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The Iraqi weapons program benefited from German help, according to prosecutors.Image: AP

German Firms Face Iraq Arms Trade Probe

September 27, 2003

Following a scoop by the Hamburg magazine Stern, German law enforcement is investigating four firms for illegal arms trading with Iraq while the country was under a U.N. embargo.


Germany's customs investigators confirmed this week that they raided the offices of four German companies suspected of providing technology and material for Iraq's secret weapons program.

The companies, located in four small cities in southern Germany, are accused of delivering the equipment to Iraq through other countries in 2000. The Customs Office said the evidence came from the magazine Stern, which turned over documents found in archives of the Bashair Trading Company, allegedly the center of Saddam Hussein's weapons acquisition program in Baghdad.

Alongside German companies, firms in Poland, Russia, South Korea, even the United States evaded the United Nations-imposed embargo on Iraq, according to the documents. The weapons embargo forbade companies from trading with Iraq but some continued to do so, risking serious sanctions.

Investigators seized files and computers from the headquarters of the companies KSB AG in Bavaria, Katex Textilien GmbH in Hesse, and MEA Machinery and MEA International North Rhine Westphalia.

No WMD parts delivered

KSB allegedly delivered six chemical pumps, ordered in December 2000 and delivered into Iraq through Jordan. Katex delivered 80 acid pumps in April 2000, through a Jordanian firm. The remaining two companies delivered precision lasers, ordered in September 2000, to Baghdad via a Turkish company. The companies however didn't deliver parts to nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, according to the Stern report.

Investigators say that in some cases it is still unclear if the company's executives were aware of the weapons trade. But Stern recovered one document from an MEA executive that praised the partnership between his firm and Iraq.

Germany has long enjoyed a reputation for high-quality and sophisticated products in the Arab world and Hussein's search for hi-tech weapons and durable parts invariably led him to it during the course of his rule. Since the U.N. imposed the embargo on Iraq following Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, numerous German firms have come under investigation for illicit trade with the rogue state.

In the months leading up to the United States' military invasion in March 2003, a weapons dossier released by the Iraqi government named 80 German firms said to have worked with the country in developing its weapons program. The illegal arms trade continued all the way up until 2001, according to the dossier.

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