Weapons manufacturer Heckler & Koch is currently under investigation by German prosecutors for selling weapons to conflict zones in Mexico, ignoring the prohibition issued by the German foreign ministry.
Between 2006 and 2009, Heckler & Koch illegally sent a total of 4,700 G36 assault rifles, worth 4 million euros, into Mexican states of Jalisco, Chiapas, Guerrero and Chihuahua, with no authorization from the German arms control and despite the federal government considering the situation of human rights in these states to be in critical condition, an investigation by the German journal Suddeutsche Zeitung revealed.
Businesses were running smoothly until Mexican authorities asked for replacement parts and mentioned the state of Chiapas, alerting the German foreign ministry to the illegal transaction. They later tried to save the situation, saying they had mentioned Chiapas by mistake, but the prosecutors didn't believe that and now there's a 200-page report on the matter.
The controversy has involved German Ministries of Economy and Foreign Affairs. According to prosecutors, the ministry of economy even illegally informed Heckler und Koch they were being investigated.
German prosecutors called two former managing directors, two former sales managers, a former sales representative and the company's representative in Mexico to testify in a local court in Stuttgart by mid-May, accused of violating laws regarding the sale of military weapons.
Heckler & Koch said they would “make a declaration at the appropriate time.”
The investigation says a man named “Mr. B.”, a Mexican citizen who lives there, was Heckler & Koch's sales representative for years, and used to organize training workshops for security forces:
“They went to the shooting range, tested the new G36 weapons and then went eating at the nearby cantine. The Mexicans were delighted by the German service, the colleagues in Germany were satisfied with the good deal and sent them an email saying 'Good luck in Acapulco',” claimed the investigation.
Mr. B. might be able to travel into Germany to testify in court, as German authorities granted him safe conduct, allowing him to enter the country and testify without being immediately arrested. In a TV program by the ARD, Germany's organization of public broadcasters, Mr. B. had declared that Heckler & Koch had “fucked and abused” him.
“[The case] also tells the story of a typical German dilemma: On the one hand, Germany wants to behave in an exemplary way, on the other hand, Germany would like to earn more money with exports. If both positions contradict each other, then one must cheat,” says Suddeutsche Zeitung's report.
As it was preparing for the start of the “War on Drugs” that has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Mexicans in the last 12 years, the Mexican Ministry of National Defense expressed to Germany its wish to purchase assault weapons for soldiers and police nationwide.
But when Heckler & Koch mentioned the states of Jalisco, Chiapas and Chihuahua, where human rights were being systematically violated by security forces, the German Foreign Ministry expressed concerns.
At the end, both Heckler & Koch and the Mexican authorities decided it would be better to omit mentioning the “troubled states” in order to close the arms deal. Mr. B. asked authorities for new forms and Berlin agreed to the new deal. Finally, the assault rifles were exported to Mexico in February 2006.
German authorities knew Mexico wanted the weapons for conflict areas. They were also aware that once in Mexico, those weapons would be able to reach any region in the country, regardless of their human rights' records. Now, Mexico keeps beating their own record on violent murders every year, with the help of organized crime and abusive security forces.