Cash for Combat ; Tim Spicer, the Mercenary Chief Caught Up in the Sierra Leone Affair, Says Ethics and Warfare Can Mix. Jason Nisse Reports
Nisse, Jason, The Independent (London, England)
im Spicer is unhappy. Or, to be more exact, Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Spicer OBE, a former British army officer who served in the Falklands, Ulster and Bosnia and is now the head of the modern day mercenaries Sandline International, is "pissed off".
Sandline hit the headlines last year when it was investigated by Customs & Excise for allegedly breaking a UN embargo on arms to Sierra Leone, the war-torn African nation. However, the company then revealed that it had been working for the deposed president, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, with the full knowledge and support of the British High Commissioner in Sierra Leone, Peter Penfold, and the implicit support of the Foreign Office.
Both an official investigation, chaired by Sir Thomas Legg, and a House of Commons Select Committee inquiry cleared Sandline of wrongdoing. But the publicity surrounding the incident projected the often shadowy world of private military companies on to the front pages. And now Spicer is trying to tell his own side of the story in a book about the affair and his controversial career, called An Unorthodox Soldier.
Spicer, a tall, handsome man of 47, who looks more like a merchant banker than a "dog of war", says: "I'm pissed off about the way it [Sierra Leone] went. It was unnecessary for the British Government to put us through the hoops, especially as we were working for the good guys."
Not only did Sandline, which Spicer formed four years ago with the backing of controversial oil and diamonds tycoon, Tony Buckingham, find itself under investigation, it actually lost money on its involvement in Sierra Leone. Spicer signed a $10m contract to help return President Kabbah to power. However, Kabbah's government was not paying. Instead the money was due to come from Rakesh Saxena, a businessman based in Vancouver who had a deal with Kabbah over mineral rights. Unfortunately Saxena was wanted for fraud by the Thai government and was arrested - curiously, while in possession of a fake Serbian passport - in the midst of the affair. Saxena had only handed over $1.5m when he was arrested, and has not paid a penny more since.
Spicer says Sandline spent all the $1.5m on the campaign to support Kabbah. "We did not make a profit, and once we had gone through the saga with Customs it cost us quite a lot of money." Spicer wrote to the UK Government, asking for pounds 100,000 to cover Sandline's costs. Not surprisingly, the request was declined.
Spicer freely admits Sandline made mistakes in its operations in Sierra Leone. It took Saxena on trust and did not check out his credentials before entering into the deal. It did not insist on payment upfront, or on a month by month basis, a lesson Sandline should have learned from another high-profile contract it took on - to help the Papua New Guinea (PNG) government deal with a civil war in its mineral rich province of Bougainville.
The PNG situation was complex - to cut a long story short, the government of the country changed after Sandline had finished its contract but before it had been paid all of its $36m fee. Spicer had to sue the PNG government and threaten to seize assets before reaching a settlement for nearly all the money.
In Spicer's book he sets out five principles for running a private military company. These are: "We will only work for legitimate governments; we will do nothing illegal ...; we will do nothing against key Western nations' foreign policies; we apply First World standards to all our military work ...; and we ensure client confidentiality." But these principles are often difficult to apply. For example, defining a legitimate government is often a daunting task; it usually comes down to whether the country is recognised by the West and is not …
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Publication information: Article title: Cash for Combat ; Tim Spicer, the Mercenary Chief Caught Up in the Sierra Leone Affair, Says Ethics and Warfare Can Mix. Jason Nisse Reports. Contributors: Nisse, Jason - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: November 21, 1999. Page number: 3. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.