Takeover fears, not stifling journalists, sent Heckler & Koch to military intelligence | News | DW | 17.05.2015
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Takeover fears, not stifling journalists, sent Heckler & Koch to military intelligence

German weapons manufacturer Heckler & Koch turned to Germany's military counterintelligence agency amid fears of a possible corporate takeover in 2013. The company is one of the most successful gunmakers in the world.

Heckler & Koch (HK) used a Defense Ministry go-between to ask Germany's counterintelligence service, MAD, to look into negative press coverage in 2013, the company announced. HK higher-ups reportedly wanted to know who was responsible for negative press coverage amid worries of a hostile takeover. MAD reportedly refused the requests.

The Sunday edition of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has reported that in the summer of 2013 HK officials had become suspicious that a group of intelligence officers and foreign investors aimed to take over the company.

That year, the media began to look deeper into accusations from 2010 that HK's G36 rifle - the Bundeswehr standard and popular with militaries worldwide - did not shoot straight when it gets too hot, either because of weather conditions or excessive firing. The Bundeswehr had made its last mass G36 purchase in 2005. The scandal has since roped in Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, the defense minister at the time the news broke, and Ursula von der Leyen, his replacement at defense. Von der Leyen said the G36 in its current form has "no future" in the Bundeswehr.

In 2013, reports also emerged that HK illegally sold thousands of guns to Mexican states officially under an export ban since 2010 because of corrupt police forces. Officials discovered some of the guns in Iguala, a town in the state of Guerrero where police allegedly abducted 43 students last year and turned them over to gang members who are thought to have murdered them.

HK has dismissed two executives whom officials claim had acted alone in facilitating the illegal exports, but prosecutors in Stuttgart continue to investigate whether more may have known. Last week, authorities in the northern Mexico state of Chihuahua said they would returning about 2,100 HK assault rifles to federal authorities.

'Fine watchmaking'

Headquartered in the state of Thüringen, HK employs 700 people and likens its engineering to "fine watchmaking."

Using forced labor, its predecessor company produced 70,000 rifles monthly for the Nazis. US Navy SEALs reportedly used its HK416 assault rifle to kill Osama bin Laden in 2011.

HK could now, however, slip into the red amid new restrictions on weapons exports, a once reliable cash cow. Expected revenue for the year is a mere 150 million euros ($220 million) - down from a previously projected 235 million euros. To make up the shortfall, officials have floated an expansion into the US civilian firearms market, focusing on pistols, however, rather than assault rifles owing to mass shootings in the country.

mkg/sms (Reuters, AP, dpa)