Experts and MPs are critical and fear that Dutch defense weapons could end up in the wrong hands. Confidential documents, in the hands of freelance journalist Dieuwertje Kuijpers, show that Defense sold a batch of weapons to a private individual in May and June. These include 800 semi-automatic weapons of the MP5 type, worth 168,000 euros. In addition, a batch of small arms, Glocks, was also sold.
The buyer is a Dutch company with which the Ministry of Defense does business more often and is run by former defense employees. According to the Ministry of Defense, the buyer is a Dutch company, a ‘trusted supplier’. The sale is ‘a routine sale’ of weapons that are ‘surplus or surplus’, a spokesman said.
Weapons now on sale in Malta
The semi-automatic weapons, the MP5s, are now for sale on the site of a weapons store in Malta, at the Lock, Stock & Barrel arms trade. Malta advertises on Facebook with photos of Dutch Glocks. “The Maltese arms dealer advertises Dutch government weapons that he has obtained on an exclusive basis”, says freelance journalist Dieuwertje Kuijpers. “The serial numbers correspond to the serial numbers of the contract.”
The ministry did not sell the weapons directly to the Maltese merchant, but it went through brokers. This means that Defense does not know who the end user is. “If they have gone from the Ministry of Defense from broker to broker to Malta, you no longer have any idea of it.”
Usually destroyed or sold to the supplier
Typically, old weapons are destroyed, returned to the manufacturer, or sold to a trusted ally so that Defense knows who the ultimate user is. In the case of very old weapons, museums or associations are an option. A shop that sells to private individuals is anything but common. Defense has ‘no view of further sales or resale’ and that is exactly what makes brokering so risky, experts say.
“With firearms you want to make sure that it does not end up in the wrong hands”, says Frank Slijper, expert on arms trade at the peace organization PAX. “In almost all cases, weapons of this type are destroyed, precisely because there is a great risk that they end up in the wrong hands.” According to Slijper, ‘the area between legal and illegal trade is quickly shadowy’ and thus ‘there is also a great risk that these weapons will end up in the illegal circuit’.
Room not informed
The House of Representatives has not been informed about the sale. According to Slijper, ‘Defense is violating the agreement previously made with the House of Representatives: namely that the House is informed about surplus equipment’.
In the past, the House was informed about the sale of some consignments of weapons, for example in 2011, says Kuijpers. “That concerned a consignment of weapons that might go to Kenya, the House said at the time: we will put a stop to that, precisely because it concerned light weapons that are difficult to trace.”
CDA and SP critical
The House of Representatives reacts critically to the sale. “I find it incomprehensible”, says CDA member of parliament Chris van Dam. “It’s an undesirable deal,” said SP MP Sadet Karabulut. “I assumed that these kinds of batches were destroyed to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.”
According to Defense, the buyer must adhere to all strict rules that apply to arms trade. “The Dutch contracting party is bound by various laws and regulations, both nationally and internationally,” said a spokesperson.
‘Chamber did not need to be informed’
The House also did not need to be informed, says Defense, because the weapons are not ‘main weapon systems’. According to this reading, the House of Representatives only needs to be informed when fighter planes, frigates or armored vehicles are sold, not when it puts weapons on display under these systems.
But the MPs think differently about this: “In this case I would have liked to be informed”, says Van Dam. “Then I would have thought: you shouldn’t do this.” According to Karabulut, ‘everything that Defense sells must be reported to the Lower House’.
Special Committee Approval
The ministry has announced that a special official committee has approved the sale. The Defense Materiel Sales Committee (CVDM) includes officials from the relevant ministries, such as Defense, Foreign Affairs and Finance. The political top of the Ministry of Defense, Minister Bijleveld and State Secretary Visser were not informed in advance about the sale.
CDA member of parliament Van Dam thinks ‘that Defense should buy back and destroy the weapons’, to prevent Dutch defense weapons from unexpectedly falling into the wrong hands.
Error in answer to parliamentary questions
In the summer, the CDA had already asked parliamentary questions when the first advertisements appeared on the Maltese website. Defense then replied to parliamentary questions that the buyer is ‘an official sales agent of weapons manufacturer Heckler & Koch’. That is a mistake because another company is the official sales agent.
The answers to parliamentary questions are indeed incorrect, Defense now admits. “It has been wrongly stated that the company is an official sales agent.” According to the defense spokesperson, the buyer is ‘a trusted supplier’ who regularly supplies goods to Defense.
Part of the deal was also the sale of 9 machine guns of the M2 .50 type. These weapons are museum pieces: they are machine guns of 80 years old, from the period 1940 to 1945.
According to Defense, they have ‘a cultural-historical value’ and the machine guns are unusable.