romania.

The Romanian Embassy in London sent an official letter to the British authorities to probe into the TV report. Ambassador Dan Mihalache says the article includes many oddities and that it seems to be manipulation. The Romanian embassy’s protest will be also sent to the mass media and to the audiovisual regulation authorities in UK, TVR informs.

The Romanian embassy to UK also informed it had notified the communication regulation authority in Great Britain, OFCOM, while also sending some specifications to the British Foreign Ministry and to the National Crime Agency on this the Sky News topic.

The Sky News reporter’s version. TV channel stands by him

In retort, Stuart Ramsay, the reporter who made the coverage, says that it has taken almost nine months to set upt the meeting with the Romanian alleged gun runners. He told Digi 24 that he met them because they seemed ‘trustworthy’ to him and that they didn’t seem bothered that are being shot for they argued they are not afraid of the local authorities.

According to the reporter, their contacts led to a Romanian who were leader of a gang of criminals. Ramsay said that he had no reason to suspect that he wasn’t who pretended to be. The journalist added that he was accompanied by a bodyguard who used to be a soldier and who had confirmed that the weapons were military.

In a different interview to EVZ Romanian daily, Ramsay says that his coverage is no fake. ‘I didn’t want to do any damage to Romania or to draw negative advertising’, the reporter said, while adding that one of his close friends is living in Romania, without exposing his name though, as he claimed hid friend’s life might be in danger.

He recounted that the story of going on the gun smuggling case started in Albania, then continued in Bosnia, Ukraine, and eventually in Romania.

“All weapons that we are talking about went to some Muslim organizations established in Eastern Europe,” Ramsay says, while adding that the local authorities are suspected of knowing about these trades, but that the mob clans’ influence is much too strong.

Ramsay kept on Tweeting on Wednesday, claiming the story was true and that nobody was paid.

Romania stop trolling it’s ridiculous. It’s very boring. I’ve answered every question – arrest the gangs?

Nobody was paid. The weapons are real. The story is correct. End of. Romania it wasn’t about you. It was weapons

Calm down everyone. Story is true. Nobody paid. Nobody scripted. Weapons real. Arrests happening. Govt embarrassed. Deal with it.

At the same time, Sky News channel retorted that Stuart Ramsay and his team had provided a solid coverage on the topic of gun running in Romania and they are fully endorsing the footage.

bistrita nasaudbritish journalistschecking diicotcoveragecriminal prosecutionDIICOTDirectorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorismfakegun runningRomaniasearchesset upsky newssmugglersstuart ramsayTargu Mures