War Profiteer of the Month: Chemring

Activists interrupt a shareholder meeting with a banner that reads "Tear Gas Kills"

Chemring Group is the world's 68th biggest arms company, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The company was formed in 1905, and now employs just under 3,000 people. The companies profits in 2016 came to £8 million before tax.

The company produces munitions, counter measures (flares and decoys offering protection from missiles) and pyrotechnics (such as crowd control products, including smoke grenades, signalling flares and CS gas products). Chemring is the UK military's main supplier of countermeasures and military pyrotechnics. Since 1993, Chemring has acquired several US, German, Italian, Belgian, Norwegian and Australian companies.

The company made substantial profits from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now targets “growth markets” in the Middle East and South America. Gas grenades produced by Chemring were used by Egyptian security forces against pro-democracy protesters in 2011. The company stated that the gas had either been sold to Egypt over a decade ago, or reached the Egyptian military via a third party; either way, this illustrates how the near-impossible task of regulating or controlling how weapons are used once they are built and exported.

It was also revealed that the companies products were used against nonviolent, unarmed democracy protesters in Hong Kong in 2014, in a sale approved by the UK's export licensing system. Phillip Hammond, who was Foreign Secretary at the time, refused to condone the use of the tear gas but said the export was legal, and seemed to argue that if the British company hadn't sold the weapon then someone else would. The British government has also licensed sales from the company to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Jordan and Pakistan.

In 2018, the UK's Serious Fraud Office announced it had opened a criminal investigation into the company, one it's subsidiaries, and individuals associated with the business. The SFO said they will look at "the conduct of business by Chemring Group and CTSL including any officers, employees, agents and persons associated with them", but little more information is available.

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