Murphy's Law: The Gunrunners Of Paris

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October 9, 2008:  France is trying 42 people for running an illegal arms export operation in Angola during the 1990s. At the time, Angola was under a UN arms embargo, because of the civil war there. The main reason the trial is in France is because most of the accused are French government officials, or family members of such. Chief among these is Jean Christophe Mitterrand, the son of the late French president (1981-95) Francois Mitterrand. The younger Mitterrand used his connections, and was paid $2.6 million, to bring together Angolan officials and two men (a French businessman and an Israeli financier) who arranged for $790 million worth of weapons to be bought in Eastern Europe and shipped to Angola between 1993-98.

Billions of dollars worth of weapons were available in Eastern Europe after the Cold War communist governments there collapsed in 1989-91. With the Cold War over, many of those surplus weapons were stolen, or illegally sold (via bribed officials) and made available to the international black market. Well placed middlemen like Jean Christophe Mitterrand made millions setting up some of these deals. Many other senior French officials were involved as well.

Such shady arms deals are nothing new, but they flourished in the 1990s because of the enormous quantities of Cold War surplus weapons available in East Europe and Russia. Africa was a big market because there have always been a lot of wars there. This warfare was interrupted by the European colonialization (from the early19th century to the 1960s.) But once the Europeans left, the wars resumed. There were lots of natural resources the factions could sell off to buy weapons. The flood of cheap weapons in the 1990s ended up killing millions of Africans. But all that death made fortunes for the gunrunners of Paris.
 


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