(OCCRP) Zagreb sold a record amount of aging weapons and ammunition to Saudi Arabia in 2016, ignoring evidence the arms are regularly being diverted to Syria.
Croatia has drastically increased its sales of decades-old arms and ammunition to Saudi Arabia despite mounting evidence that the deliveries are being diverted to Syria in breach of European Union (EU) and international law.
Though it has one of the best and most expensively equipped armies in the Middle East, the Gulf Kingdom imported US$ 81.7 million in aging ammunition, including bullets, mortars, rockets, and rocket and grenade launchers worth $5.8 million from Croatia during the first nine months of 2016. This total is already double Croatia’s sales to Saudi Arabia over the previous four years, and the final value will likely be higher, as figures for the last quarter have not yet been published.
Igor Tabak, a Croatian defense analyst, said that the country does not currently produce ammunition. “It is quite likely that the exports come from old ammunition,” he said, “possibly from the inventory of the former Yugoslavia and Eastern [Bloc] production.”
While Croatia has consistently refused to acknowledge that it is profiting from liquidating its old stocks on the Syrian battlefields, defense ministry documents reviewed by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) show a major surge in sales from its stockpile coinciding with the start of the civil war in 2012.
According to those reports, the Ministry of Defense, which has a stockpile of around 18,000 tons, sold at least 5,000 tons of surplus ammunition in 2013 and 2014 — as much as it had sold in the preceding decade.
The Ministry of Defense did not respond to a request for additional information on who bought the armaments and whether additional sales were made in 2015 and 2016.