A French citizen, Jean-Jacques
Fuentes, is being tried in Malta for smuggling a Strikemaster warplane to Ivory
Coast in 2003. Fuentes has been hired by Ivory Coast as a flight instructor in
2002, the year in which civil war broke out in the country. An arms embargo was
placed on Ivory Coast, and Fuentes was offered an undisclosed amount of money
to get more combat aircraft for the government forces. The two seat
Strikemaster is a British made jet trainer that can also be equipped with up to
1.3 tons of weapons (machine-guns, bombs and rockets). The 5.2 ton aircraft
Fuentes bought in Britain had been "demilitarized" (the attachment points for
weapons, and weapons related electronics removed) The Strikemaster was
manufactured from 1967 to 1984, and there are dozens of them still in use.
Fuentes flew the Strikemaster from
Britain, and stopped in Malta to refuel while flying it to Ivory Coast. That
stop in Malta gave Malta jurisdiction, and when Fuentes was arrested in France,
he was extradited to Malta.
Once in Ivory Coast, the Strikemaster was used for
reconnaissance. It was spotted by French peacekeepers, identified, and the sale
was traced to Fuentes. A lot of weapons smuggling is done this way, with a
government official passing some cash, and a suggested wish list, to some guy
who says he has connections back home. Increasingly, though, arms deals are
being arranged via private web sites (password needed to enter).