Case 04: Sig Sauer

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The press release on the pronouncement of judgement on 03.04.2019
District court in Kiel convicts managers of arms manufacturer Sig Sauer for illegal arms exports to Colombia
Positive confiscation of company profits – Suspended sentences too mild

The German Campaign to Stop the Arms Trade ”Aktion Aufschrei – Stoppt den Waffenhandel!“ welcomes the high sum that will be confiscated from Sig Sauer. However, the suspended sentences that were granted in a plea agreement, taste more than foul. The campaign believes a general export embargo on small arms is overdue.
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A brief chronological summary on the illegal export

of approx. 38,000 guns from Germany through the USA

to war-torn Colombia




July 22, 2014:

Jürgen Grässlin and Paul Russmann, represented by their attorney Holger Rothbauer, and acting on behalf of the „Action Outcry – Stop The Arms Trade (“Aktion Aufschrei – Stoppt den Waffenhandel!”) file a criminal complaint against leading managers of the small-arms producer and export company, Sig Sauer from Schleswig-Holstein.

A total of 47,000 Sig-Sauer guns type SP 2022, were legally sold by Sig Sauer’s parent factory in Eckernförde, Germany, to the Government of the United States. However, 36,628 were allegedly re-sold to Colombia through the US between April 2009 and April 2011. At the time a civil war was raging in the country, where the “Policia National” (the Colombian national police), have been shooting with these guns ever since. The number of people who have since been wounded and killed by the Sig-Sauer-guns is unknown. Experience suggests that weapons, acquired as war booties, tend to be used by other parties in civil-war conflicts as well.


Sig Sauer earned more than 12 million euros in proceeds from that sale.


A few days after the criminal complaint was filed:

The district attorney’s office in Kiel open an investigation on suspicion of violating the war weapons control act and the federal act on foreign trade. Shortly after, the government embargoes Sig Sauer’s arms exports.


October 2014:

Sig Sauer announce they will from now on only produce sports weapons in Germany. Only 50 jobs are to remain in Eckernförde. The military production is moved to the Sig-Sauer factory in New Hampshire, USA.


April 2018:

The district attorney in Kiel brings charges for the violation of the federal act on foreign trade against leading Sig Sauer representatives. Ron Cohen (managing director for Sig Sauer’s US branch), Michael Lüke and Thomas Ortmeier (owner of the Sig-Sauer group) are all indicted for the illegal export of arms to Colombia. Years of comprehensive research and investigation preceded the indictment.

According to the German news station NDR, Axel Bieler, the spokesperson of the district attorney’s office, said an intensive investigation had been unavoidable, as each weapon had to be traced individually. Customs agents cooperated with agencies in Colombia and the US to determine for which gun shipments the responsible agencies had been mislead on what the true destination was.

A spokesperson from Sig-Sauer asserted that the company was „convinced that all our exports to the USA were compliant with the law“. (NDRI 12.04.18)


Middle of October 2018:

Ron Cohen, Managing Director for the US sister company Sig Sauer Inc., is arrested upon his arrival at the airport in Frankfurt and sent to Kiel. The 57-year old had been searched by a European arrest warrant.


End of October 2018:

Cohen is released on a multi-million Euro bail. The bail is used as a security to ensure the US-resident Cohen will come to his trial in Germany.


January 2019:

The district court in Kiel accepts the charges based on our criminal complaint against the three Sig Sauer top managers Lüke, Ortmeier and Cohen. Now, the hearing can begin soon. The court considers the illegal reselling of more than 36,000 SP 2022 type guns to Colombia in 99 cases. At the same time the US-military had a contract to arm the allied Colombian police.

The fact that the German ministry of economic affairs and export control had explicitly prohibited the export into the then war-torn country is crucial.


February 26, 2019:

Commencement oft he criminal trial against Sig Sauer before the Kiel district court.


April 3rd, 2019:

April 3rd, 2019: The district attorney’s office and the defendants strike a plea deal: The defendants admit their guilt and expose the details of the illegal arms deal. In turn, they receive suspended sentences and high fines (up to 600’000 Euros). Sig Sauer as a company must pay 11 Million Euros.


Compiled by:

Jürgen Grässlin, filed the criminal complaint,

Speaker of the campaign „Action Outcry – Stop The Arms Trade” („Aktion Aufschrei - Stoppt den Waffenhandel!“), DFG-VK and ArmsInformationCentre (RüstungsInformationsBüro), 0049-761-76 78 208



Holger Rothbauer, DEHR Attorneys,, 0049-7071-150 49 49


Last updated: 15.04.2019




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