The U.S. chief executive of gun manufacturer Sig Sauer, Ron Cohen, faces jail time in Germany for selling $306 million worth of guns to Colombia’s National Police a decade ago, according to NPR.
He is accused of colluding with Sig Sauer’s sister company in Germany to violate export rules in Germany. It is illegal for companies in Germany to export weapons to countries in conflict, including Colombia.
Sig Sauer allegedly manufactured upwards of 38,000 pistols in the company facility in Eckernförde, Germany from 2009 to 2011. The weapons were then shipped through New Hampshire to complete the journey in Colombia. The company is accused of submitting false final destinations in their paperwork by telling German officials that the weapons were to end up in the U.S.
If Cohen is convicted, he will have to pay millions of dollars in fines and will face up to five years in prison. Last week another gun company, Heckler and Koch, was found guilty in German court of a similar crime when they sold weapons to Mexico. The former CEO was acquitted, but two employees were given suspended jail sentences and the company had to shell out $4.2 million.
L&O Holding, a German-based conglomerate, owns the German and U.S.-based Sig Sauer companies. The companies appear to operate independently, and it is unclear how closely they collaborate. Prosecutors accuse the companies of operating together to engineer the Colombia arms sale. Leaked emails show employees at the German base and New Hampshire base discussing the “USA/Kolumbien” transaction. Sig Sauer weapons with a “Made in Germany” imprint have surfaced in Colombia.
Two German executives have also been charged in the scheme: Michael Luke, co-owner of L&O Holding, and an individual identified in court documents as “Robert L.”
In October, Sig Sauer’s New Hampshire branch released a statement to a firearms blog to say that its dealings were in “compliance with U.S. law.”
The Sig Sauer/Columbia transaction first surfaced in Germany in 2014 due to information from whistleblowers, one of whom contacted anti-weapons group “Action Outcry- Stop Arms Trade” and supplied documents and emails to back up his assertions.
"Sig Sauer just retagged the big boxes and without opening them, just delivered them to Colombia," Action Outcry’s attorney Holger Rothbauer said. "I would call them dirty deals."
Rothbauer thinks that the company lacked the production capacity in New Hampshire to complete the Columbia contract, so they asked the German branch for assistance.
Cohen, who took over as CEO in 2005, is said to have saved the American branch of Sig Sauer from financial devastation.
"We were down to about 75 employees, and it was on shaky ground," said Bud Fini, executive vice president of Sig Sauer. “Ron had a vision.”
The company slogan is “Born in Europe, Perfected in America.”