Brazilian Justice Minister Sergio Moro (C) looks at guns during the Latin American Defense and Security exhibition (LAAD 2019) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on April 2, 2019 (Mauro PIMENTEL)

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) – A Beretta pistol was stolen from a display at a major defense industry exhibition in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday shortly before Brazil’s Vice President Hamilton Mourao and various senior politicians arrived at the venue.

A search was under way for the missing weapon, which the organizers of the LAAD Defense and Security expo said had been rendered “non-functioning” before it was put on show.

“The military authorities responsible for licensing firearms at LAAD have been informed and immediately attended the scene of the incident,” LAAD said in a statement.

“We are assisting the relevant authorities with their investigation.”

Representatives at the Beretta stand declined to comment on the incident.

Some 450 Brazilian and foreign brands, ranging from makers of sniper bullets and machine guns to bullet-proof vests and drones, are on display at the four-day exhibition where amateurs and professionals can see and handle the latest technology.

Participants — including police officers, soldiers and gun club members — were required to leave their personal weapons and ammunition at the entrance before passing through security scanners that appeared to have been disabled.

Interest in this year’s event has been fanned by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain who was swept to power last year on an anti-crime and pro-business platform.

Bolsonaro’s measures to relax gun ownership in Brazil — one of the deadliest countries in the world, with 64,000 murders in 2017 — have raised hopes among foreign companies that he would make it easier for them to compete in the highly-protected weapons market.

The United States and Russia dominate the global arms export market, with Brazil ranking 23th between 2014 and 2018, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Afghanistan, Indonesia and Lebanon were its main clients.

Brazil accounted for 27 percent of South American arms imports over the same period, according to SIPRI data.

Disclaimer: Validity of the above story is for 7 Days from original date of publishing. Source: AFP.