Heckler & Koch found guilty of illegal arms sales to Mexico

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A woman with her face painted as a skeleton takes part in a protest in Mexico, remembering the 43 Mexican students killed
Participants in a protest in Mexico city, remembering the Iguala 43

Arms company Heckler & Koch have been found guilty in a German court of illegally supplying arms to Mexico. Two former employees, were given suspended prison sentences, and the company itself find €3.7m, roughly the total value of the weapons when they were sold. Three other defendents – including former CEOs - were acquitted. The German news website DW described those found guilty as having “largely administrative duties”. The charges were initially pressed by German activist Jürgen Grässlin, who described the not-guilty decision as an example of “two-class justice”.

The case centred on the sale of 4,500 G36 assault rifles, submachine guns and accessories – worth more than €4.1m – to areas of Mexico plagued with gang violence between 2006 and 2009. The weapons are understood to have been used in the 2014 disappearance of Iguala 43 students in the state of Guerrero. H&K was found to have breached Germany’s arms export rules, which ban arms exports to specific regions of Mexico. A key part of the evidence was a post-it note reading "Guerrero has to be taken out", suggesting the company was aware that sending the weapons there would be breaching the export licensing rules.

During the trial, an official from the Economy Ministry – responsible for Germany’s arms export licensing - said that the Ministry saw part of its role as supporting German arms companies, because the same companies also supplied the German military.

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