North Korea was the supplier of a cache of defective weapons sold to Burundi’s army by a Ukrainian firm, said Western diplomats familiar with the case that has riled Burundi’s anti-corruption body.
The weapons deal with Burundi appeared to be a violation of the international ban on North Korean weapons exports, which the UN Security Council imposed on Pyongyang in June 2009 after its second nuclear test, the diplomats said on condition of anonymity.
The case involved the supply of about 60 Chinese-made .50 caliber machine guns to Burundi by a Ukrainian firm called Cranford Trading, the diplomats said.
The weapons, which were defective, were sold to the firm by North Korea, they added.
Diplomats say Pyongyang continues to try to skirt the arms embargo. Last year South Africa informed the Security Council’s sanctions committee about a seizure of North Korean arms bound for central Africa.
The expanded sanctions were aimed at cutting off North Korea’s arms sales, a vital export that was estimated to earn the destitute state more than US$1 billion a year.
Some facts about the Burundi weapons deal became known late last year when the country’s anti-corruption watchdog went public about irregularities it found. It said that the arms had been defective and that Burundi had been overcharged.
A report on a state audit of the deal concluded that Cranford Trading provided Burundi’s army defective military material with the complicity of former Burundi defense minister Germain Niyoyanka, army chief Godefroid Niyombare and his deputy Diomede Ndegeya.
The auditors’ report said that the bidding offer was US$3.075 million, while the amount in the contract was for US$3.388 million. A further US$1.186 million was paid in transport fees, even though such fees were not agreed in the contract.
The auditors concluded that the defense ministry had spent a great deal of money on defective material and recommended the prosecution of all people involved on suspicion of graft.
North Korea was not mentioned in the auditors’ report.
Several officials at Burundi’s UN mission in New York declined to comment when contacted by reporters.
“The weapons were transferred by China to North Korea, which then sold them to Cranford,” a diplomat said, adding that the official documentation for the deal had been incomplete.
“There was no certificate of origin of the weapons, which is necessary to comply with international conventions,” the diplomat added.
Another diplomat confirmed the remarks.