The Ministry of National Defense (MND) was reprimanded by the Control Yuan yesterday amid an investigation into whether expired munitions were illegally sold to militant groups in the Middle East and Africa.
Speculation about such sales emerged in January after a report by the Chinese-language Next Magazine that there was evidence more than 1,800 tonnes of ammunition, which had supposedly been destroyed, was re-sold by a government contractor to Romanian officials last year.
According to the magazine, the family of Romanian President Traian Basescu was allegedly involved in the sale of the munitions, which ultimately ended up in the hands of Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda, an Angolan militant group.
While the Control Yuan said it could not find evidence confirming this development, it said the Taiwanese government had no way to verify that the munitions were not re-sold or re-distributed.
“We cannot say for sure that there were no problems,” Control Yuan member Ger Yeong-kuang (葛永光) told Central News Agency.
In 2008, the ministry set aside NT$627 million (US$20 million) to safely dispose of 950,000 expired rounds of ammunition and explosives totaling about 8,000 tonnes. The contract was won by Singapore’s Explomo Technical Services, which specializes in the removal of defense materials.
The disposal, which was originally set to take place in Bulgaria last year, was overseen by two companies — Taiwan-based Sanlin Technologies (上林實業有限公司) and foreign-based Variety Co — which produced daily and monthly certification reports.
While the government watchdog said the reports largely matched the export information on the expired munitions, it added that there were numerous flaws in the process and the way the numbers were compiled.
The Control Yuan said the certification firms were recommended to the ministry by Explomo, a move that raised serious questions about whether the numbers were calculated independently and without external interference because of the close ties between the two companies.
Moreover, documents showed that the certification reports were not thoroughly reviewed by the ministry’s Armaments Bureau in a timely manner, preventing an immediate response in case of discrepancies.
The multimillion-dollar contract with Explomo, which according to Singapore-based reports continues through next year, also did not contain any information detailing penalties that would be imposed if the munitions were re-sold rather than destroyed.
“There was nothing in the contract to prevent this. The ministry needs to conduct a thorough review,” the Control Yuan said in a statement.
The military said it would seek damages from Explomo and could take legal action if any of the munitions were misdirected or re-sold.
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