Comment by Sandline International
4 June 2002: Letter to Brown Journal of World Affairs re inaccurate article

The Editor
The Brown Journal of World Affairs
Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island
USA

Sir/Madam

I refer to the scurrilous article entitled "The business of war and the prospects for peace in Sierra Leone" written by Dena Montague, Senior Research Associate, Arms Trade Center, World Policy Institute, and, we are advised, published in your Spring 2002 issue.

This article has only now been brought to my attention and, as the commercial adviser to a number of companies it roundly and unjustly condemns I am now writing to you to put the record straight. I am not intending to comment on the clearly biased and uninformed viewpoint of the author she is entitled to her misguided perspective, but to correct the record as far as the facts are concerned.

My colleagues and I take a robust attitude to inaccurate reports of this nature which undeservedly bring us and the companies we represent into disrepute. Therefore, we expect to see the facts corrected as set out below in your next issue together with a full apology or we will pursue this matter through our lawyers as we have done so successfully on many previous occasions.

If the author had taken the trouble to research her facts more thoroughly this letter would not have been necessary. It is appalling that someone who bears the title "Senior Research Associate" should produce such an inaccurate and inflammatory piece of "research".

I will quote in turn from the article and then present the corrected version below each quote:

1 Quote: "The Sierra Leonean state was dependent upon these outside actors [Executive Outcomes and ECOMOG], who were motivated by diamond access rather than the desire to liberate Sierra Leonean citizens from the tyranny of the RUF."

Fact: I cannot speak for ECOMOG but, as far as Executive Outcomes is concerned, the company was called in by the government under specific contractual terms to remove the threat posed by the RUF which, as has since been widely reported, it successfully accomplished. The company's motivation had nothing to do with diamonds the contract specified monetary remuneration and, to this day (as the author acknowledges elsewhere) much of the fee remains unpaid. The company deployed its personnel in accordance with the contract, undertook its duties in accordance therewith and departed at the behest of the client when asked to do so. To suggest it was motivated by anything other than its commitment to meeting the contractual obligations placed upon it is highly misleading.

2 Quote: "...the fluid relationship between small arms proliferation and diamond access as evidenced by the RUF, Executive Outcomes, and ECOMOG operations point to Sierra Leone's continued vulnerability to "social indiscipline" and the lure of diamond wealth."

Fact: To lump Executive Outcomes in with the murderous thugs of the RUF is to present the company in an extremely disreputable light. The author does not provide a single shred of evidence to underpin her claim. Unless such evidence is produced to us forthwith, she must withdraw this allegation. Ms Montague contradicts herself later in the article when she says "...there were no incidents of weapons trafficking reported during Executive Outcomes' operations in Sierra Leone...". So which statement is correct?

3 Quote: "One month into the RUF occupation of Sierra Rutile and Sieromco [rutile and bauxite mines], the government was pressured into seeking out an alternative military arrangement. It contracted the private military organization Executive Outcomes to drive the RUF out of the diamond mines."

Fact: The government contracted with Executive Outcomes only when the RUF were within 20 kilometres of the capital, Freetown, and the company's first mission was to secure this region. If the government had waited any longer the subsequent horrible orgy of murder and mutilation that the world witnessed as the international community stood by wringing its hands after Executive Outcome's departure would have taken place even earlier in time.

4 Quote: "Executive Outcomes was partnered with Branch Energy Ltd., which did not have a mining arrangement with Sierra Leone prior to Executive Outcomes entry into the conflict."

Fact: Branch Energy had begun negotiating for mineral concessions months before the government entered into an agreement with Executive Outcomes. Branch Energy was discussing mineral concessions in 1994 Executive Outcomes was contracted to deploy into Sierra Leone in May 1995.

5 Quote: "Tony Buckingham .... worked closely with the company's principle (sic) shareholder, Michael Grunwald, on the Executive Outcomes deal."

Fact: I am not and never have been Branch Energy's "principal shareholder". The author is even incapable of spelling my name correctly.

6 Quote: "Sierra Leone's ability to pay Executive Outcomes for services rendered to the sum of $1.8 million per month depended on Executive Outcomes forcing the RUF from diamond areas and implementing a $30 million mining contract with Branch Energy."

Fact: Sierra Leone's ability to pay Executive Outcomes and its other service providers depended upon the continued support of international funding agencies, in particular the IMF, as well as the generation of foreign currency earnings from within the economy. There is not and never has been "a $30 million mining contract with Branch Energy".

7 Quote: "Executive Outcomes makes no apologies for its interest in securing mining areas for its partner companies...".

Fact: This is a complete fabrication. I challenge the author to produce her validated research underlying this allegation. I am entirely confident it will be impossible for her to do so as this was never the case.

8 Quote: "Executive Outcomes operations came at the expense of civilians residing outside of diamond mining areas, as the firm has little interest in providing humanitarian services outside of financially lucrative areas."

Fact: Perhaps the author should tell this to the villagers in, for example, the south of the country and the Kangari Hills, where there was no diamond mining activity and where Executive Outcomes eradicated the RUF's presence. Or she could tell that to the children that Executive Outcomes personnel rescued from certain death in previously RUF-held territory, or even to the missionaries and others the company evacuated with its two overworked transport helicopters in order to move them out of the path of marauding RUF bands? The source Ms Montague uses for her statements is as questionable as the depth of her research. It is always easy to re-state previous reports which fit with an author's preconceived conclusions but this is not justified if the author omits to balance this by referring to the overwhelming amount of contradictory information.

9 Quote: "Executive Outcomes provided training for traditional Mende hunters, who had loosely organized as Kamajohs to protect their communities from RUF attacks. Private security services have been criticized for providing military training that "contributes to the demand for, and misuse of, weapons in the regions [that] they operate"."

Fact: So, on the one hand, Ms Montague states that "Executive Outcomes operations came at the expense of civilians residing outside of diamond mining areas" and in the very next paragraph she says that the company provided training to help villagers defend themselves. She is clearly getting herself rather confused through her attempt to be thoroughly critical of the company's actions, come what may. Damned if they do and damned if they don't. Furthermore, I presume that Ms Montague would rather leave the villagers to defend themselves with bricks and stones against, as she herself reports, the RUF's AK-47s and machine guns? We saw how successful this strategy was a couple of years later, after Executive Outcomes contract had come to an end, when streams of innocent Sierra Leoneans, amongst them many women and children, staggered into refugee centres minus one or more limbs. And these were the "lucky" ones who could walk, or who had not been murdered in their villages. Perhaps Ms Montague would like to visit Sierra Leone for herself and explain to these poor unfortunate souls how wrong it was for Executive Outcomes to train the hunters to protect their families I am sure she will be warmly received.

10 Quote: "Branch Energy's inability to begin mining operations due to a lingering threat of RUF attacks undermined Sierra Leone's ability to pay fees to the mercenary group as well as to the IMF. The government owed $30 million to Executive Outcomes...".

Fact: Firstly, Branch Energy was not hampered preparatory work for a bulk sample at its kimberlite mine had progressed steadily for almost a year when Executive Outcome's contract was prematurely terminated. Secondly, these preparations continued for many months after Executive Outcomes had departed, right up until the site itself was about to come under direct attack a couple of months' after the coup which itself took place three months' after Executive Outcomes had left. Thirdly, Executive Outcomes' payments were being underpinned by the IMF who were shocked when informed that the government had terminated their contract even before the promised but eventually cancelled arrival of an international peace monitoring group. Fourthly, Executive Outcomes left the country owed $19.5 million of its $35.2 million fee for 21 months' service (itself a tad less than the UN's subsequent annual $800m bill for a peace "monitoring" force).

11 Quote: "With future mineral concessions in question, the very survival of the state and its citizens was at the mercy of questionable corporate players interested in the protection of commercial interests. Although Sierra Leone experienced a positive short-term gain, the partnership between Executive Outcomes and Branch Energy undermined the central government's right and ability to develop its own resources...".

Fact: Firstly, I demand that you withdraw the use of the word "questionable". This alone is a libellous allegation and requires an immediate retraction and apology. It is unacceptable for her to sully my name and those of my colleagues and business associates in this way. Second, there was no "partnership" as I have gone to great lengths already to explain. If, as I have already suggested, Ms Montague had conducted more rounded research she would have known that this myth was put to rest a long time ago. And, third, which government on this planet develops its own mineral resources? The answer is very few, if any the development of mineral resources is usually undertaken by the private sector, from the oil and gas fields in the North Sea to the diamond deposits of South Africa. The private sector puts up the risk capital and then shares the eventual profits with the state in accordance with pre-agreed formulae. Why does Ms Montague believe that Sierra Leone, a country bereft of the financial reserves to make these investments even if it wanted to, be any different?

12 Quote: "Jean-Raymond Boulle, director of American Mineral Fields, expressed interest in financing Kabbah's return but could not offer the substantial military assistance presented to Kabbah by Sandline International, a London based security company run by Tony Buckingham of Executive Outcomes."

Fact: Again, Ms Montague confuses the picture (frankly, this brings into question the overall accuracy of her reporting if virtually every reference to businesses with which I have had an association is either misleading or false). Many people expressed interest in assisting President Kabbah but the only one who was prepared to put up cash funds which is what the government sorely needed was a Mr Rakesh Saxena in Vancouver who, despite what is reported about his character, undertook to advance $10 million which the government was then free to use to introduce the military capabilities of Sandline to dislodge the RUF from Freetown. In the event, Mr Saxena only produced a fraction of this sum but that was sufficient for Sandline to fund, amongst other things, a team to assist ECOMOG develop the plan for a successful assault on the capital.

13 Quote: "Thirty tons of arms mainly AK-47s and ammunition were transported from Bulgaria through Nigeria, in violation of an EU arms embargo against military dictator Sani Abacha's Nigerian army."

Fact: The degree of inaccuracy in this one sentence is startling. The UN (not EU) arms embargo that Sandline was alleged to have broken applied to Sierra Leone including, unfortunately, the legitimate government. No arms embargo applied to ECOMOG the regional military force primarily composed of Nigerian personnel. The arms were delivered to ECOMOG and even the UN's own legal experts have concluded that no arms embargo, however inappropriate the full extent of the embargo may have been (itself misunderstood by UK government ministers in their public statements), was broken.

14 Quote: "Nigeria and Sandline continued joint operations throughout Sierra Leone until a highly publicized scandal exposed Sandline's questionable relations with Kabbah."

Fact: Sandline continued providing services (at cost) to President Kabbah's government until the funding advanced by Mr Saxena was exhausted and the government itself was unable to provide any additional funding. The "highly publicized scandal" that Ms Montague refers to was actually that faced by the UK Labour government brought about through its own making as a result of the then Foreign Secretary's allegations that Sandline had broken an arms embargo. This subsequently necessitated an embarrassing climbdown for Mr Cook following two expensive government inquiries which both concluded that Sandline was entitled to believe that it had the received the approval of HMG for its actions.

In conclusion, I find it is appalling that an influential journal such as yours would allow such a poorly researched, inaccurate, inflammatory, libellous and shoddy piece of work to grace its pages.

No doubt you will wish to conduct your own research prior to publishing a full correction and apology but I can assure you, having been involved in this issue for many years now, I know the facts as intimately as if they were indelibly imprinted on my hand. Until a full retraction is published we reserve our position in terms of our legal recourse, damages and costs.

Yours

Michael Grunberg

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