Former Royal Marine from Wisbech jailed after putting our troops in danger by illegal arms exports plan
A FORMER Royal Marine from Wisbech who put our troops in danger by helping a notorious international arms dealer try to export 100 sniper rifle sights to blacklisted Iran was jailed for two-and-a-half years today.
It was claimed in court that ex Corporal Andrew Faulkner, 41, agreed the exportation while grieving from the death of his 17 year-old rugby-playing son Jack, killed while driving without a seatbelt.
The tragedy affected his thinking, claimed Mr. Nick Bleaney, defending, plus “financial pressures.”
“He became ensnared in an enterprise that has brought shame on him and his family,” said the lawyer.
Southwark Crown Court was told that Faulkner, who protected the media in war zones after quitting the Army in 2000 following 16 years service, tried to trick Customs into believing they were Dubai-bound hunting scopes.
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“These items have an obvious military significance and one of these types of sights was found some years ago in an arms cache in Afghanistan,” Judge Nicholas Lorraine-Smith told him.
“You accept these may be used by militia against armed forces in the Middle-East,” added the Judge.
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“I have no doubt you are deeply ashamed that you put your financial needs ahead of those of your past and future colleagues in the armed forces.”
The company director of Fitten Croft, Farm Cottage, Fitten End, Newton, Wisbech, and formerly of Hollyhock Farm, Dog Drove, Sutton St. James, was arrested after the consignment was seized at Heathrow Airport.
Faulkner pleaded guilty that on February 18, 2009 he was knowingly concerned in the unlawful exportation or attempted exportation of goods, namely optical sights for firearms.
Faulkner, who agreed to export them for Italian Alessandro Bon in exchange for 12,000 Euros, packed 100 high spec German-manufactured Schmidt & Bender sights, worth 124,000 Euros, into seven boxes.
Bon and two other men are currently under investigation in Italy for illegal international arms dealing.
The Italian planned to sell them in Iran for $2,600 each – more then doubling his money.
Prosecutor Mr. David Hewitt told the court: “The Crown’s case is this defendant was responsible for the arrangement of exporting optical sights from the UK to Iran via Dubai.
“The exportation of military items is controlled, but licences can be applied for,” added the prosecutor.
“The reason is military equipment is not sent to countries or users this country has concerns about to minimise the risk of military equipment being deployed against allied forces.”
Optical sights of 5x’s magnification are on the military list.
The Iran-bound scopes had a magnification of 3-12x’s and were described by Mr. Hewitt as: “military and police marksman grade.”
There are also United Nations sanctions banning such trade with Iran.
“These restrictions are therefore applied more strictly, reflecting the general undesirable nature of trade with that country.”
Faulkner’s role was vital because Bon – who previously bought 900 such sights – knew exportations from the UK to Dubai were treated with less suspicion and helped legitimise his business.
Faulkner denied a prosecution suggestion he was a Royal Marines sniper instructor, claiming his expertise was underwater, earning him a six-month Dubai contract in 2006 with Peacekeeper International.
He worked for the wealthy as a bodyguard, protected BBC correspondents in Afghanistan and had a modest business selling body armour to the media.
Faulkner was arrested on February 23 and charged at Snow Hill Police Station, City of London on September 1 and initially he denied the scopes were Iran-bound.
Judge Lorraine-Smith conceded Faulkner’s judgement was “clouded” by the death of his son, but told him: “You were the front man, your name and address was on the documents.
“You were prepared to do this for twelve thousand Euros.”
Malcolm McHaffie of the CPS Central Fraud Group said after the case: “Arms dealers are well-aware of the risks of sending military hardware to countries where there can be no assurance of how it will be used or who will use it. “There is a real danger of such items falling into the wrong hands. Mr Faulkner knew these scopes were military-grade and that their ultimate destination was Iran, but he went ahead with the sale just to earn his fee. Lives could have been put at risk by his selfish and reckless behaviour.”