Monday, June 30, 2008

Miami Arms Dealer Had a Checkered History

Back in April, I wrote about the 22-year old arms dealer who was granted a $300 million contract to supply arms to Afghan forces and ended up dealing damaged and aged Soviet-era ammo which didn't work. Last week, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing aimed at determining how such a bungle was possible.

A Congressional committee revealed Tuesday that by the time the Army awarded the bid, State and Defense Department officials had canceled or delayed at least six earlier contracts with the company, AEY Inc., for poor quality or late deliveries.

But that record, including a botched $5.6 million order for 10,000 Beretta pistols for Iraq’s security forces, was either ignored or omitted from databases that American military contracting officials have used to weed out companies suspected of involvement in suspect arms deals.

You see, the State and Defense Departments have a database of contractors with poor past results, but AEY's past was either "ignored or omitted." AEY was awarded the contract, which had as many as ten companies contesting, despite failing the government several times before and being included on a list of contractors believed to be engaged in illegal arms sales. AEY also had help from within the government, in the form of Ambassador to Albania John Withers II, in covering up the illegal Chinese origins of the defective ammo it was supplying to US allies in Afghanistan.

In a startling example of government incompetence, the contract appears to have been superfluous from the start.

Congressional investigators also determined that the Afghanistan ammunition contract, which the company is also accused of mishandling, may have been unnecessary: Bosnia, Bulgaria, Hungary and Albania, the Eastern European countries from which AEY bought its ammunition, had offered to donate the type of Soviet-style rifle and machine-gun cartridges that the Afghan Army and police forces use.

The mind reels.

US: Hey, we need some arms for our Afghani friends.

Eastern Europe: Sure, take these.

US: No, thanks, we'd rather buy them through a third party. Good thought, though.


AEY bungles contract
, April 15

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