Saturday, May 13, 2017

Serbian arms to Syria via Saudi Arabia

By Blic newspaper

Zastava Arms "has information that the machine gun from its production was on the Syrian battlefield, but the weapon was sent to Syria already is a certain amount legally exported to Saudi Arabia, told to Radio Free Europe Milojko Brzaković, general manager of the Kragujevac factory" Zastava arms ".

Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the Project for the Research of crime and corruption (OCCRP) published a study of how, in their opinion, a load of heavy machine guns crossed the road from the Serbian state factory in Kragujevac, through the Bulgarian arms dealer and the camp for training in Saudi Arabia to Syrian rebels, reports Radio Free Europe.

- We are in the export of machine guns 'coyote' concluded an agreement with the company BIEM from Bulgaria, and 'end-user' certificate, which marks the end-user, was in Saudi Arabia. We received an export license from the government of Serbia and weapons delivered. We have information that some of these weapons found in the Syrian market, even refurbished pieces. Not in factory form, but this is our machine gun 'coyote' premounted on a podium erected that does not look like what is produced - said Brzaković.

There is no prohibition sources in Saudi Arabia

As mentioned by BIRN and OCCRP machine gun "coyote" (M02 Coyote), has recently been observed in the photos on social networks of fighters from the Syrian front, where he was flown 6,000 kilometers during 2015 and 2016 ended up in the possession of the Free Syrian Army.

The Ministry of Trade and Tourism of Serbia concerning the allegation of weapons from Serbia, which ended with the Syrian rebels, stated that there is no ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia and that the Ministry considers sufficient guarantee of the original certificate of the end user issued and endorsed by the authorized body of the country, including and the statement "that the goods will not be re-exported without the written consent of" the competent authorities of Serbia.

The Ministry of Trade and Tourism for BETA state that licenses to export weapons issued in accordance with the law, and upon approval of the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Security Information Agency.

In written responses to questions the agency Beta, the Ministry stated that in 2013 seized one license for export to Saudi Arabia and on the basis of subsequent security information and knowledge, and rejected four requests, also on the basis of security information.

"Exports to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not prohibited by any official act of the UN Security Council, a body of the European Union or any other international organization. The largest number of EU countries (Germany, France, Italy), as well as the US exported weapons and military equipment to this country in significant quantities and values, "said the Ministry.

Miranda Patrucic, editor in OCCRP-in, told Radio Free Europe that similar things with weapons from the Balkans to Saudi Arabia repeated, and that is one of the main problems is that the country of origin often do not check whether there is a possibility that the user to weapons diverted on.

- If there is any doubt that guns could to finish somewhere other than in the country as indicated on the 'end-user' certificate, the authorities have to stop and not to grant such a delivery. Serbia is 2013, was issued a permit for the export of arms to Saudi Arabia but has subsequently decided to withdraw it. Because it was thought that there is a strong possibility that these weapons end up in Syria - says Patrucic.

Serbia only since 2015, re-exported weapons to Saudi Arabia, a time "coyotes" in Kragujevac that mention BIRN and OCCRP coincides, as stated, with the knowledge of their previous research in which he revealed the central role of Saudi Arabia to supply Syrian rebels with weapons from former eastern bloc.

Milojko Brzaković, the head of company "Zastava arms", precisely for RSE claims that by Serbia there is no question of violation.

- Certificate of end-user authorize the United Nations, on the basis of that document to the Government of Serbia submitted the request for export. Only after obtained an export license we can not close our contracts and we start with the delivery of our products. At that moment cease any responsibility us as factories and the state of Serbia. The responsibility is on the end user where will it end weapons. We after that it can not control - notes Brzaković.

Lucrative trade in the first place

The reports mentioned research organizations stated that the Bulgarian company BIEM 2015 of "Zastava Arms" ordered a large quantity of arms worth 2.75 million euros, and would state that this figure corresponded to the value of a little more than 200 heavy machine guns Kragujevac "coyote", because individual traders naružanjem estimate that it is the price per share 12,000 euros.

"It seems that is probably all 205 machine guns sold Riyadh, although for any further export any necessary approval of Serbia in Syria illegally shifted Saudi Arabia, which is for their own use or rely on modern, Western weapons," write BIRN and OCCRP.

The report of these research organizations according to the impression that the Balkan governments' Mura on the lucrative trade to Saudi Arabia ".

- The whole problem is that everyone knows that this weapon ends in Syria. The army of Saudi Arabia does not use weapons from the Balkans or, for example, weapons are Russian-made. It has another purpose. Our research has shown that the machine gun "coyote" shown to the soldiers of the Free Syrian Army in training camp in Saudi Arabia. After that these weapons ended up in Syria - says Miranda Patrucic.

The important role of the Bulgarian company BIEM

An important role in the delivery of weapons to Saudi Arabia plays a Bulgarian company BIEM which is, as stated by BIRN and OCCRP, owned by Peter Mandžuka, former co-owner of football club CSKA Sofia, today Bulgaria's leading tycoons who specializes in construction, media and wine production. BIEM is in a written statement addressed to the researchers noted that the company strictly observes the Bulgarian and international laws.

BIRN and OCCRP claim that the roads that have investigated these organizations from several Balkan states, as well as from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, to the Middle East transferred weapons worth 1.2 billion euros and that is all funded resources of Saudi Arabia.

Let there be no doubt in illegal activities, concludes Miranda Patrucic from OCCRP, the simplest is that every country abide by the regulations of the United Nations: "Yes exported weapons really remain in the country where it is sold. If, for example, Serbia held the conclusions adopted by the 2013, then it would not be exported to Saudi Arabia. The other thing which is very profitable business, and of course that all are competing to buy more weapons and sent to Syria. "

Serbian factory: We are working according to the law and procedures

Arms factory in Serbia mostly claim to work absolutely by the law and procedures. Kragujevac-based factory "Zastava Arms" has contracted production for 2017 and 2018. Military weapons, under the auspices of the United Nations, sales in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

- These are specific products that are under special control of the state of Serbia. Never came to get approval for the export of weapons, for example, the countries that are under sanctions of the United Nations. We can not embroider any spare part, let alone weapons, no "end-user" certificates, as it must to know when the end user - said in a statement to RSE Milojko Brzaković, director of "Zastava Arms".

In addition to the military, the Kragujevac factory successfully exported and hunting and sporting weapons that is popular for decades and is very popular throughout Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia.

Ministry of Trade stated that in 2015 issued a total of 39 licenses for the export to Saudi Arabia, and that all the permits issued for the same end user - Ministry of Defense of the country, and "based on the original certificate of the end user of issued and certified by the authorized body of the country in which is included the statement 'that the goods will not be re-exported without the written consent of the competent authorities of the Republic of Serbia' 

When it comes to exports of machine guns "Coyote" 12,7x108 mm in Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Commerce said that in 2015 issued one license for the export of such goods to the company "Zastava arms" Kragujevac for the export of 550 pieces of this weapon, of which realized export 205 pieces (150 pieces in 2015 and 55 units in 2016).

The Ministry confirmed the allegations BIRN and OČRP-and that the buyer of the goods was a Bulgarian company BIEM, noting that the "end user Ministry of Defense of the Kingdom of Judicial Arabia".

"A relevant deliveries submit a notarized certificate that such a delivery is confirmed by the end user of the goods-Ministry of Defense of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This certificate, with the previously attached declaration that the goods will not be re-exported without the consent of the Republic of Serbia represents a sufficient guarantee", explained in the relevant ministry.

When asked how they think the future prevent possible abuses in the export of weapons, the competent state that "The Ministry, in addition to the aforementioned requirement concerning a certificate of delivery of goods and verification of certificates the end user, there is no legal jurisdiction for other measures in the field of prevention of abuse in the store and redirection weapons to other undeclared destinations. "