Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Facing Recoil

The lucrative arms trade has been widely glamorised by Hollywood, but the grimy reality was uncovered in a pair of cases this week.

David Mabey and Charles Forsyth, former directors of Reading-based engineering firm Mabey & Johnson, were found guilty of breaching sanctions by inflating costs involved in the supply of bridge materials paid for as part of the 'UN Oil For Food Programme' in order to pay 'kickbacks' to Iraqi officials between 2001-2002 during the regime of deposed leader Saddam Hussein.

Company owner David Mabey (seen here in 2009, source), of Burchett's Green near Maidenhead, is one of Britain's richest people, with his family earning an estimated £200m from the business.

Prosecutors from the Serious Fraud Office explained to Southwark Crown Court that cash from exaggerated costs in these and other deals were used to circumvent international restrictions and were used as a way to channel funds intended for humanitarian purposes to private bank accounts. These accounts were then able to be used to purchase everything unavailable to the regime from luxury goods and military hardware.

The company admitted participating in corrupt dealings in Iraq, Ghana, Jamaica, Angola, Madagascar, Mozambique and Bangladesh in September 2009 and was forced to pay a series of fines totalling £6.5m. £618,000 went into the Iraq reconstruction Fund.

The case was the first conviction for overseas bribery in the UK and was a landmark in dealing with the international business of corporate corruption. A new Bribery Act comes into force in April to make similar prosecutions easier in the future.

Meanwhile a man convicted of running an 'underworld weapons factory' from Three Mile Cross has been ordered to pay back £33,897 within six months.

The Economic Crime Unit told Reading Crown Court Gavin Wilkinson had earned nearly £1/4m from the sale of converted imitation machine guns to criminal gangs in London and the midlands.

The Mac-10 guns have been traced to a series of 51 shootings - but according to witness Guy Savage of Sabre Defence Industries firearms dealership Wilkinson paid £55,000 in 2004 for the 90 replica firearms he would later convert because they were 'to be used in a James Bond film'.

Wilkinson was sentenced to life imprisonment in August 2008 (with a recommendation for 11 years before parole) in a case which hit national headlines. 40 of the guns were unaccounted for and a reward had been offered for their retreval.

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