It was announced on Wednesday – coincidentally, the same day that Portugal’s Minister for Home Affairs, Constança Urbano de Sousa, announced she was quitting her job – that the arsenal had been intercepted in Chamusca, Santarém district.
In total 44 war weapons, including grenades, grenade launchers and explosives, were recovered.
According to reports, almost all of the stolen stash was recouped, with the exception of ammunition.
News channel SIC Notícias said the arsenal was found scattered in scrubland.
The stash was taken to a bunker at the Santa Margarida military base, where it was being guarded by the army.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the PJ military police said that the recovery was made as a result of investigations into the trafficking and illegal selling of war weapons, and with the help of the Loulé GNR.
“During the early hours of this morning we recovered, in the region of Chamusca, with the collaboration of the criminal investigation nucleus of the Loulé GNR, the war material stolen from the National Park of Tancos”, the official statement read, adding that “the recovered material is already in the Santa Margarida Barracks, in the custody of the Army, where an expert assessment is being carried out for a more detailed identification.”
The stash was reported missing from the Tancos based on 28 June 2017.
On 29 June the army revealed that the security perimeter surrounding the Tancos base had been violated and one of the two barracks broken into, and that a large quantity of weapons had been stolen, among them grenades, explosives, and tear gas.
The Army Chief of Staff ordered three enquiries to be launched, namely into the functioning of the CCTV system, intrusion into the base, and cargo management.
Five army commanders were temporarily removed from office.
At the time, Portugal’s then-Home Affairs Minister, the recently-resigned Constança Urbano de Sousa, said national authorities were “doing everything” possible to investigate the theft.
Her comments came after Spanish newspaper, El Mundo, quoting sources from the Spanish interior ministry, reported that the incident could have been connected with an international arms ring, and not ‘jihadism’, which was a suggestion initially put forward by Spanish Home Affairs Minister, Juan Ignacio Zoido, during a G4 meeting.
This was denied by Portugal’s Home Affairs Ministry, which told Lusa News Agency that the El Mundo article “did not correspond to the truth”.
Following the robbery, and due to concerns that the stolen military equipment could enter the black market to feed terrorism, national authorities alerted their European counterparts, such as Europol, and worked directly with the Spanish police.
Portugal’s President, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, called for an in-depth investigation into the theft to ascertain “facts and responsibilities”, to “prevent the occurrence of incidents that are as or even more serious than this” from happening again.
At the time of the theft, Lusa News Agency reported it was widely believed that there had to be inside knowledge about which building contained the weapons the thieves wanted, and when there were security rounds.
Following the PJ’s announcement on Wednesday, the PS socialist party said it wanted to hear Defence Minister Azaredo Lopes, in parliament, with urgency.
It is not yet clear exactly how the Loulé GNR contributed to this week’s seizure.