Largest Weapons Maker in Latin America Sold 8K Guns to Yemen Traffickers

Yemen, Taez : A Yemeni tribesman from the Popular Resistance Committees, supporting forces loyal to Yemen's Saudi-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, holds a position in the country's third city of Taez, on August 9, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-BASHA

The largest weapons manufacturer in Latin America, Brazil-based Forjas Taurus SA, has reportedly been accused by Brazilian prosecutors of selling some 8,000 handguns to a known arms trafficker from war-ravaged Yemen in violation of international sanctions.

Citing Brazilian federal court documents it obtained, Reuters reports that the Yemeni arms trafficker “funneled” the illegally bought weapons into “his nation’s civil war.”

The news outlet notes:

Federal prosecutors in southern Brazil charged two former executives of Forjas Taurus (FJTA4.SA) in May with shipping 8,000 handguns in 2013 to Fares Mohammed Hassan Mana’a, an arms smuggler active around the Horn of Africa for over a decade according to the United Nations.

The handguns were allegedly shipped by Taurus to Djibouti and redirected to Yemen by Mana’a, according to court documents… Mana’a paid Taurus $2 million for the weapons, according to court documents, which cite regular payments from the Yemeni to the company since 2013. The documents did not indicate who had received the arms in Yemen.

Alexandre Wunderlich — a lawyer for the two former Taurus export executives who were charged, Eduardo Pezzuol and Leonardo Sperry — dismissed the accusations in the sealed indictment saying they “do not reflect the facts of the matter.”

Reuters points out:

Prosecutors say the two former Taurus executives were negotiating another shipment of 11,000 guns with Mana’a last year when police uncovered the plot and raided the company’s offices in November.

Prosecutors have not brought charges against Taurus but said evidence seized in the raid included dozens of emails showing it knew of U.N. sanctions against trading arms with Mana’a and Yemen but sought ways to skirt them.

Since March 2015, a U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition and military units loyal to the internationally recognized Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi have been combating Iran-allied Shiite Houthis and their allies, armed groups linked to the former President of Yemen Ali Abdallah Saleh.

The Yemeni conflict has been described as a proxy war between regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iran and its narco-terrorist proxy Hezbollah have long maintained a presence in Latin America that has prompted U.S. concerns, according to the American military in the region.

Hezbollah has a well-established network in Latin America capable of exporting licit and illicit contraband in and out of the Western Hemisphere — into Europe and the Middle East, through Africa, and back. The Shiite narco-terrorist group has been accused of supporting the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Iran itself has been accused of providing military support to the Shiite Houthis, an allegation that both the Islamic Republic and the rebels have denied.

The Reuters report does not explicitly say which side received the trafficked weapons.

However, Reuters notes that the Yemeni arms trafficker, Mana’a served as governor of Sa’dah, a Houthi stronghold.

“Taurus clearly made use of a notorious international arms trafficker to triangulate its merchandise to other countries, especially Yemen,” the Brazilian court documents reportedly said.

“There is no way Taurus and its employees can claim to be unfamiliar with acts attributed to Mana’a, since Leonardo Sperry testified it is standard for Taurus to do an internet search on people they invite to Brazil,” they said.

The 18-month-old brutal civil war in Yemen has killed at least 10,000 people, including nearly 4,000 civilians, according to the UN.

Reuters notes:

The case, currently sealed by a judge in the southern city of Porto Alegre, near Taurus’ headquarters, may draw legal scrutiny to the company, a major supplier of firearms to Brazil’s police and military and one of the top five makers of handguns in the U.S. market, where it sells nearly three-quarters of its production. Brazil is the world’s fourth-largest exporter of small arms.

The Yemeni trafficker had been sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council and President Barack Obama in 2010 for violating an arms embargo in Somalia.

Businesses and individuals were prohibited from doing any weapons sales or financing for Mana’a. His assets were frozen and he was subjected to a travel ban, along with others suspected of providing arms to Somalia’s civil war.

“Mana’a eventually entered Brazil on a passport with a false name and birth date,” notes Reuters. Hezbollah is known to provide fake Latin American passports to its affiliates.