Examination of Witness (Questions 20 -
TUESDAY 11 JUNE 2002
20. I noticed in reply to Sir Patrick Cormack
when you were citing examples of where intervention proved to
be good you never once mentioned your sortie into Papua New Guinea.
Also when Eric Illsley was questioning you in parallel terms you
never mentioned the fact that Her Majesty's Government, Jeremy
Hanley, were very much opposed to the involvement of yourself
and others in Papua New Guinea. It does seem to me that this really
is not consistent with what we have just outlined as your policy:
British Government very much opposed to your involvement, the
international regional organisations believing that intervention
was inappropriate, Australian Government, our friends, very much
opposed to it and also just to complete the picture, when there
was an independent commission of inquiry you, to say the least,
do not fully collaborate with the inquiry. What do you say about
(Lt Colonel Spicer) I would say that my involvement
in Papua New Guinea was entirely consistent with the principles
I have outlined. I am not really here to discuss Papua New Guinea
but I will answer your question.
21. No, but I am entitled to ask what I want
unless the Chairman stops me, because I imagine it is uncomfortable,
it was a rather shameful period.
(Lt Colonel Spicer) It is not uncomfortable in the
slightest. The situation in Papua New Guinea was that there had
been a rebellion against not just one government but several governments
over a period of ten years. It had caused something like the lost
of life of 10,000 people. It had had a drastic effect on the economy
and stability of the country and the government of the day in
the persona of the prime minister had actually been a party to
every single possible attempt to solve the problem peacefully.
It was further exacerbated, if one is honest, by the behaviour
of the national army because they reacted in a way that under
certain circumstances would not have been acceptable by international
standards and therefore compounded part of the problem. Our intention
was to end that problem using the national forces on behalf of
the government and the fact that elements of the armed forces
decided, having gone along with it for some time and indeed signed
all the various instructions to conduct those operations, that
they did not want to do that was an incident which we could not
have foreseen. I would not argue with your comments about the
British Government's view and the Australian Government's view.
They are on the record. The principle of intervention to stabilise
a situation which had caused an extensive loss of life is perfectly
22. Even though the United Kingdom Government
and the friendly Australian Government and the regional international
bodies were opposed to that sort of intervention? That was really
my question, not whether all things were right in the state of
Papua New Guinea; I am sure they were not.
(Lt Colonel Spicer) Six or seven years ago governments
did not understand and the international community did not understand
what the possible value of private military companies was. What
we are discussing today is a long way from the circumstances which
23. We have asked whether it is possible to
maintain things like the Geneva Convention and fulfil all the
accepted rules and regulations of war and conduct of military
operations. How on earth would you do that? Even when you were
here before this Committee before, by the time you were giving
evidence many of the companies you had been associated with had
been dissolved. It seems to me they rise and wane and dissolve.
There is no register of soldiers who might be employed. If there
were a travesty, how would these people be located? They would
disappear into the corners of the earth, probably deep into Eastern
Europe or elsewhere. How on earth can we track people down and
hold them to account?
(Lt Colonel Spicer) In some of the answers I have
given I have addressed a number of those points. In my view the
purpose of this discussion of the Green Paper is to try to find
a mechanism whereby the lessons of the past and the advent of
the private military company can be adapted to the current situation
and regulated. There are several elements to it. There is whatever
law and regulation is formulated in this country. There is the
responsibility of the companies themselves, having been vetted
by government or the international community, to maintain the
standards and conditions under which they have been granted a
licence to operate. Whilst we do not have the full authority of
something like the Armed Forces Act we were talking about earlier,
we do have the ability to vet our employees carefully and to ensure
that they behave, in so far as we can, in a way commensurate with
what we are trying to achieve and the standards we have imposed.
I cannot think of anybody who works for my organisation or is
likely to work for my organisation who might transgress and disappear
into the depths of Eastern Europe because I would not employ him
in the first place if that were where his natural bolt hole was.
24. What about the dissolution of companies?
It is a fact, is it not, that companies rise and wane, they are
set up for a particular operation and dissolve?
(Lt Colonel Spicer) Yes.
25. I think we made a big mistake last time
because we did not press you as to who owned the companies you
were involved with at the time. You declined and we did not press
you. Surely there needs to be full disclosure at any given time
of who owns what company, who are the directors, what is the share
ownership and what their other interests are. Would you be prepared
to see that?
(Lt Colonel Spicer) I have already said that ought
to be part of the registration and vetting process. I think I
covered the points of structure, ownership, financial structure,
location, employees, officers of the company and I have referred
to it in my response to the Green Paper. I did qualify it by saying
I thought there should be two levels of scrutiny as part of the
vetting process and it is perfectly valid to request that sort
of detail, which goes beyond that normally required of a British
company, in these circumstances because of the nature of the business,
but it should be privileged information for government and the
26. Are you involved in an operation at the
(Lt Colonel Spicer) In what capacity?
27. In a military company operation. What other
capacities would you be involved in?
(Lt Colonel Spicer) It depends what sort you means.
Is my company active? Yes, it is.
28. What is your company called at the present
(Lt Colonel Spicer) Strategic Consulting International.
29. Who owns that?
(Lt Colonel Spicer) I do.
30. Are you sole owner?
(Lt Colonel Spicer) No, there is one other owner.
31. Who is that?
(Lt Colonel Spicer) A lady called Sarah Pearson and
it is all in the companies registry.
32. I did not doubt that. Good. That is excellent.
In the second paragraph on page 3 of your article in The Sunday
Times Review of 24 May 1998 you say, "The real problem
comes when you get a country where the insurgents are in the right.
We can't work for them because if we did we would be helping to
overthrow recognised governments". Would you like that remedied?
(Lt Colonel Spicer) That is probably the most difficult
question that a private military company would have to answer.
It is more difficult at the moment because there is no specific
regulation or law which is designed for the oversight of private
military companies. I think there are certain circumstances where
it is clear to the international community that people within
a company are working against a very repressive regime, Iraq being
a case in point. Those sorts of situations do exist and will continue
to exist. The point of the piece you have just quoted was to say
that it may well be that a regime is being incredibly repressive
and everybody can see that the minority, the rebels, whatever
you want to call them, are in the right, but if one wishes to
operate within the law as it now stands, then one would not as
a private military company necessarily be able to go and assist
them, particularly if the regime they were rebelling against were
still considered the sovereign national government of the country.
33. Mr Bilton is going to give evidence to us
later and he has submitted a document which I want to bounce of
you. He says, "Among the documents shown to the commissions
of inquiry in Papua New Guinea was an itemised bank statement
for Sandline Holdings' account in Hong Kong. This had been obtained
by the PNG Attorney General from the Independent Commission Against
Corruption before the British relinquished control. The Government
of Papua New Guinea had paid $18 million dollars into Sandline's
account as an advance payment. For the first time it was possible
to follow a money trail and study how a mercenary company operated
by examining closely how it ran its finances. The second commission
of inquiry made allegations of corruption against two Ministers
in the Papua New Guinea Government with whom Sandline International
had been negotiating. One of them actually signed the Sandline
contract on behalf of his Government".
As you rightly say, you are not here to answer on Papua New Guinea,
but it does seem to me that what this illustrates is that there
needs to be a clear audit trail in every operation and surely
it must be available, not just to some vague spook who does positive
vetting, but at least in the public domain, even retrospectively
to Parliament and to the courts. What say you to that?
(Lt Colonel Spicer) My answer to that
is that there are several elements to it. The financial transactions
between a private company and a government employing them are
really a matter for disclosure by the client, by the government,
unless the terms and conditions under which that company is authorised
to carry out its business, by perhaps its own sovereign government
or the country where it is registered, require them to make a
full disclosure of all financial transactions. That is not the
case with all commercial companies, but if it were the view of
Parliament and Government that that was a requirement, then the
private military company that wished to conduct its business could
not object to that. To me it is part of the requirements for registration
and vetting. Whether they should be in the public domain or whether
they should remain privileged information, I have my own views
on, but it is really for Government and Parliament in formulating
legislation to make that decision and not me.
Sir Patrick Cormack
34. How many private military companies are
there at the moment?
(Lt Colonel Spicer) In the United Kingdom?
35. Yes; and, if you have any idea, internationally
(Lt Colonel Spicer) It rather depends how you define
them. One of the problems, which was certainly addressed in the
paper, is what constitutes a private military company.
36. How many of them are roughly comparable
to your own? Take that as a basis.
(Lt Colonel Spicer) Half a dozen. Again, it is a very,
very tricky area. It is one of the reasons why I wanted to make
a point in my response about definition and terminology.
37. I should like to pursue that. Roughly how
many do you think would pass muster if we had the sort of tight
regulatory system for which you are arguing both in your paper
and this morning?
(Lt Colonel Spicer) I cannot answer that question
on behalf of any other company. Of the ones I know, which I have
in my mind as being private military companies, I think the majority
of them would.
38. You do.
(Lt Colonel Spicer) Yes.
39. Moving on to your own company, how many
do you employ at the moment?
(Lt Colonel Spicer) There are 12 permanent employees,
but there is a vetted database of approximately 150.
2 See Evidence, pp Ev 13 to Ev 14, paragraph 6. Back