'UK ex-soldier' arrested in Bolivia
Published 25/10/2012 | 08:59
A man who identified himself as a former British special forces soldier has been arrested in an Amazon jungle tourist town for illegal possession of weapons and cocaine, authorities have said.
Mark David Hassell was arrested on Monday night in his room at a boarding house in Rurrenabaque, Bolivia, after neighbours complained that he threatened them, said Navy Captain Cimar Vides, the regional military chief.
A police spokesman said he had a submachine gun, a pistol and an unspecified quantity of cocaine. Hassell was taken to the regional capital, Trinidad, on Wednesday where he is to appear before a judge on illegal arms and cocaine possession charges, Capt Vides said.
Hassell has the insignia of various British military units tattooed on his body, the official said. He added that Hassell had overstayed a tourist visa obtained last year. "He has been an elite soldier. He was decorated and took part in the Bosnia war," Capt Vides said.
The British Embassy said it was providing consular assistance to Hassell but declined further comment.
The police officer who arrested Hassell said the suspect gave his age as 43 and reported he had been in the British special forces and had also fought in Afghanistan.
Hassell had an Argentine-made 9mm MK submachine gun and a Brazilian-made .38-calibre Tauro handgun along with 100 rounds of ammunition in a backpack, and the room smelled of cocaine, officer Agapito Torrez said.
Hassell, who identified himself as a tourist, also had a German shepherd dog that townspeople said had threatened them, the officer said. He said Hassell does not speak Spanish.
Mr Torrez said locals notified police partly because they said they heard Hassell say he would "make history" in Rurrenabaque.
Bolivia is the world's third largest cocaine producer, but the region where Hassell was arrested is not a coca-growing region although it is not far from the Yungas coca-growing region and is on the air traffic path of flights that ferry partially refined coca paste eastward from Peru.