Quadripartite Select Committee Written Evidence

Further memorandum from Mark Thomas



  Mark Thomas has covered issues relating to the defence industry in the New Statesman magazine and Channel 4 television. He has received various awards for his work including from The United Nations International Services Association and a commendation from Amnesty International. He was a co-founder and director of the Ilisu Dam Campaign.

  Since November 2004 Mark has investigated torture equipment in the press. During that time he has reported on five companies (in under a year) that have offered electro shock equipment from the UK.

  This despite a ban on the sale of leg irons and electro shock weapons from the UK, (though they remain licensable). Article 3 of the Trade in Goods (Control) Order 2003, "which came into force on 1 May 2004, a person may not, without having obtained a licence issued on behalf of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, directly or indirectly supply or deliver; agree to supply or deliver, or; do any act calculated to promote the supply or delivery, of "restricted goods", where that person has reason to believe his actions may result in the goods being supplied from one third country to another third country (extraterritorial controls)—these controls apply whether or not the act calculated to promote their trade is in return for a fee or consideration. Restricted goods include electric shock batons and leg irons, which are specifically controlled under PL5001g of Schedule 1 to the Export of Goods, Transfer of Technology and Provision of Technical Assistance (Control) Order 2003."—DTI Press Office 2005.

  It is understood that the definition of "any act calculated to promote the supply and delivery, of "restricted goods" would include any advertising of restricted goods.

   This report examines these cases, details how they were uncovered and suggests effective steps, which might be taken to enforce the law. If these most obvious breaches are not picked up and enforced properly it raises questions about all controlled and restricted goods.

  All case studies are supported with back up material.


  TLT International, a UK company, offered to broker electro shock batons from Korea to Zimbabwe and revealed they were negotiating to supply electro shock weapons to Nigeria.

  TAR Ideal Concepts Ltd, an Israeli company, offered electro shock weapons and leg irons whilst exhibiting at the Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEI) fair in September 2005.

  Global Armour, a South African company offered electro shock weapons in their company brochure at the same event.

  Imperial Armour, a South African company offered to provide stun weapons and set about negotiating a deal from the fair.

  Army-Technology.com, a website run by SPG Media a UK company, offered introductions to Chinese and Korean arms manufacturers who advertised their stun batons through the Army Tech website in the UK.

  [Photograph offered by Imperial Armour: not printed.]

Case Study One—TLT International

  In November 2004 the website of UK company TLT International offered stun batons and stun guns for sale. The company is based at the home address of its MD Mr Tony Lee.

  The website included pictures and a short description of the weapons.

  Posing as a potential buyer I enquired via the website if I could be put in contact with someone regarding the potential purchase of stun batons. Mr Lee replied on the 1 of December indicating I should deal with him.

  On the 2 December 2004 Mr Lee quoted a price for the weapons.

Mr Lee's Quote 2 December 2004

    "I thank you for your above referenced enquiry and have pleasure in submitting our offer as follows:

    Stun Baton 18" w/ring belt clip. 300KV

    Power Source: Two 9 Volt Alkaline Battery or N.c. Rechargeable Battery

    Power Emit: 300,000 Volt Output

    Electrodes Distance: 20mm

    DIMENSION : 18 1.57


    Packing : Per Unit in a carton box. 30 pcs G.W 15.60kgs

    Price term: Fob S.Korea US$29.10 each Q'ty 500 Total Fob S.Korea US$14,550.00

    Warranty: 1 year

    Delivery: within two weeks after receipt of payment

    Payment terms: T/T advanced (sic) 30% with order the balance just before shipment

    I would very much like to secure your order. Should, you have any questions regarding price, delivery or anything else please do not hesiate (sic) to contact me.

    Best regards

    Tony Lee"

  On 3 December I told Mr Lee the final destination was Zimbabwe, Mr Lee said this was "no problem", explaining that the stun batons would be transported from Korea and would be manufactured by Hanseung Electronics Inc.

  On the 6 December Mr Lee confided that he had given a sole sale agreement to a company in Nigeria and that he was hoping to get a big order in from Nigeria soon. He later revealed that he had travelled with Nigerian senators to Korea to visit the factory in May and June of 2004.

  He further stated that this make of stun baton had been sold to USA, France, Japan, Egypt, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

  Mr Lee provided promotional material and provided a personal bank account number in Korea into which I was to pay the money for the deal.

  He explained the money was to be paid into a personal bank account in Korea and the contracts would be done directly with the Korean company. He later claimed that he did not know that by offering to broker stun weapons his actions could fall within the scope of the UK law.

  All e-mail correspondence and transcripts of phone conversations were handed to HMRC in April 2005. HMRC asked the author if he could prepare a list of people present at the phone recordings and meetings with Mr Lee and whether I would be willing to give evidence if the matter came to court. I have had no contact with HMRC on this matter since then.

  Mr Lee has since changed the name of the company to ITNCON Ltd.

Case Study Two

  I gained legitimate access to the DSEI arms fair 2005 and was issued with a media pass for the event.

1.  TAR Ideal Concepts Ltd

  TAR Ideal Concepts Ltd of Ma'avar Yabok St, Tel-Aviv Israel. A check of the company website prior to their exhibiting at DSEI showed that they sold electro shock weapons.

  Stun gun offered by TAR Ideal Concepts Ltd from their website.

  On visiting the DSEI arms fair on the 14 September 2005 the author picked up various publicly displayed and available brochures from the company stall.

  The company literature includes pictures, descriptions and model numbers for a stun gun, stun baton and leg cuffs. Stun batons were offered in two other of the company's glossy A4 brochures on display.

  The author was accompanied by a "minder"/escort provided by the DSEI fair organizers. The author showed the brochure to the escort and explained that the electro shock batons were illegal. The escort (a former officer in the army and MD of a PR company working for the fair) took a brochure and said he would report this to the fair organisers who would take the appropriate action. This does not appear to have occurred as 24 hours later the company was still distributing the brochures.

  The author phoned the TAR Ideal Concepts Ltd representative at DSEI, Mr Michael Simon (international marketing) who offered to discuss selling the batons at the fair the next day (16 September) and offered the author a CD ROM demonstrating the new range of liquid spray electro shock weapons, The Viper, on the 15 September 2005.

  I informed HMRC on 15 September that electro shock weapons were being offered at the stall and informed the Guardian newspaper, which ran the story the following day.

  According to the DSEI organisers PR contact, TAR Ideal Concepts Ltd was excluded from the DSEI fair on the Friday morning, 16 September.

  TAR Ideal Concepts Ltd have subsequently claimed that the DSEI organisers had seen and approved of their brochures.

2.  Imperial Armour

  Imperial Armour Pty Ltd , PO box 29231 Maytime, 3624, Durban, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. The company's website showed they dealt in stun weapons.

  Prior to the DSEI I posed as a client and asked for a quote for electro shock batons. The company provided prices and specifications on the 12 September 2005.

  Although Imperial Armour did not advertise stun weapons in their brochures at DSEI, in e-mails and phone conversations they expressed a willingness to meet at DSEI and discuss the potential purchase. So even when restricted items were not on public display at the UK arms fair, DSEI, restricted weapons were still available "under the counter."

3.  Global Armour

  Global Armour SA (Pty) Ltd , PO Box 10605, Ashwood, 3605, KZN, South Africa. Global Armour offered stun weapons in their brochure, describing them as: "Shock activated by self-return trigger. High voltage, but non-lethal. Visible shock sparks act as added deterrent. Supplied with plug-in charging facility. Rechargeable battery and plug in charger available as an option. Available in three different lengths: 410 mm (16.1 in), 575 mm (22.6 in), 700 mm (27.6 in)."

  According to the DSEI PR staff the Global Armour stall was shut down and they were excluded from the fair on Friday morning, 16 September.

Case Study Three

  Army Technology. Again exhibited at the DSEI arms fair and gave demonstrations of how to use the search facilities on their website.

  www.army-technology.com is a website owned by SPG Media Group PLC—a UK based company. The website hosts advertising for defence manufacturers, including the Chinese company Huajin. The Huajin adverts included stun batons. If someone browsing the Army Tech site wishes to contact a company advertised on the site, an on line enquiry form is provided by Army Tech. The enquiry is sent via Army Tech, (SPG Media staff at DSEI informed the author that SPG Media staff vet all enquiries) who then forward the enquiry on to the relevant company. The author made an enquiry via Army Tech to Huajin regarding stun batons. The Army Tech website mailed confirmation that the request had been forwarded on 2 September. Huajin then contacted the author directly enquiring into the availability of various types of stun batons required.

  The company was again contacted via Germany (using the nom de guerre of Malcolm Wicks) with an enquiry about stun batons. Again this message to the Chinese company Huajin was forwarded by Army Tech. The Minister Malcolm Wicks was informed that his namesake had made enquiries via a UK website for electro shock weapons.

  When Army Tech's links to Huajin and stun batons was drawn to the DTI's attention, their press office said "advertising activities in the UK (or by UK Nationals anywhere in the world) that promote the movement of restricted goods where the person doing that act has reason to believe his actions may result in the removal of those restricted goods from one third country to another third country would require a UK trade licence." It is understood that the DTI contacted HMRC regarding the site.

  Army Tech took down the pictures of the stun batons on the Huajin advert on or around the 31 October 2005. The company admitted that the pictures had been taken down after HMRC had made contact with them and advised them of the law.

  It should also be noted that a licence would be required for any supply of controlled goods that has taken place, from one third country to another third country, that originated from the Army Tech website, in their role as advertiser and intermediary.


  1.  In most cases the companies claimed to be unaware of the law. This could in part be due to companies like TLT International not operating as police and security equipment specialists but as a "general store". However, a company like SPG Media is firmly based in the defence industry, exhibiting at DSEI and specifically acting as a directory for arms companies. An assessment into the effectiveness of the DTI and its partners outreach programmes is required. In the specific case of SPG Media it would seem appropriate that an investigation into the company's role in establishing contacts between third country buyers and sellers of controlled goods be undertaken.

  2.  Though it is understood that the organisers of DSEI do inform exhibitors of their obligations under the law, information is either being ignored or ineffective. An examination of the measures taken by Spearhead (the organisers of DSEI) to inform exhibitors of the law and ways of improving these measures would seem appropriate.

  3.  There were efforts made at DSEI to ensure that exhibitors of Unmanned Airbourne Vehicles (UAV's), also restricted goods, had the licences required by law to exhibit. This effort does not appear to have been made in relation to electro shock or leg irons. Present at the DSEI arms fair were, DTI staff, an on site duty officer from HMRC, MoD staff and police officers, it is worth noting that none of these people found electro shock weapons being offered (at least not until they were informed of the presence of companies offering the weapons by the author). If the law is to be enforced effectively some form of pro active policing of the event needs to take place, it would appear that the relevant authority would be HMRC, who should address the apparent lack of enforcement at the event as a matter of urgency.

  4.  It is important to establish what action HMRC and the DSEI organisers took regarding the two companies excluded from DSEI. It is recommended that the QSC [Quadripartite Select Committee] establish what measures have and are being taken by HMRC and DSEI in relation to the companies Tar Ideal Concepts Ltd, Global Armour and Imperial Armour.

  5.  The initial information that prompted investigating all of the case study examples was publicly available information. It does not appear in these cases that HMRC made even the most basic enquiries. It is my understanding that the restrictions and prohibitions unit, whose work covers everything from child pornography to electro shock, has a full time staff of six. Though it is also understood that there is a pool of officers around the country who can be called on to assist in investigations. These officers however, do not work in this area full time. It is vitally important for the QSC to ascertain what monitoring of the defence industry takes place by HMRC, including the monitoring of arms fairs like DSEI. The QSC should assess the staffing levels and budgets of HMRC working on restricted and controlled goods as a matter of urgency.

  6.   It is recommended that the QSC establish what action HMRC took in regard to SPG Media. Further to that HMRC should investigate any deals which have occurred as a result of the advertising for both restricted and controlled goods. It is also recommended the QSC establish the status of any investigation being made into TLT International and to ascertain what actions have or could be taken in this case. It is neither an effective nor appropriate way to enforce the law by either ignoring or "ticking off" those who transgress it. This appears to be the only courses of action that HMRC has taken to date on this matter.

  7.   The most effective forms of arms controls have to be developed with the EU, to that end the QSC should establish what efforts are being made by HMG to see all EU Member States comply with the EU Council Common Position 2003 requiring all Member States to introduce brokerage legislation. The QSC should also establish from HMG what efforts are being made to support and encourage the introduction of the EU Council Regulation regarding the export of torture equipment across the EU.

January 2006

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