Friday, 20 July 2018

Arms broker convicted over sale of fighter jets to Ghana

A MAN from Shiplake has been convicted of illegally promoting the sale of Chinese fighter jets to Ghana.

A MAN from Shiplake has been convicted of illegally promoting the sale of Chinese fighter jets to Ghana.

Christopher McDowell, 55, of Badgers Walk, was found guilty of two charges of breaching the trade in controlled goods by a jury at Guildford Crown Court on Monday.

As the verdicts were announced, the former racing driver bowed his head and there were gasps from members of his family in the public gallery.

McDowell was due to be sentenced yesterday (Thursday) after Judge Christopher Critchlow had heard from character witnesses.

He was convicted of being knowingly concerned in the supply, delivery, transfer, acquisition or disposal of controlled goods with intent to evade the prohibition thereon, which is prohibited by the Trade in Goods (Control) Order 2003.

An export control licence must be obtained by a British subject for controlled goods, even if the shipment is from one foreign country to another, without even touching British soil.

McDowell was acting as an agent for the China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation in Ghana and was involved in the country’s bid to replace its obsolete, grounded fighter force between 2005 and 2007.

The jury heard that the arms broker had applied for a licence for the multi- million dollar deal involving the K8 jets but it was too late as two had already been shipped and he had received his first payment.

McDowell denied knowingly breaking the rules, claiming that he had “lost control” of the deal and been marginalised by the two countries’ governments.

He said the delivered jets had been for a special flypast in Ghana and they were moved without his knowledge.

McDowell, who has 25 years’ experience in the business, said he could not apply for the licence until he had the full specification for the planes and he did apply within a few days of receiving the 197-page document.

He arranged for delegations to go between the countries but said that although he was involved in the preliminary discussions he was sidelined as the two parties began working more closely together.

He said a previous deal to sell helicopters to Ghana had been allowed and on that occasion he had bought the helicopters and then sold them on. It was during that deal that he learned of the country’s fighter shortage.

The court heard that McDowell earns up to £100,000 a year, which he reinvests in his company, Wellfind.

He separated from his wife of 25 years two years ago and has grown-up children.

Neil Saunders, for McDowell, said his client employed a small number of people in Africa whose lives would be badly affected if he was sent to prison.

McDowell had resigned as a Catic agent before he was even charged and had since only dealt in civilian goods.

Mr Saunders told the judge: “From the moment we first came before you I have argued that these are technical matters.

“I have never been aware of a case where proceedings have been brought in the public interest where a licence has in fact been subsequently granted.”

The judge had already cleared McDowell and his partner John Charlesworth, from Aldgate in Lincolnshire, of illegally promoting arms sales in war-torn Sudan.

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