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UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND: Illicit US$46m South Sudan arms deal brokered under government’s nose

26 Sep 2017
[International Secretariat]
Region: UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND
Topic: Arms Trade Treaty

Research released by Amnesty International today reveals how a shell company in the heart of London’s West End acted as an intermediary in huge prospective arms deals to war-torn South Sudan and other countries, thanks to regulatory gaps which are making the UK a hotspot for companies involved in illicit arms transfers.

Commercial documents name S-Profit Ltd, a tiny UK-registered company, as the ‘supplier’ in a 2014 deal to provide at least US$46m worth of small arms and ammunition to the South Sudanese government. Amnesty International has also found that the UK government has been aware of similar practices taking place on British soil for more than eight years, without taking effective regulatory action.

The weapons in question form part of a previously undisclosed 2014 contract between a Ukrainian state arms company and a UAE-based company to procure US$169m of weapons on behalf of South Sudan. These include thousands of machine guns, mortars, RPGs and millions of rounds of ammunition.

If fulfilled, the total deal would constitute one of the largest publicly disclosed arms transfers to South Sudan since the outbreak of fighting in December 2013.

Amnesty International has not been able to determine whether some or all of the weapons listed in these documents have yet been delivered to South Sudan. However, a UK company may violate UK export control laws even by being involved in the negotiation of an arms deal to South Sudan. The involvement of the Ukrainian state-owned arms company and a UAE private company in weapons supplies to South Sudan also potentially contravenes the Ukraine and UAE’s obligations as signatories to the Arms Trade Treaty.

S-Profit’s director denied to Amnesty International that the firm had supplied military products to South Sudan, but has not responded to further questions, including whether it played an intermediary role.

As well as the South Sudan deal, documents seen by Amnesty International show a sequence of commercial offers and contract negotiations involving S-Profit Ltd – some unfinished -- for the prospective supply of armoured vehicles, weapons and aircraft to many countries as well as to private companies. Amnesty International has been unable to identify UK trade control licences for any of these negotiations or deals.

A regulatory vacuum

S-Profit Ltd is emblematic of how companies can benefit from regulatory gaps at Companies House, the government body responsible for registering companies. Anyone in the world can set up a UK company online without needing to provide any identity documents.

“S-Profit Ltd’s company filings give no indication of its involvement in the arms trade – but then UK law does not require them to. This kind of weak regulation is seriously undermining the other robust domestic, EU and international controls which should make any UK involvement in arms transfers to a war zone like South Sudan unimaginable,” said James Lynch.

“This should be a wake-up call for the UK government to hold UK-registered companies accountable. Simple measures like checking the veracity of names and addresses and setting up a register of arms brokers would make it much harder for foreign arms dealers contributing to serious human rights abuses to set up shop in the UK.

25 September 2017
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE

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