Via subsidiaries, Rheinmetall AG exports bombs and munitions factories to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where they are used in military conflicts. Production in countries with less stringent export rules helps bypass German laws. A lucrative business.
Somerset West, South Africa: A huge factory secured with high barbed-wire fences and guard towers. Ten years ago, the Düsseldorf-based Rheinmetall AG set up a joint venture with the South African state-owned Denel conglomerate. Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) manufactures bombs and munitions there, along with turnkey armaments factories, mainly for sale to foreign customers. "It employs more than 2,000 people and is growing phenomenally quickly. Some of the facilities have double shifts because they have so many commissions,” explains journalist Guy Martin of the South African news portal DefenceWeb. Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger has stated that sites in countries with less stringent export rules are part of his strategic goal of ensuring freedom from German laws. This has allowed Rheinmetall to sell ammunition factories to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Research also shows that RDM supplied a plant to Egypt - another export transaction that would not be permitted from Germany. The Federal Government's political principles ban the export of weapons and military equipment to countries involved in armed conflict or where armed conflict is imminent. For more than two years, it has been known that RWM Italia, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rheinmetall AG, made bombs used in the war in Yemen. RWM Italia, which is based on Sardinia, recently received a major order worth 411 million euros. All indications point to Saudi Arabia as the buyer, although Rheinmetall's press office refuses to confirm this. In Yemen, the Saudis and their allies are fighting the Houthi rebels in a war that has seen grave violations of international law and human rights on both sides, and cost the lives of thousands of civilians. "Germany plays a role in arms exports, especially to unstable regions where there is conflict or repression, and above all to the Middle East” says arms trade expert Andrew Feinstein. "Germany is thus contributing the violence and brutality of these conflicts.” Last year, the value of Rheinmetall AG shares grew a record 70 percent. This documentary highlights the links between weapons sales, corporate profits, and the death and displacement of civilian populations.