Jailed arms broker Gary Hyde's international deals
- 5 December 2012
- From the section Humberside
An arms dealer has been jailed for seven years for helping to move a large shipment of guns from China to Nigeria without a licence.
Paul Greenan, who has been following Gary Hyde's activities for the BBC's Inside Out programme in Yorkshire since 2009, looks back at his former dealings.
On the face of it Gary Hyde was a respectable Yorkshire businessman - a former special constable who had even received a bravery award for foiling a robbery.
But for the best part of a decade he had another life - where his principal currency was the AK-47, or Kalishnikov.
To his customers, he was the managing director of a Yorkshire gun shop - but he was also an international arms dealer, moving tens of thousands of AK-47s across the globe.
He chased and serviced government contracts, gaining licences that enabled him to move vast amounts of weaponry to the world's trouble spots.
With insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan it was a boom time for arms dealers who were engaged by Western governments to locate guns and ammunition and supply them to local security forces.
But the scale of the weaponry movements was a cause of concern to human rights groups such as Amnesty International.
In 2005 Hyde facilitated the movement of 70,000 AK-47s from Bosnia to a former cold war weapons facility in a sleepy corner of Lincolnshire. The guns were old soviet-style weaponry from the Balkans conflict.
They may have been surplus, but they were far from useless. In one of the biggest movements of weaponry into the UK since the end of World War II, the guns were brought to Immingham by container ship. They were then sorted in Lincolnshire, with a significant amount sent on to Afghanistan.
But Amnesty was worried about the end use of the weaponry and whether correct checks and balances had been put in place, to make sure the guns were going to the right people.
There were other Hyde deals: ammunition was moved from South Africa and Serbia to Iraq; huge quantities of magazines were sent to Afghanistan; and there was even a British Ministry of Defence contract to supply Iraqi security forces in Basra with Chinese made pistols and machine guns.
Leaked United States embassy cables published on the Wikileaks website also revealed an attempt to move 130,000 AK-47s to the Gaddafi regime in Libya, but it was turned down by British officials who were concerned that the guns may have been moved on to neighbouring conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa.
But the root of Hyde's troubles with British authorities began in 2006 when, along with a German arms dealer, he started negotiating a massive arms shipment from China to Nigeria.
It would involve the movement of 40,000 AK-47s, 30,000 rifles, 10,000 pistols and 32 million round of ammunition. The West African country wasn't going to war - it was going to the polls - and the weaponry was needed to arm police and security forces.
Even though the guns never came to Britain, under UK legislation any arms deal arranged here needs to be licensed - but the crucial piece of paper wasn't applied for.
Hyde claimed he had done the business away from the UK and that a licence was not necessary. But phone records proved he had been in the UK during key parts of the $10m (£6.2m) contract and when customs officials raided his home in Newton upon Derwent in East Yorkshire, they found emails confirming his part in the deal. His commission was hidden away in a bank account in Lichtenstein.
A five-year customs investigation has culminated in Hyde being jailed at Southwark Crown Court.
Prosecutors say they hope the verdict will be a warning to other arms dealers, that arms brokering legislation, in this most deadly of businesses, has to be followed to the letter.