Saturday, August 11, 2007

UK Probes Bosnian Guns To Iraq

By Cernig

Remember those 110,000 AK-47s that the US military mislaid in Iraq on Petraeus' watch? Some may have wondered how the US gets its hands on Kalashnikov assault rifles in the first place and what may have happened to the missing guns.

Here's a hint:
The [UK] government was facing awkward questions last night over an arms deal involving a British company licensed by the Department of Trade and Industry to import weapons but which was also selling machine guns to an Iraqi official later implicated in an alleged $1.1bn (£545m) corruption scandal.

A committee of MPs and Amnesty International have both demanded to know whether the deal breaches either the UN arms embargo on Iraq or British government export laws. They want to know who was involved in the deal and what safeguards are in place to ensure arms exports negotiated by British companies through foreign intermediaries reach their intended destination.

...Documents obtained by The Observer show Procurement Management Services (PMS) had a contract to provide assault rifles to Ziad Cattan, the former head of military procurement at the Iraq Defence Ministry. PMS was licensed by the DTI, now known as the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), to import at least 40,000 assault rifles and AK-47s to Britain from the former Yugoslavia.

Last night the department declined to shed light on whether it knew that, in 2005, PMS also had at least one contract to supply some 300 7.62mm light-machineguns from the former Yugoslavia to Cattan at the Iraq Defence Ministry. Until mid-2005, Cattan, who used to run a pizza parlour in Poland, was responsible for overseeing the importation of weapons into Iraq. A warrant has been issued for his arrest amid allegations he illegally made millions of dollars in corrupt deals.

...The documents show in February 2005 the machineguns were shipped out of Bosnia-Herzegovina on behalf of PMS, a small company based on an industrial estate in Nottingham, and on to Baghdad. The final intended recipient of the weapons was the 'Republic of Iraq Ministry of Defence, Dr Ziad Cattan, Deputy Secretary General.'

The weapons were transported by rail and air by a little-known Croatian-registered company, Scout, which is run from a fifth-floor flat in Zagreb by Ivan Peranec, a publicity-shy travel agent turned arms dealer with links to former leading figures in the Bosnian army. Over the past five years Peranec's company has shipped thousands of weapons to registered arms dealers including the Alabama-based Taos Industries which has a $34m contract from the Pentagon to supply the Iraqi military. [emphasis mine - C]
Remember, too, that the Iraqi defense budget was largely provided by the US and was being overseen by Gen Petraeus at the time in question.

At this point, anyone who believes the "we were kicking them out of helicopters" crap needs their heads examined. 110,000 AK-47s weigh a total of 473 tonnes. A Blackhawk 'copter has an internal cargo capacity of about 1.2 tonnes. That's a lot of kicking.

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