Tuesday, November 3, 1998 Published at 16:32 GMT
MPs demand answers on arms-to-Africa
Tim Spicer: "I believed what we were doing was within the law"
The Foreign Affairs Committee wanted to know who knew what and when about a UN-sanctions busting arms shipment made to Sierra Leone during a coup earlier this year.
Both Colonel Tim Spicer, head of the mercenary company Sandline International, and the British High Commissioner in Sierra Leone at the time of the affair, Peter Penfold, made it clear they had not immediately realised importing arms into the country meant breaking the law.
MPs demanded to know how the arms shipment supplied by Sandline International reached Sierra Leone despite the fact that such a delivery was in contravention of UN sanctions and UK law.
Democratically-elected President Kabbah had been deposed by the junta. Although the international community had been anxious to see a resolution to the crisis, it had hoped it could be done peacefully.
Officials were told
Mr Spicer insisted he had made his plans to use force in Sierra Leone perfectly clear to government officials at two key meeting in December 1997 and January 1998.
"At no stage was it pointed out to me, as has been stated in the past, that we went through [the UN resolution] line by line. Nor was there a red letter warning that what we were going to do was in some way illegal."
Mr Spicer's mercenary company was partly responsible for restoring President Kabbah to power in Sierra Leone in March this year.
Mr Spicer then firmly defended the actions of his company in restoring President Kabbah to power.
He said: "There comes a point, and a number of people realised it over Sierra Leone, where diplomacy was definitely not working and in this case the junta was making mockery of the diplomatic process and doing unspeakable things to its own people.
Mr Spicer also described a discussion with Foreign Office officials about how to supply night vision equipment from the UK in a way that circumvented lengthy export procedures.
Penfold: 'No regrets'
Mr Penfold told the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee that: "I personally have no regrets on what I did.
"I had no doubt at all that everything I did was being done properly in fulfilment of legal requirement and fulfilment of British government policy."
Referring back to Sir Thomas Legg's inquiry, she demanded to know if it was true that Mr Penfold had never read the UN resolution properly.
She said: "Don't you think it would have been better if you had read it?"
Mr Penfold replied that he had read the document but said it did not change his assumptions that the embargo only applied to the opponents of President Kabbah.
He also said he had kept Foreign Office ministers well informed of developments within the African state.
He said: "It seemed to me that I was keeping them well informed."