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Pietz, Tobias, Rebekka Edelmann, and Elvan Isikozlu. 2006 ‘Illicit Small Arms Transfers.’ SALW [small arms and light weapons] Survey of Croatia; Section 2.5, pp. 11-12. Belgrade: South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SEESAC) / Bonn International Center for Conversion. 1 November

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Illicit Small Arms Transfers

Recently, the international media and also Amnesty International were especially critical about the transfer of weapons from Bosnia and Herzegovina through the territory of Croatia. Almost 300,000 AK47s and 64 million rounds of ammunition were exported from Bosnia and Herzegovina between June 2004 and July 2005 - the biggest arms export in Europe since the Second World War. The majority of these were sent to Iraq, but Amnesty International believes that up to 90,000 were bought by dealers in the UK, Germany and Switzerland through a Croatian broker who also performs business for the US Department of Defence. According to Amnesty International, that broker is the Zagreb-based Scout Company, which steered the arms transfer from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Iraq through the southern Croatian port of Ploce. EUFOR and OSCE sources believe that Scout played a key role in the early phases of the transfer, but Croatian officials did not come across anything illegal with respect to that transfer.

Another incident that displays a continuing lack of control of military transfers was the 'loan' of rockets to Macedonia in 2001. In this case, over 5,000 128mm rockets for a multiple rocket launcher system were exported on a loan to Macedonia, but were never returned. Officially, the rockets were still in the books as being kept in storage in Croatia, though many people at the military knew that they were gone. The situation was revealed when the rockets were claimed 'missing' to the MoD and General Staff by an officer not involved in the secret deal in 2006. The media then discovered that the rockets were actually sold through the Alan Agency to Macedonian companies, and that both the minister and the chief of cabinet had actually signed off on the transfer from different storage sites. The exact amount of money earned by the Alan Agency and others for this transfer are still not known, but are currently being investigated.

Besides this case, smuggled small arms from Croatia have made it into the international news several times in recent years. For example, reports indicate that arms have been smuggled to the Real IRA, the Basque terrorist organization ETA, and to organized crime groups in the UK. While unproven, arms were also allegedly transported to Palestine through Croatian ports. Numerous recently reported cases of arms cache discoveries and arrests of dealers and smugglers by the Croatian police and USKOK suggest that the illegal arms trade continues to be an important problem in the country. Besides the aforementioned discovery of the illegal factory and smuggling ring, USKOK seized a large amount of weapons and arrested 11 people for smuggling in July 2005, as well as four Montenegrins who tried to smuggle 208 tons of explosives from the port of Rijeka in May 2005.

One of the most disturbing incidents regarding the illegal arms trade in Croatia are the charges against the former owners of HS Produkt, Ivan Zapcic and Marko Vuković, as well as the customs officer Pero Antunovic, for allegedly having exported 3,810 pistols worth 778,410 German Marks in 1998 / 1999. A total of four illegal shipments were revealed: three from the customs office at the airport in Zagreb and one from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Two of the shipments went to the fictitious company Metropolitan Capital Investment in the US, to Liberty Enterprises on the Virgin Islands, and one to a company called G C Ezeth International Ltd. in Nigeria. Weapons from this shipment have been clearly linked to murders in Madrid, Amsterdam, Leeds and London.

Although HS Produkt dismissed the allegations and bad press as the attempts of foreign competitors to harm their business, many interviewees agree there is a lack of transparency and potential for corruption in the whole institutional set-up and oversight of the arms trade, as well as in the companies involved.

[MoD = Ministry of Defense]

ID: Q3625

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