“We Can’t Answer That”: Walther Charged for Illegal Exports of Firearms to Colombia

When I think of the phrase “black market”, I usually picture smoky rooms, secret sub-basements, trade-offs in the backs of unmarked vans- you know, the usual. To put it otherwise, I don’t picture a beautiful and historic Danube town such as Ulm.


Ulm, home of the world’s tallest steeple and illegal weapons exports

Regardless of what I think, however, Ulm is currently playing host to a black-market scandal on an international scale.

On March 3rd, Deutsche Welle  reported that international firearms giant Walther Arms was facing criminal charges for illegally exporting its weapons to Colombia, whose political, social, and criminal turmoil has rarely left the world’s attention.

Certainly, there is a lot of money to be made selling weapons to a war-torn nation, and that’s why Germany has a law against precisely that sort of business. German companies wishing to export firearms must secure an export permit from the government, and such permits are not issued if said country’s internal state is in conflict, say, like Colombia’s.

So, when a gun like this:

Note the prominent "Made in Germany"

Note the prominent “Made in Germany”

shows up in Colombia, there must be something fishy going on. Little information has arisen regarding these allegations, but in response to the question of just HOW these guns got to Colombia, Walther’s Managing Director had this much to say:”We Can’t Answer That”. Well, Herr Direktor, maybe you should try.

These allegations come hot on the heels of a raid by the German State Investigator’s office on SIG Sauer’s headquarters in the sleepy Baltic town of Eckernförde. According to The Firearm Blog, seventy of SIG Sauer’s pistols were sold to the Kazakhstan Republican Guard in 2010.

Peaceful Baltic town or haven for illegal arms merchants?

Peaceful Baltic town or haven for illegal arms merchants?

This was allegedly done using what is known as a bypass transaction. In this case, the official paperwork listed the pistols as being bound for the United States, where an unnamed compatriot obtained permission from the State Department to export the pistols to Kazakhstan.

Such transactions are understandably difficult to investigate, as the line which divides a bypass transaction from a standard resale is very thin and requires no paperwork to cross. The Eckernförder Zeitung reports that the German police seized documents, hard drives, and computers believed to contain evidence that may implicate SIG Sauer in a very illegal trade.

Information on both cases is still forthcoming, so be careful where you get your guns.