A Stuttgart court has passed judgement in the case that accused five Heckler & Koch employees of illegally selling firearms to Mexico. Heckler & Koch were found guilty of breaking Germany’s ‘War Weapons Control Act’ by selling over 4,000 HK G36s to the Mexican government buyer. As a result the company have been fined 3.7 million Euros or $4.2 million.
The case began back in 2010 when anti-arms trade activist Jürgen Grässlin filed the initial charges. The sale of the weapons to Mexico occurred in over a dozen batches between 2002 and 2009, during a time when weapons sales to Mexico was banned in Germany. It is believed that some of the weapons were used in a number of shootings by and criminal activity. As a result the court has handed two former HK employees suspended prison sentences (of 17 and 22 months).
German news agency DW reports that evidence emerged during investigations that mitigated some of the charges levelled at HK because of German government authorises apparently misinterpreting the law. Grasslin, the activist who filed the initial charges, told press that he felt that “the [German] export approval authorities belonged in the dock.”
Heckler & Koch released a statement on the verdict on 21 February:
To the today’s judgment of the regional court Stuttgart:
We will examine today’s judgment carefully. However, we can not understand that the court wants to see not only the profit earned by the Mexico business, but the entire purchase price confiscated, although no member of the management has made a criminal offense. This should have been taken into account. At the same time, the court could have acknowledged in its judgment that Heckler & Koch has supported the proceedings and thus the active enlightenment from the outset and cooperated with the prosecution without any ifs or buts. Among other things, the company commissioned a comprehensive special investigation and provided the more than 100-page detailed investigation report to the public prosecutor’s office.
The fundamental change that the company has successfully undergone in recent years:
In recent years, we have undergone a consistent process of change. Heckler & Koch is completely different today than it was in the middle of the last decade. Heckler & Koch expressly commits to its social and legal responsibility. As a result of the regrettable incidents, the company has made drastic and extensive changes to effectively eliminate such events in the future.
Thus, the sales strategy was fundamentally changed and new ethical standards established. Since then, our products have only been delivered to countries that meet clear and comprehensible requirements. This includes states that belong to the EU or NATO, or that have concluded association agreements with NATO, as well as other European and non-European states that meet strict criteria and for which supplies are explicitly in the security interest of the Federal Republic of Germany.
In addition, as a consequence of “Mexico”, Heckler & Koch has made adjustments to its internal compliance management systems, which constantly increase the sense of responsibility of the company and its employees, and, in addition, subject every potential sales partner to a strict compliance check. In addition, a newly defined Code of Conduct for Employees, the “Anti-Corruption” and “Antitrust Law” guidelines and the “Ethical Business Principles” form the binding corporate mission statement. These measures characterize today’s corporate culture and find consistent application.