By Andrew Feinstein
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The Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout has behind bars – Hundreds colleagues are continuing their work.
It sounded like a good message, it sounded like justice. Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, dubbed the “merchant of death”, has for 25 years behind bars. A New York judge said last Thursday his judgment and ended the spectacular process is a particularly mysterious character of the international arms trade.
But the New York judgment reveals something else: an abysmal hypocrisy. For dangerous arms dealer Bout to be just like every now and then put behind bars – namely, when they are no longer useful. Until then, they are used by many governments in the world, cared for and protected.
International arms trade today span a wide range from the formal shops, which are handled directly between the two governments over the gray market to the black market. It would be easy to say that the formal business is legal and ethically right, and the gray and black markets are not. In practice, however, the boundaries are constantly in flux. Formal shops and black market deals are closely interwoven, so they depend on each other even.
It starts with bribery and corruption in arms deals are commonplace. A very thorough study by Transparency International came to the conclusion some time ago that the arms trade accounts for 40 percent of all crooked deals in world trade.
In fact, I have in my years of involvement with the subject, very few arms deals know that were not connected in any way with illegal operations, often channeled through intermediaries, agents or distributors as Bout.
The Russian Viktor Bout has made a fortune by “transport and logistics services,” rings offered to the arms trade. That’s a euphemism, as he was in these circles likes to use. Bout worked in conflict zones around the world on behalf of governments, the UN , large listed companies and a variety covert institutions. He supplied weapons including transport planes from old Soviet stockpiles.
His clients also included the Liberian dictator Charles Taylor , the Afghan Northern Alliance and later the Taliban, a number of actors in the Balkans, the government of Angola and also their nemesis, the Unita rebel movement, and also all sides in the conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo. With his business, he has indirectly contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.
And then again, 2003 was the U.S. military shortly after its invasion of Iraq , major problems: It was hard supplies to Baghdad to get, because the planes came under fire and landings were dangerous. The U.S. military and its suppliers so turned to a number of air cargo companies – and one of the most enduring was used Irbis Air, an airline owned by Bout.
Alone from 2003 to 2004 flew Irbis Air airports, according to the records of about 90 times in Baghdad and other Iraqi airports also, it was transported everything from boots to ammunition. Its clients included the United States Air Mobility Command, and a number of large reputable companies, including KBR.
Long exposed the U.S. government Bout
KBR was then a part of the Halliburton group, and their former boss Dick Cheney was at the time of the Iraq war, Vice President of the United States. During this time, there was actually an Interpol arrest warrant for Bout, will be settled by the United States are legally bound. There is for all that a wealth of evidence. On request, however neither was Defense KBR still willing to make a statement.
Years later, however, changed Washington’s attitude to Bout – for unknown reasons. Anyway started the undercover operation that left the Russians in 2008 fall into the trap.
Now Bout is sitting in his cell, but one should not forget that there are still hundreds of his colleagues are still at large. They will continue its operations. Some are covered by their own governments, others by foreign governments and intelligence agencies, where they are useful. Most will never be held accountable, let alone convicted in an elaborate covert operation.
The global arms trade undermines democracy and the legal system, both in the buyer countries as in the seller countries. He drives forward the massive corruption. This, in turn, that taxpayers’ money is wasted in the billions, because as a result of paying bribes, disabled war equipment is purchased. So national security is also undermined. All this happens because weapons business is conducted behind a veil of secrecy, the alleged acts of national security.
I first experienced this when I was a member of the African National Congress ( ANC ) was, in Nelson Mandela erschaffenem new democratic South Africa . The country bought weapons worth ten billion dollars that we did not need and use today as well as not. $ 300 million bribes were of arms companies in the UK paid, Sweden, Germany, France and Italy to high-ranking politicians and also to their advisors and officials of the ANC itself
At the same time, the then President Thabo Mbeki, that we could not afford to spend AIDS drugs to nearly six million people who are infected with HIV or AIDS. A study by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University concluded that 365,000 South Africans died in the following five years, preventable death, as a direct result of this policy decision.
But it is almost always with arms sales to developing countries. South Africa paid with huge opportunity costs: the money could be spent on so many more useful things. At the end of the country was sitting on a pile of inappropriate weapons and had a freshly starched corruption culture.
The ANC deigned to undermine precisely those democratic institutions, for whose formation he had once fought so passionately. He suppressed the rights of Parliament, exercised pressure on prosecutors and the investigating authorities, and disbanded the anti-corruption institutions in the country.
Against Jacob Zuma , the current president of the country, 783 individual charges of corruption, fraud and criminal transactions were raised, which were associated with the arms deal. Ironically, they were dropped a few days before his election as president. In my recently published book, arms trafficking after I draw, and international arms companies – also German – bribes paid tens of millions to South Africa. Additionally, there are all sorts of obscure commission payments, consulting fees and the like. I got through my past as South African politician special insight into the local business, but one must not forget that South Africa is a small market among many. Viewed globally, there are indications that some gunsmiths smaller billions in hand takes in order to pave the way in difficult markets.
Violations of the law are rarely prosecuted
Persecuted or even punished appropriately which is very rarely. On the contrary: Strange light penalties for serial violations of the law are the rule in the arms trade.
The most spectacular event of all time were related to the British government at the time of Tony Blair. She had intervened to stop an investigation into the biggest arms deal in history: the Al-Yamama-business, in which six billion British pounds were paid to “commissions” by British armories to members of the Saudi royal family as well as intermediaries. Beneficiary of the business was the company BAE Systems.
In the UK, at the end despite everything around £ 30 million penalty payable, many of which were transferred to Tanzania. Britain is rising – in connection with this and five other corrupt transactions – claim to £ 500,000 penalty for “inconsistencies in the accounts,” imposed by the Serious Fraud Office. At the same time, the Serious Fraud Office agreed but also to raise in the next ten years no corruption allegations against BAE Systems. In the U.S., the largest sum was payable by two different methods and settlement negotiations were at the end of some 480 million dollars. In a relationship with the Al-Yamama-business generated profits is not all this.
These examples suggest that arms manufacturers and arms dealers act in a kind of legal and political parallel universe unhindered. Of the laws and ethics to which companies follow in other industries This parallel world exists because of the proximity of weapons manufacturers and dealers to their governments (which often take the role of a top commercial agent), to political parties (which are financed with money from the arms industry), and military intelligence agencies.
If those great hypocrisy is, it is not enough, from time to time and place for a man like Viktor Bout behind bars. Instead, the arms trade, regulates both the formal market, such as the black market, and are supervised active. Stringent criteria must be agreed, and we must watch over their observance impartially: Where and in what cases can and should be sold weapons? Governments must disclose the use of intermediaries, agents and brokers more, including payments to such people, and details about their achievements.
A robust international arms agreement, as it is currently being negotiated at the United Nations, could cover many of these questions. But the desire to do all this will only be achieved if the political pressure of the citizens and taxpayers is increasing worldwide.