World News

Ex-workers at gun maker Heckler & Koch charged in German Mexico probe

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German prosecutors said on Thursday six former employees of gun maker Heckler & Koch had been charged with breaching laws on trade and weapons of war by selling arms destined for four Mexican states.

Heckler & Koch came under pressure in May, when a report by German customs authorities found the company had sold guns that went to the Mexican states in violation of an export ban that sought to limit arms sales to corrupt police forces.

Heckler and Koch is one of the most successful gun makers in the world. Its HK416 assault rifle is said to have been used to kill Osama bin Laden and the G36 is standard issue for armies across the globe.

But human rights activists have alleged some of its guns ended up in the southwestern city of Iguala, Guerrero, where 43 trainee teachers were abducted last year and almost certainly murdered by a drug gang working with corrupt police.

The six people being charged now are accused of having participated in 16 deliveries of rifles and parts to Mexico between 2006 and 2009, with the knowledge that the rifles were ending up in states that were not included in Germany’s export licence, the Stuttgart prosecutors’ office said in a statement.

The office did not name the six people charged -- as is the custom in Germany -- saying only they were a former sales representative for Heckler & Koch in Mexico, an employee in the company’s sales department, two sales directors and two managing directors.

It said it had dropped an investigation into another 13 suspects. A regional court in Stuttgart will now decide on whether the case is strong enough to start a trial.

Heckler & Koch said it had taken note of the charges and expected a court to now put the matter to rest. It also said it had provided to authorities the results of an independent investigation it had hired auditor KPMG to do in 2012.

Reporting by Maria Sheahan, editing by David Evans