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Friday, 10 May, 2002, 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
Police to probe landmine 'sales'
Land mines
Landmine sales are outlawed in the UK
MPs have demanded an inquiry into claims that a British company broke the law by producing and offering landmines for sale.

The move follows a report by an undercover reporter from BBC Radio 4's Today programme, who posed as a potential customer.

BBC defence and diplomatic correspondent Andrew Gilligan claims Derbyshire company PW Defence Ltd offered to sell him a type of landmine.

Such weapons are banned under the Ottawa Convention and production and sale is outlawed in the UK under the 1998 Land Mines Act.

The report clearly suggests there should be an immediate police investigation into what are extremely serious allegation

Roger Berry, MP
PW Pains' parent company, the Chemring Group, denies the weapons are still being made and sold in this country.

During a secretly recorded interview, PW Pains regional marketing manager David Howell told Mr Gilligan the grenades were "on the fringes of legality".

Posing as a businessman looking to buy security equipment, he was offered 50 of the devices at a cost of 25,000.

In a statement, Chemring said: "Chemring maintains policies and procedures to ensure compliance with all applicable regulatory requirements, including proper vetting of proposed sales.

Dossier compiled

"Chemring ceased manufacture and sale of this type of trip wire five years ago.

"We subsequently ceased manufacture of this type of fragmentation grenade and the final sale was made in May 1999."

Labour MP Roger Berry, chairman of the Commons Select Committee on Defence Exports, is sending a dossier outlining the claims to Derbyshire police.

Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme, he said: "The Landmines Act was a landmark decision by the UK Government to make it perfectly clear that it would be illegal to produce or export anti-personnel landmines.

"Landmines have been defined as munitions placed under, on or near the ground that are detonated by an individual.

"It seems to me the information presented in the report clearly suggests there should be an immediate police investigation into what are extremely serious allegations."

Andrew Gilligan
Andrew Gilligan: Posed as customer
Derbyshire police confirmed on Friday they were expecting to receive a faxed dossier from Mr Berry.

A police spokesman told BBC News Online: "We will need to look at the dossier and decide whether to carry out an investigation once we have looked through all the papers and see what allegations are being made."

'Damage reputation'

Customs and Excise say they are looking very seriously at the allegations made by the BBC, as it is their responsibility to oversee the export of landmines and the organisation of the international trade in landmines.

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell said: "It is contrary to the spirit, and in my judgment the letter, of the 1998 Landmines Act, which passed through Parliament in a day with all-party support.

"This is now a case for the police and the prosecuting authorities. Failure to act swiftly can only damage the reputation of the UK."

  • In January 2003 PW Defence was cleared by the Crown Prosecution Service and HM Customs & Excise, following a full investigation into claims that it had broken legislation banning the sale of anti-personnel landmines.
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