Arms dealer jailed in UK over North Korean missile plan

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 20, 2012 11:47 AM
Arms dealer jailed in UK over North Korean missile plan

LONDON (Reuters) - A British arms dealer was jailed on Friday for trying to buy surface-to-air missiles from North Korea to sell them to the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.

British prosecutors described Michael Ranger as an established international arms dealer who used a company registered in Hong Kong under the name of his girlfriend to organize illegal arms deals between the two countries.

Email correspondence read out in court showed that Ranger had boasted to his arms supplier in North Korea that he had been a guest of the Azeri government and was chauffeured in a luxury limousine during a visit to the country to discuss arms sales.

Azerbaijan, an oil-producing Caspian Sea nation bordering Iran, is under an international arms embargo following a 1990s ethnic conflict in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Britain's Crown Prosecution Service said in a statement Ranger intended to evade the embargo by promoting the supply of hand-held surface-to-air missiles from North Korea to Azerbaijan, as well as Beretta pistols from the United States.

He was jailed for three and a half years.

"Ranger's dealings with Azerbaijan were not only illegal, but potentially very dangerous," the state prosecuting service said in a statement.

"Arms embargos are in place for a reason and those who seek to ignore them in the hope of lining their own pocket should understand that they are liable to prosecution in the criminal courts."

Armenian-backed forces wrested Nagorno-Karabakh, a mainly Armenian-populated enclave inside Azerbaijan, from Azeri control after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

A ceasefire was reached in 1994 after 30,000 people had been killed and about 1 million had been driven from their homes.

(Editing by Maria Golovnina and Myra MacDonald)