Civilian buys rocket launcher at recyclers
Nick Squires in Sydney
The army is investigating how a military rocket launcher ended up being bought by a civilian for A$2 (HK$12) after he found it dumped on the outskirts of a Queensland town.
The embarrassing security breach occurred when James Maloney spotted the rocket launcher as he rummaged through his local recycling centre in Yeppoon, near Rockhampton.
Thinking it would add an unusual touch to the theatre restaurant in which he worked, he snapped it up for less than the price of a coffee.
He then read newspaper reports about the alleged theft of similar weapons from army depots.
'So I thought it might be a good idea I gave it back to the authorities,' Mr Maloney said.
But instead of handing it into the army, he gave it to a local newspaper reporter, who kept it for a few days while she wrote a story, before handing it into police yesterday.
Yeppoon is near a massive military training area at Shoalwater Bay where Australian and other foreign forces frequently engage in large-scale exercises.
The weapon was a 90mm Matador anti-armour rocket launcher, an updated version of a German design.
It was Singapore-made and not used by Australian forces, a Defence Department spokeswoman said.
'It's not Australian ordnance. We're investigating where it came from and which country's forces might have used it,' she said.
It posed no danger because it was a single-use 'fire-and-forget' type weapon which had already been discharged.
Last month The Sydney Morning Herald reported that one of the country's main intelligence agencies had been called in to investigate whether rogue soldiers were illegally selling 66mm rocket launchers to criminal syndicates.