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Arms to Ghana dealer sentenced

Press Release   •   Feb 01, 2013 13:03 GMT

An international arms dealer who sold military aircraft to Ghana without a valid licence has been sentenced after an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Christopher McDowell, 55, from Oxfordshire made over $4 million from the unlicensed sale and shipment of Chinese fighter jets from China to Ghana, in breach of UK trade controls.

Peter Millroy, Assistant Director, HMRC, said:

“With many years’ experience in the industry, McDowell knew what he was doing and illegally brokered the aircraft to Ghana without a valid licence. HMRC will find people who, like McDowell, decide to break the law and we are delighted that, after an extensive investigation, he has been brought to justice.”

In June 2005, McDowell, managing director of arms brokers Wellfind Ltd, entered into an agreement with a Chinese company, CATIC, to sell military aircraft to the Ghana Air Force. He intentionally ignored the requirement to have a licence. It wasn’t until February 2007 that he submitted a licence application to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) – by which time the first two aircraft were in the process of being supplied.

McDowell was found guilty of two counts of dealing in arms that were being supplied to Ghana without a valid licence, at Guildford Crown Court on 28 January 2013. He was sentenced there yesterday to two years imprisonment, suspended for two years, and 200 hours community service.

In sentencing, His Honour Judge Critchlow said that he did not accept that McDowell did not understand the legislation, and commented that the defendant had taken no steps to make enquiries to the DTI, or obtain legal advice.

Confiscation proceedings will follow.

Notes for editors

1. Details of defendant: Christopher McDowell, DOB 4/5/1957, formerly of Shiplake. Business address Abingdon House, Brook Street, Watlington, Oxon OX49 5JH.

2. McDowell was convicted of two counts of being knowingly concerned in the unlicensed supply of goods subject to trade controls contrary to Section 9 (2) of the Trade in Goods (Control) Order 2003.

3. Follow HMRC on twitter: @HMRCgovUK

4. HMRC’s flickr channel

Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Press Office

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is the UK’s tax authority.

HMRC is responsible for making sure that the money is available to fund the UK’s public services and for helping families and individuals with targeted financial support.