German rifles were used by police at fatal student protests

A German arms manufacturer has admitted to illegally selling thousands of rifles to Mexico, where the weapons were reportedly used to commit human rights violations.

Heckler & Koch, which produces weapons such as pistols, machine guns, and grenade launchers, is under investigation by German authorities for exporting G36 rifles to several Mexican states where Germany prohibits gun sales, due to human rights concerns.

The company previously claimed it had only ever delivered weapons to Mexico's central weapons authority run by the defense ministry. However, this week the company admited to the illegal exports. There were "strong suspicions" that two employees had sent rifles to the forbidden states without approval, the company said in statement, adding that the pair had since been fired.

Over 9,000 illegal G36 rifles were reportedly sold to Mexico in total. Mexico's Secretary of Defense has said that nearly half of these rifles ended up in the four states where Germany prohibits arms sales. 

The German government banned the export of arms to Chihuahua, Jalisco, Chiapas, and Guerrero in 2007 due to concerns that they could be used in cases of human rights violations. However, evidence began to accumulate that the ban had been violated, culminating in 2011, when photos and witness testimony indicated that police used G36 rifles -- apparently sourced from Heckler & Koch -- to open fire against a student protest in Guerrero. Two people died during the demonstration. 

Heckler & Koch has also been accused of bribing Mexican officials to secure more sales between 2005 and 2010, and of supplying arms to Muammar Gaddafi's regime in Libya.

InSight Crime Analysis

The Heckler & Koch case is one reminder that the US -- while remaining a major provider of illicitly trafficked arms into Mexico -- is not the only source of illegal weapons. Even if the illicit G36 rifle shipments ended up in the hands of the police, this is still a cause for concern, given that corrupt officers and criminal groups are both known to sell weapons to each other

There is also the question of what more needs to be done on Germany's end, in terms of legal action against Heckler & Koch. As noted by one German legal expert, it is highly improbable that two company employees could have coordinated the illicit sales without the knowledge of others in the company. Moreover, it was unrealistic of the German government to believe its ban would have any real effect on where exported weapons ended up or what they were used for after arriving in Mexico.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

In the northwest corner of Guatemala, a little known criminal organization known as the "Huistas" dominates the underworld, in large part due its ties with businessmen, law enforcement officials and politicians.

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala is Central America’s most populous country and its largest economy. But an intransigent elite, an ambitious military and a weak state has opened the way for organized crime to flourish, especially since the return of democracy.

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

This project defines organized crime as: a structured group of people that associate on a regular and prolonged basis to benefit from illicit activities and illegal markets. This group can be local, national or transnational in nature, and its existence is maintained using violence and threats; corruption...

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Organized crime is not an abstract concept for me. I grew up in Oak Park, a leafy suburb of Chicago with a population of about 60,000. In general, it was a very low crime city, which is perhaps why many mobsters made their homes there, among them...

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

By the end of 1993, Pablo Escobar was cornered. The cocaine king -- known as "El Patrón" -- was running out of money and options. His top assassins were either dead or had turned themselves in. Almost all of the senior members of the Medellín Cartel were...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Like any arm of the justice system, the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG) had its battles with elites who used their charm and their muscle to try to influence what and who the celebrated commission...

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Rodrigo Tovar Pupo never imagined it would come to this: dressed in an orange jumpsuit in a Washington DC courtroom and standing in front of a United States federal judge, the grandson of a wealthy Colombian cattle rancher and nephew to a governor was facing a possible...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

On the morning of April 5, 1988, Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros left his palatial Tegucigalpa estate for a jog. Matta Ballesteros was wanted for murder, drug trafficking and other crimes in several countries, but in Honduras he felt safe. He regularly hosted parties for high-level officials at...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

As it tends to happen in Honduras, the news began as a well-heeled rumor: Javier Rivera Maradiaga, the oldest of the three Rivera Maradiaga brothers still alive and leader of the feared and powerful Honduran drug trafficking group known as the Cachiros, had handed himself in to...