An arms sales watchdog accuses the UK of refusing to act in time to prevent a huge and highly-suspicious Saudi-bound ammunitions consignment.
The consignment involved 30 million rounds of ammunition – including 13,492,927 bullets for AK-47 assault rifles and 3,063,276 rounds of sniper ammunition, The Guardian reported on Sunday.
Back in 2014, two British arms dealers asked the British Department for International Trade (DIT) to approve their sales of the Bosnian-made rounds to Saudi Arabia.
The DIT took 14 months to examine the request, despite normally processing such applications within 20 days. It eventually rejected it under the European Union and domestic arms export licensing criteria, which allow rejection of such applications if they seek to export arms to sanctioned countries or where there is suspicion that the arms could end up in the wrong hands.
The brokers finally dispatched the ammunitions to Saudi Arabia in two consignments through Bosnia.
Now, the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) monitoring group has questioned why Britain did not exercise the promptness, which is expected of it in the process, the paper wrote.
BIRN says Britain took too long to examine the application, and failed to notify Bosnia about it, given that the ammunitions are made by the Balkan state’s arms manufacturers.
It said suspicions came after it was established that the Saudi military does not use AK-47 assault rifles, and therefore the 13 million bullets for the machineguns could be diverted to “proxy fighters.”
“Experts in the international arms trade say the UK likely suspected the bullets would end up in the hands of Saudi proxies in Syria or Yemen,” the report said.
“Even more worrying are the concerns raised by some watchdogs, including Amnesty International, about the leaky nature of US and Saudi arms pipelines into Syria, meaning some military hardware has found its way to extremists including ISIS (Daesh),” it added.
Saudi Arabia is accused of arming Takfiri terrorist groups, whose mentality is informed by the kingdom’s radical Wahhabi ideology.
London is already the target of strong criticism from rights groups for its multibillion-pound arms sales to Saudi Arabia, during the kingdom’s 2015-present war on Yemen.
More than 14,000 people have died since the beginning of the war, which seeks to restore Yemen’s former Riyadh-backed officials.