Ex-marine jailed for smuggling arms to Iran

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The Independent Online

An arms smuggler who admitted attempting to export telescopic sniper sights to Iran was jailed for two-and-a-half years today.

Andrew Faulkner, 42, of Spalding, Lincolnshire, was arrested after a shipment of 100 sights was intercepted at Heathrow Airport in February last year.

The former Royal Marine, who was due to be paid around £10,000 for his role, pleaded guilty to being involved in the exportation of controlled goods.

Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith, sentencing at Southwark Crown Court in London, told Faulkner: "You put your own financial needs ahead of your responsibilities to your past and future colleagues in the Armed Forces."

The high-spec German-manufactured Schmidt and Bender sights, purchased for around £105,000, were due to be sold on for a profit of nearly £60,000.

The court heard similar items - not linked to Faulkner - had been found in an arms cache discovered in 2007 by allied forces in Basra, Iraq.

Judge Loraine-Smith told Faulkner: "You accepted the equipment might have been used by militia fighting armed forces in the Middle East."

Faulkner, who has worked as a security consultant and bodyguard since leaving the marines, linked up with Italian Alessandro Bon after meeting him while working in Dubai.

Bon is facing separate charges in Italy.

Prosecutor David Hewitt said: "It seems that in 2008 Alessandro Bon explored the possibility of exporting from the UK.

"The Crown suggest that this was done to lend an air of legitimacy to this business. It appears that he recruited the defendant to assist him."

Faulkner initially denied being aware that the consignment, which had been labelled as hunting rifle scopes, was destined for Iran, via Dubai.

But he later admitted knowledge in police interview after email correspondence between Bon and Faulkner was uncovered.

Mr Hewitt said Faulkner did not have a licence to export the scopes, commonly used in the military and by police marksmen.

Their distribution is restricted to protect troops from militia attacks, the court heard.

"A key issue in that regard is minimising the risk of military items being used against allied armed forces in theatres of operation," Mr Hewitt said.

Faulkner served in the Royal Marines from 1986 to 2000, rising to the rank of corporal.

In the past 10 years, he has worked as a security consultant in countries including Afghanistan and Iraq.

He has also acted as a bodyguard for BBC staff reporting from the front line, the court heard, as well as trading in military equipment for a "number of years".

Married Faulkner had arranged to export the scopes after they were delivered to his home.

Jailing him for two-and-a-half years, Judge Loraine-Smith said custody was the only appropriate sentence.

"You were the front man - your name and address was there in the documents," he said.

The court heard Faulkner's judgment had been "clouded" by the death of his 17-year-old son, a promising rugby player, in a car crash in September 2008.

"He was clouded by grief with financial pressures, clearly not thinking the way he was before and has since," said Nick Bleaney, mitigating.

"He allowed himself to be snared in an enterprise which has brought shame to him and his family.

"He is aware that he let himself and former colleagues down."

After the case, Peter Millroy, of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, said: "These were high specification rifle sights used by precision marksmen in the Armed Forces.

"Faulkner knew from experience the harm this equipment could cause in this volatile area of the world and he knew the risk of their use against coalition forces.

"He was motivated purely by the money he could make through this illegal and highly dangerous arms deal."