UK Loopholes Enabling UAE and Ukraine to Violate South Sudan Arms Embargo
A report released by Amnesty International yesterday has revealed how UK shell companies are acting as key intermediaries for illicit international arms deals to South Sudan and other countries with poor human rights records due to “glaring gaps in UK company regulation” that the British government have been aware of for the last eight years.
Documents obtained by Amnesty International have identified that a UK shell company named 'S-Profit Ltd' was used as a “supplier” in a 2014 deal brokered between the Ukraine and the UAE to export $46m (£34m) of weapons to the UN arms embargoed South Sudanese government.
This formed part of wider deal between the UAE based International Golden Group and the Ukrainian state-owned arms exporter, Ukrinmash to purchase $169m (£125m) of weapons on behalf of the South Sudanese government, in direct contravention to the Arms Trade Treaty to which both country's are signatories.
On investigation, Amnesty found that the director of 'S-Profit Ltd' to be a Ukrainian national living outside of the UK. Commenting on the findings, Amnesty's James Lynch said that “glaring gaps in UK company regulation mean a dealer of illicit arms can go online and set up a UK company to front its activities with fewer checks than joining a gym or hiring a car.
He continued “The UK must urgently review its company registration procedures – right now it provides the perfect conditions to become a hotspot for the kind of irresponsible arms transfers that have devastated South Sudan.”
In a damning indictment of the current UK administration, the report goes on to show how the British government have been aware of these regulatory gaps for the last eight years, and yet have so far taken no action against the companies involved.
Amnesty's findings suggest that the UK government have known about the use of UK shell companies to illegally export weapons to not only South Sudan, but also to Syria and Eritrea in the last few years. Despite having the powers under UK company and insolvency law to do so, the British government has so far taken no action to wind up or take legal action against 'S-Profit Ltd'.
This report is further illustration of the often hazy networks of relations that constitute British and Emirati ties. A report produced last year by the UK based NGO War On Want found that British staff from the UK College of Policing had been training Emirati security forces on techniques explicitly dealing with public disorder and internal dissent, and that in October 2015 the UK government spent £12,000 of taxpayer's money encouraging British companies to attend the Emirates Security Exhibition and Conference in Dubai.
Furthermore, between 2012 and 2016 the UAE was listed as the world’s third largest importer; during this period, the UK licensed around £350m worth of arms for export to the UAE. At the same time, the UAE have become increasingly dismissive towards international treaties, human rights law and UN conventions. As well as violating arms embargo's on South Sudan, it has been reported that in recent years the UAE have contravened Arms Trade Treaties by exporting weaponry to Libya, Syria, and Iraq. UN reports have also suggested that the Emirati state may be committing war crimes in Yemen, where they hold a significant naval, ground and air presence.
These recent findings by Amnesty International is yet another example of the immorality that underlies the UK's relationship with the United Arab Emirates where opaque networks of relations facilitate contraventions to international law that manifest in appalling human rights violations. It is imperative that future relations between the British government and the UAE are not only conducted in an environment of transparency and accountability, but that crucially, these ties have at their forefront a respect for international law and human rights legislation.
- For the Amnesty International report on the matter, please see https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/09/uk-amnesty-exposes-illicit-us-46m-south-sudan-arms-deal-brokered-under-governments-nose/ and https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/act30/7115/2017/en/
- For the recent War on Want report regarding the British College of Policing, please see http://www.waronwant.org/resources/arming-repression-new-british-imperialism-persian-gulf#overlay-context=media/new-report-uk-government-accused-%25E2%2580%2598arming-repression%25E2%2580%2599-persian-gulf