Murphy's Law: You Too Can Be an Arms Smuggler


June 7, 2007: 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).


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