Wikileaks: US looked into Czech arms sales to Syria

Czech News Agency, Aktualne.cz
2. 12. 2010 15:50
In 2006, US interested in Czech arms-trading giant Omnipol because of its sales to Syria
Foto: Repro: Aktuálně.cz

New York - US diplomatic cables disclosed by the server Wikileaks, this week's hot topic, show that in 2006, the USA was interested in an arm sale to Syria carried out by a Czech firm Omnipol that trades with defense and aerospace equipment. Specifically, US diplomats wanted to know how was the sale financed.

US consider Syria a potentially risk country because of its ties with Iran and Hamas and concerns over a possible nuclear bomb program.

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American diplomats in 2006 inquired the Austrian government, because it was believed that the transaction was financed by the Austrian Creditanstalt bank.

The cables do not indicate whether the arms trade was really carried out or not.

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The cable voiced a concern that "Syria was preparing to purchase rocket motors for training aircraft from the Czech supply company Omnipol. Financing was to be arranged with Creditanstalt."

According to the cable from the US embassy in Vienna from February 17, 2006, the Austrian government responded that Bank Austria Creditanstalt did not make business directly with Omnipol but the Czech firm had an account in the HVB Czech bank, a Czech subsidiary of Creditanstalt.

HVB Czech needed an approval from Creditanstalt for all transactions exceeding EUR 500,000. An Austrian senior official, whose name is left out in the leaked cable, however stated that the bank was financing only Omnipol's acquisitions of US military equipment for the Czech army.

Czech arms exports to Syria are not possible without the authorization by the Industry and Trade Ministry. The Czech counter-intelligence agency BIS stated in its annual report for 2006 that "representatives of companies and official institutions" in Syria, North Korea and Iran (countries believed to be developing own missile and WMD programs) were interested in 2006 "about some particular equipment from the mechanical engineering sector".

Omnipol is among largest Czech traders with military and airplane equipment. Last year, the firm's profit grew to 32 billion (EUR 1.28 billion) from the 31.1 billion in 2008. 

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