"During the operation, an air-to-air missile in perfect working order and used by the Qatari army was seized," police said of the 245-kilogram (540-pound) Matra missile. They also found automatic assault rifles that they described as "latest generation" among the cache.
Three men were arrested, including Fabio Del Bergiolo, 50, a former candidate for the neo-fascist Forza Nuova party, whose home was found to contain a huge stash of arms as well as neo-Nazi propaganda and Hitler memorabilia. Elite police forces searched properties across northern Italy based on intel.
The other arrests were of a Swiss, 42, and an Italian, 51, accused of holding and marketing the missile, which was found by the security forces at a warehouse near the small Rivanazzano Terme airport in the northern Pavia province.
The 3.54 meter-long missile was made in France and Del Bergiolo had been hoping to sell it for 470,000 euros (US$529,000), according to Italian media, who cited Police reports on the suspects' conservations with contacts on the WhatsApp messaging network.
The Mantra Super 530F is a modernized version of the R530 missile that went into service in 1980, and has a range of 25 kilometers, with an explosive charge of 30 kilos. And even though, the one found was "without explosive charge" it could still be armed by people specialized in the field.
"It is extremely dangerous and risky to turn it into a missile to fire from the ground, unless you have good engineers and equipment," a missile expert who asked not to be named told AFP.
The arms were primarily from Austria, Germany, and the United States. Among them were 26 guns, 20 bayonets, 306 gun parts, including silencers and rifle scopes, and more than 800 bullets.
"This is a significant seizure, with few precedents in Italy," said Turin police commissioner Giuseppe De Matteis.