Sandline boss gave advice on Angola kidnap

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The Independent Online
THE MERCENARY chief at the centre of the "arms to Africa" affair has had contact with the Foreign Office three times on other matters since the scandal broke in May, a senior official revealed yesterday.

Tim Spicer, who runs Sandline International, contacted civil servants only last week to pass on information about the kidnapping of a British citizen in Angola, MPs were told.

On two further occasions the Foreign Office contacted Mr Spicer - a former lieutenant-colonel in the British Army - at the behest of Robin Cook to warn him off potentially hazardous deals, according to Sir John Kerr, Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office.

Sir John told an inquiry into the illegal shipment of arms to Sierra Leone that all recent contacts were carefully logged and ministers informed.

He was appearing before the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee to give evidence about the affair. Sandline was investigated for shipping arms to Sierra Leone's exiled government in breach of a United Nations embargo, but was never prosecuted because it emerged that officials had been kept informed of its plans.

Sir John's revelation of contacts with Mr Spicer over last week's attack on the DiamondWorks mine in Angola was surprising because Sandline is not supposed to have anything to do with the operation. However, Tony Buckingham, the patron of Sandline, is also a shareholder in DiamondWorks.

Sir John told the MPs Mr Spicer had been in touch about "rumours" he had heard over the missing Briton, Jason Pope.

A Foreign Office spokesman said Mr Spicer had been nominated by DiamondWorks to represent the company in discussions with the Foreign Office.

In July and September officials had meetings with Mr Spicer. The first was to sound a warning over "undesirable" contact with a foreign businessman. The second was to spell out the sanctions in place against the former Yugoslavia.

Sir John also told MPs yesterday that the conduct of the British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Peter Penfold, during the "arms to Africa" affair had left something to be desired. Mr Penfold had been in London when an arms embargo was implemented and he should have made it his business to obtain a copy. The High Commissioner should also have been more cautious in his contacts with Sandline, Sir John said."Some things that have happened are not a particularly pretty picture. There is no point in any pretence about that."

Sandline accused Sir Johnlast night of a breach of confidentiality.