Brazilian prosecutors said on Tuesday they had charged Forjas Taurus SA, Latin America's largest gunmaker, in May for allegedly dealing with a known Yemeni arms trafficker in violation of international sanctions.
Prosecutors in the southern city of Porto Alegre, near Taurus headquarters, said a judge had opened a confidential case against the company. Taurus confirmed on Monday a Reuters report that two former executives had been charged over the deal that allegedly sent arms to Yemen's civil war, but the company said it was only a concerned party in the case.
Taurus clearly made use of a notorious international arms trafficker to triangulate its merchandise to other countries, especially Yemen.Brazlian court documents
A Brazilian court issued a public summons for Mana’a in May as part of a case citing him, Sperry and Pezzuol as defendants.
Taurus declined to answer detailed questions on the weapons case due to legal confidentiality but said it was “helping the courts to clarify the facts.”
Following the Reuters report, the company confirmed in a securities filing on Monday that two of its former executives had been charged for an alleged 2013 arms shipment destined for Yemen.
After learning about suspicions surrounding the Yemeni arms dealer, Taurus said it halted another shipment he negotiated.
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 US market, where it sells nearly three-quarters of its production.
Brazil is the world’s fourth-largest exporter of small arms.
Prosecutors say the two former Taurus executives were negotiating another shipment of 11,000 guns with Manaa 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 UN sanctions against trading arms with Manaa and Yemen but sought ways to skirt them.
“Taurus clearly made use of a notorious international arms trafficker to triangulate its merchandise to other countries, especially Yemen,” the documents said.
“There is no way Taurus and its employees can claim to be unfamiliar with acts attributed to Manaa, since Leonardo Sperry testified it is standard for Taurus to do an internet search on people they invite to Brazil,” they said.
Sperry and Pezzuol gave testimony to federal police in October 2015 as the investigation got underway. The executives left Taurus late last year, according to their LinkedIn résumés.
“All of the acts covered in the case were carried out entirely within the company and within legal limits,” their lawyer said in an email. He declined to answer other questions, citing the confidentiality of the case.
Yemen’s 18-month old conflict has drawn in regional powers and killed at least 10,000 people, including nearly 4,000 civilians.United Nations
Brazil’s defense ministry said authorization for the export to Djibouti did not allow for legal re-export to other nations.
Manaa 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.
“Djibouti was a false way point for exportation,” prosecutors wrote in their charges.