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Arms dealers face activists in private prosecution

Courageous campaigners take up the mantle against sellers of torture devices after authorities refuse to act

Determined activists hauled arms traders in front of the courts yesterday in a private prosecution over their attempts to flog illegal weapons in London.

French company Magforce International and Chinese company Tianjin Myway International were banned from the Defence Security and Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair in London last year after being accused of promoting illegal torture weapons by advertising them in their brochures.

The weapons included leg irons, electric stun guns and electric stun batons.

The case is unusual because it was initiated by a group of arms activists after the case was ignored by the authorities.

Both companies were expelled from the fair after activists and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas brought it to the attention of Parliament and organiser Clarion Events.

Clarion passed the information onto Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Clarion said: “Once we became aware that Tianjin Myway International Trading Co. and Magforce International had breached British law, their stands were immediately shut down and their staff ejected from DSEI.”

However the case was not passed by HMRC to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

A CPS spokesman said: “This case has never been referred to the CPS by investigators.”

A spokesman said HMRC cannot comment on individual companies.

Instead the case, which began yesterday at Thames Magistrates Court but has been adjourned until November, was brought by activist group Stop the Arms Fair.

Activist Melanie Strickland was at court.

She said: “We realised that the authorities were not going to bring any charges so we decided to do it ourselves.”

Raj Chada, from law firm Hodge Jones & Allen, is leading the prosecution for the activists. He said the case should be taken on by the authorities.

Mr Chada told the Star: “We look forward to the trail and hopefully bringing the companies to account for breaching UK regulations.

“We still hope the CPS will agree to take the case. We think they should be the ones to prosecute and have made representations and are waiting for a response.

“These companies are accused of promoting torture equipment and we think that the government should be more proactive.”

Magforce and Tianjin Myway did not respond to the Star’s request for comment.

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