Denmark helps dictators
to arms

When the pirates attack, there is often plenty of weapons on Danish ships - because they are the transported cargo.

By Tom Vilmer Paamand - March 2011

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Systematic Danish companies armed Saddam Hussein, and also built grenade factories and military bases to other Middle East dictators who had their tanks, ammunition and Kalashnikov rifles supplied by Danish ships. And arms factories could just reach to fill the order books before the Middle East's public squares were again filled with protests against the dictators.

The 24ende February 2011 ended the region's largest arms fair IDEX, The International Defence Exhibition and Conference. The fair was held again this year in the United Arab Emirates, where generals from the Middle East and North Africa could look at the latest military gear in great performances by land, sea and air.

From Denmark participated Composhield, Covidence, Metrics Simulation, Seqtor, Reson, and Systematic. Composhield produces protective panels for military vehicles. Covidence specializes in tiny cameras. Metric Simulation designs 3D simulators for synthetic training environments. Reson develops sonar equipment for warships and submarines. Seqtor develops electronic surveillance equipment. Systematic is military software solutions and surveillance equipment.

Surveillance equipment is in high demand when populations are kept low - and Danes are good at monitoring and surveillance. Former chief police inspector Kaj Vittrup was head of various humanitarian police missions in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Sudan. Now he is working with border control in Saudi Arabia, employed by the private security firm EADS.

Grenades to Gaddafi

U.S. continues to give arms aid worth billions to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries - and Israel. EU countries have sold efficiently, also to Gaddafi, since the embargo was lifted in 2004. Denmark participated in the production of F-16 fighter jets, and the contributions from Danish factories is therefore in the U.S. fighter aircraft sold to problematic countries such as Bahrain, Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia - and Egypt got three old Hercules transport aircrafts from Denmark in 2004. Earlier Saddam Hussein's Iraq also got good help, before the U.S. decided the dictator had become too strong and needed to be disarmed through an invasion. Before that also Danish firms skillfully armed Saddam Hussein with warships and bunkers worth billions, but the rest of Middle East dictators also got their share.

Danish companies rarely supplies finished weapons, but parts for others to put into arms, and there are some control over exports. According to the recent Danish report on arms exports, Danish aircraft components for Lebanon were rejected, even though the trade was channeled through Portugal. Syria has in 2009 received various unspecified "dual use" products, ie highly specialized products that can also be used for civilian purposes. Earlier, exports to eg Iran, Israel, Libya, Qatar and Syria have been permitted, but in 2009 there was refusal for Egypt, Libya and Israel.

The few refusals have not prevented Denmark from building a large arms industry and the state are happy to give export assistance to Danish companies, who want to find customers in the military market. The Danish Queen's recent visit to Bahrain can be seen in this light, but previous visits have been far more aggressive in marketing, and the result has been lucrative. Danish companies have sold everything from military boots to landmines and warships - and built military bunkers, ports and airfields in the Middle East for billions. Construction firm Christiani & Nielsen, who has a spotted past working with both Nazi Germany and the apartheid regime in South Africa, built in 1979 an entire naval base for Libya.

DISA from AP Moller Group built in the '80s foundry plants for Iraq and Libya. The type was very suitable for weapons production and cost at that time about 30 million Euros. The Libyan factory in Rabta produced grenade shells and was build right next to a poison gas factory by Danish technicians - the last ones left Libya in 1992. The unit was not called an arms factory and thus needed no permits from the Danish legislation. The same applies to many other systems, which Danish engineers and technicians have built for the dictators. A full list of such deliveries does not exist.

Danish ship aims on arms

våbenskib Denmark contributes mainly to arms transporting. Earlier to such places as the apartheid regime in South Africa, to African civil wars and the war between Iran and Iraq. And also to the various rebel movements, the IRA in Ireland and the Contras in Nicaragua. Many Danish companies specialize in this. Maritime Administration under the Ministry proposed this in a year 2000-report "Establishing economically sustainable environments for smaller vessels", that these companies should focus on this dangerous but lucrative niche "with a recurring clientele" for "nuclear goods and explosives."

Especially the Gulf War of 1990-91 was very lucrative. Danish shipping companies earned one billion U.S. dollars to transport weapons for the Allies to Saudi Arabia. Danish Prime Minister Poul Schluter could tell, that the Danish economy was booming. When the adventure was over, A.P. Moller got a large American medal, and earned even more by selling some of these old ships to the U.S. Navy. Danish competitors as DFDS, Elite Shipping and Mercandia worked for the British, and were instead harmed by accusation of having inflated the freight rates.

For many years there were attempts to regulate arms racing, and revelations of dubious deliveries to all parties during and especially before the Gulf War led to proposals for an outright ban, which then sometimes could be dispensed. Danish Shipowners' Association were against such a reduction in employment opportunities, and got it initially stopped. The shipping industry is Denmark's second largest export industry and one of Europe's largest - so their words carry weight.

Pirates reveal weapons ships
Information on the many arms transports usually comes to light when there are problems with them. Now in January, Somali pirates hijacked the Danish freighter Leopard outside Oman, and abducted the crew. The ship from the company Shipcraft was loaded with weapons and explosives. The sender is probably the Swedish Bofors arms factory - the recipient is still unknown. A year ago, one of the company officer left prematurely, because of the explosives on board and the dangerous area the ship were bound for.

Pirates are not yet directly on the hunt for a difficult trading with heavy weapons parts, but are instead going for the easy Western hostages on board, where the ransom is secure. Leopard is just the latest on the list of seized weapons transports. In 2007 the Danish coaster Danica White was attack by Somali pirates. Payload at the time of hijacking is unknown, but shortly before the ship had taken a big load of ammunition aboard. The owner Jorgen Folmer had several times previously had strange episodes with his ships with weapons on board.

There are plenty of stories about Danish arms ships from the distant past, but in this overview we settle mostly on the 90s onwards. Previously, special Elite Shipping was known for transportation on the edge of the law. In 1991 another pirate attack exposed that the infested freighter Arctic Sun was full of military equipment for Saudi Arabia - the captain called it "an ugly load. I was glad to be rid of it." The cargo was for the British Defense Ministry.

An Israeli firm helped in 1992 Iran to smuggle parts for American armored vehicles, but the cargo boats from Danish companies Maersk and J. Poulsen Shipping was stopped in Portugal. Svendborg Enterprise is often in these cases, in 1986 with illegal weapons and ammunition from Israel to Iran, and in 1993 with Kalashnikov rifles, explosives and ammunition to Yemen. J. Poulsen Shipping was also involved when an unknown cargo of ammunition to Oman in 2003 was revealed when the Danish merchant ship sank.

Tanks to Syria and Sudan

tank A larger cargo of Russian tanks and spare parts were in 1992 on their way to Syria by the Danish coaster Nadia J. The Danish Justice Department was trying to stop Nordane Shipping's coaster, but was overruled by the City Court. The transport was only disclosed as the ship en route from a port in Poland went aground in Danish waters. Syria got delivery of the tanks, but the company was later convicted of illegal transport - without penalty because of understandable confusion about the rules. Nordane Shipping also like to sail radioactive material.

As Nordane Shipping's attorney explained: "There are plenty of weapons transports through the Danish waters, and had the vessels to ask each time for permission to arms exports, the Ministry would drown in paper work. If you also could be allowed to seize the weapons as you like in this case, Denmark would also drown in tanks and weapons."

Yemen should in 1994 have delivered used South African arms and ammunition through Elite Shipping. Nelson Mandela stopped the trade, partly because of rumors that the final receiver in reality it was the just as war-torn country of Lebanon. The ship was owned by 900 shareholders through Danish Sydbank, and their company Elite Shipping was together with J. Poulsen and AC Ørssleff some of the largest specialists in weapons carriage, known especially from Iran-Contra scandal.

In 1999 Russian tanks were still sailed from Poland, this time by the Danish shipping company CEC Ship Management directly to Sudan, despite the embargo of the European Council. As the director explained, the "end-user declaration is not used in shipping circles." This document should otherwise regulate that cargo does not end up in rogue states. CEC Ship Management sailed official the weapons to Yemen, but the crew unloaded in Sudan. Further transports of tanks were stopped by Danish Intelligence Service. The ship burned and sank the following year under unclear circumstances.

CIA was involved in trying to stop Danish transports of tanks to Sudan, but also in the U.S. Danish shipping people had a good business going. A young Dane from shipping company Shipco Transportation admitted in 1999 the falsifying of customs documents for millions of dollars, in order to sell parts for advanced fighter aircraft and missiles from the U.S. to Iran.

Commerce with out morality

In 2003, several European countries had to give up stopping an arms transfer to Eritrea and Somalia, which were carried by the Danish shipping firm A.C. Ørssleff, with parts of tanks, military vehicles, helmets and telescopic sights. The ship was for five years detained in Holland, but ran away from the port and delivered the equipped to Eritrea. Danish authorities insisted that the operation has not violated Danish law. "There is no morality in it here," explained the director of A.C. Ørssleff. Eritrea was at war with neighboring Ethiopia.

These examples of Danish arms races only enlightens a little of the story - and Denmark is obviously far from alone on the seas. As mentioned there is only publicity on the deals when something goes wrong, and a complete overview is in no way possible. No Danish authorities or organizations - nor the Shipowners Association or Foreign Affairs - keep statistics about this area. All we know is that Danish ships quite unregulated performs a solid part of such transports.

After the many public scandals in 2004, the item was finally acted on politically. Not with a general prohibition, but rather with the opposite solution, a limited list of banned rogue states. Now it is officially forbidden for Danish ships to transport weapons between designated ugly countries. The current list of 18 names includes most of the region at Africa's top: Congo, Ivory Coast, Eritrea, Guinea, Iraq(!), Iran, Lebanon, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Henrik Berlau, president of the Danish Sailors Union, does not give much for the new rules and continues to calls Denmark for "one of the world champions in weapons carriage". The list is only cosmetic, and easy loopholes is such as a foreign subsidiary, delivery to an unblocked neighboring country, mislabeled containers or tinkering with end-user license - and the loopholes being used.

Right now the top of Africa is shaken by popular revolts, and several of "our" dictators has already fallen from the pin. A Danish warship lies in the region to support the fight against Somali pirates. . Other military options are in consideration, to stop piracy, and to help oppressed countries possible move to less authoritarian regimes. One thing is clear - Denmark's role in the area has never been to the people's advantage. Instead, the Danish ships and Danish factories armed dictators to a struggle, which now requires so violent deaths.

United Reporters, November 28, 2012:
Danish Sailor Talks About Ships Full of Guns and Seas Full of Pirates.

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