As frantic appeals are launched to avoid a humanitarian crisis in the horn of Africa it is useful to remind ourselves that the other great curse that Africa faces is arms trading.
A detailed (AEFJN – AFRICA EUROPE FAITH AND JUSTICE NETWORK) report issued six months ago on the global arms trade into that continent is set out in this link:
A quick scan of the document throws up the by now `perennial link’ to the Isle of Man which along with other offshore jurisdictions is a familiar location for companies who aid and abet this trade.
What is disappointing is that these connections stretch back over thirty years.
In 2001 we reported (in the old Celtic News archive – unfortunately not now available on our current site) on arms trading links involving the son of former French President, Francois Mitterand, and other unrelated scandals.
Mitterand was among a number of French celebrities subsequently convicted of crimes eight years later related to $790 million in arms sales to Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos’s MPLA between 1993 and 1998, when it was fighting UNITA rebels in a devastating civil war.
Mitterrand was cleared of the accusation of illegal weapons sales, but an Angolan court found him guilty of taking a total of $2.6 million in covert payments from arms trader Pierre Falcone to pass on key Angolan contacts and protect Falcone’s interests. Falcone was reported to have a web of companies in Britain, Argentina, Canada and the Isle of Man.
In the 2001 Celtic News report which is set out below we referenced a string of other arms trading scandals involving the Isle of Man stretching back to the 1980s. What the recent AEFJN report shows is that sadly nothing has changed and as a community we still prosper from the misery inflicted on others.
CL NEWS (older archive) REPORT January 2001 set out below:
“MITTERAND ALLEGATIONS LATEST IN SERIES OF ARMS LINKS
New allegations linking the son of the late French president to arms trading in Africa indicate that Manx registered companies may still be involved in this deplorable trade. This despite assurances that loopholes allowing Arms Traders to operate from the Isle of Man would be plugged.
Once again the links alleging trading by companies operating from the Isle of Man with the arms trade in Africa have been exposed. Jean-Christophe Mitterand son of the late French president is accused of illegal arms trafficking and is said to have used a string of companies in various tax havens including Switzerland and the Isle of Man. This is the latest in a string of connections stretching back decades which have seen Manx based companies involved in arms trading and breaches of UN sanctions on the continent.
Last year a United Kingdom newspaper (1) exposed the use by British companies of offshore centres like the Isle of Man in arming the Rwanda Hutu militia. These militias were involved in several horrendous incidents including an attack on a group of British and American tourists. Eight of the party, including four Britons, were butchered.
This was not the first Rwanda link. In November 1996 documents seized in Rwanda from retreating Hutu militia revealed a tangled web of arms trafficking linked to the Isle of Man and other off-shore centres(2). The ‘Sandline’ episode also showed that arms traders were still using offshore jurisdictions in an effort to conceal their tracks.
What is perhaps disturbing about these Africa links is that they are not isolated incidents but stretch back over decades. There is indeed a culture of shadowy and sinister links which probably began at the time of Apartheid and the Rhodesia sanctions and have continued since.
In 1987 the United Kingdom Independent newspaper (3) revealed details of secret meetings between the Isle of Man government and Southern African business interests.
Also in 1987 first details of an aircraft leasing and transport operation similar to that cited in the recent news reports was revealed. The Observer newspaper (4) carried a report that a company with offices registered in the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Shannon freeport in the Irish Republic was engaged in leasing Hercules transport aircraft to a company called Southern Air Transport, based in Florida, which was at that time engaged in supplying arms to rebels fighting with UNITA against the Angolan government.
After the exposure of the Manx involvement in the Rwanda genocide the Celtic League called for law changes which would make it impossible for the arms dealers, who trade on the death and misery of hundreds of thousands of people, to operate here. The government responded with the Islands FSC announcing that loopholes would be closed (5). The loopholes however appear to still exist.
Have our calls and those of others (6) gone unheeded with more people dead? Why has no one been prosecuted for assisting in one of the worst genocides in the last decade (indeed century) the massacre of one million Tutsis. We should recognise also that, although the deathsof the European tourists last year were well publicised, the militias armed by these companies are still spreading a rain of murder, rape and destruction across the Central African region with weapons supplied at the time with the help of companies operating from the Isle of Man and other offshore centres.
The Mitterand connection in just the latest in a serious of allegations some proven about links between tax havens and the International arms trade it is past time an extensive International investigation was mounted to root out the merchants of death once and for all
J B Moffatt
(1) UK Firms Armed Hutu Killers – Observer 7/3/99
(2) British Company Supplied Arms to Hutu Militia – Independent 18/11/96
(3) Island Accused in sanctions Scandal – Independent 22/1/97
(4) MP Linked to Firm in Pretoria Oil Deals May – Observer 1987?
(5) Rwanda FSC Acts Over Guns Supply – Isle of Man Courier 23/11/96
(6) Reform Needed to End Abuse – Editorial Manx Independent November 1996”
J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information