British arms dealer Gary Hyde has been sentenced to seven years in prison for his role in the illegal shipment of tens of thousands of firearms and millions of rounds of ammunition to Nigeria in 2007.
The shipment to Nigeria involved transferring from China 40 000 AK-47 assault rifles, 30 000 assault rifles, 10 000 9 mm pistols and 32 million rounds of assorted ammunition. The case came to its conclusion in December last year after a prolonged investigation into the arms deal, which began back in 2007. Hyde was arrested by British police detectives in 2010.
Hyde helped the company York Guns broker various arms deals, including some for the British government. In 2006 he became involved in the China-Nigeria deal, which was lawful but Hyde failed to apply for a licence in the UK to get involved in the deal as he feared it would be refused.
Hyde was charged for illegally exporting prohibited firearms and munitions from the UK without a ‘Section 5’ permit, which allows arms dealers in the UK to procure, sell locally or export prohibited weapons.
Hyde is a former British police officer who left the force in 1996 to set himself up in the arms trade business where he has established himself as a leading procurer and supplier of weapons to big customers, among them the UK police service and the Ministry of Defence.
Following the emergence of new details on his role in illegal weapons shipments to Nigeria, Hyde’s arms deals in Africa and business ties with the UK’s top security agencies has prompted calls for a tightening of laws which regulate the sale of weapons locally and abroad.
“It is deeply concerning that an arms dealer under investigation for a number of years was contracted by both the MOD and UK police forces,” said Sir John Stanley Chair of the UK Parliamentary Committee on Arms Export Controls. North Yorkshire police said they had issued Hyde with a licence despite knowing that he was under investigations for illegal weapons shipment to Nigeria because Her Majesty Revenue and Customs (HMRC) service had insisted that that Hyde’s arms export business did not constitute a security threat to the UK.
“Gary Hyde was able to send huge quantities of weapons to some of the world’s worst human rights black spots, weapons which were used to facilitate horrific violence including unlawful killings, rape and torture, by exploiting massive loopholes over international regulations on the arms trade,” said Amnesty International UK’s Arms Programme Director Oliver Sprague.
“Hyde’s guilty verdict has shown that hard-fought laws to regulate arms trafficking can now bring arms dealers who try to evade controls, to justice. But the gaping loopholes that still exist internationally must be closed if we want to stop arms deals like these fuelling terrible atrocities. It’s staggering that this was possible.”
This March, the world’s governments are to agree the terms of an international Arms Trade Treaty – the first global treaty regulating the international trade and transfer of weapons.