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EDITIONS
Thursday, 23 May, 2002, 05:06 GMT 06:06 UK
Landmine 'salesman' arrested
Princess Diana
Princess Diana led the campaign against landmines
A senior executive of a British company which offered to sell illegal anti-personnel landmines to a BBC reporter has been arrested.

David Howell, who is the overseas sales manager of PW Defence, was questioned for three hours by Customs and Excise officers.

He was suspended by the firm after offering to sell diplomatic correspondent Andrew Gilligan 500 anti-personnel landmines for 25,000.

After Mr Howell was questioned under caution for three hours PW Defence's parent company, Chemring Group Plc, denied any wrongdoing and said he had not been charged at this stage.

Inquiries continuing

PW Defence's headquarters near Salisbury were raided after Mr Howell offered to sell the landmines to Mr Gilligan, who posed as a oilfield security officer having trouble with trespassers.

Officers seized computers, paperwork and diaries from the offices late last week.

Mr Howell was arrested and interviewed on the same day.

Details of the investigation are contained in paperwork sent to the BBC by Customs and Excise.

A spokesman confirmed that a man had been arrested and the inquiries were continuing.

'Informal visit'

PW Defence said Mr Howell had been "withdrawn from duty" following the BBC investigation.

Derbyshire Police paid an "informal visit" to the company factory - and the share price of parent company Chemring Group Plc fell sharply as a result.

But Chemring has denied the weapons are being manufactured and blamed Mr Howell's comments on his own "confusion".

The landmines are banned under the Ottawa Convention and production and sale is outlawed in the UK under the 1998 Landmines Act.

  • 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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