BBC:–  Thieves in Paraguay have stolen 42 powerful rifles from the police armoury.

During an inspection, officers found that the FN FAL battle rifles had been replaced with wooden and plastic replicas.

The inspection had been ordered after the rifles started appearing a year ago on the black market, where they can fetch up to $10,000 (£7,785).

The rifles had been put into storage but were still in working order.

Some of them are thought to have ended up in Argentina while others are believed to have been smuggled to Brazil.

Neighbouring Brazil has long complained that many of the illegal weapons seized there have been smuggled into the country from Paraguay.

Paraguayan media posted photos of the replicas and called it the “most embarrassing scandal” in the history of the country’s police force.

They had been taken to the armoury in the city of Capiatá as the police force was replacing them with newer models.

When the rifles first started appearing on the black market, the military ordered an investigation. They honed in on the police armoury and a search revealed the toy rifles.

The police officer in charge of the armoury has been replaced but no arrests have so far been made.