In the accompanying documents, the machinery being exported was generically described as a “parallel lathe” and “hot forming machines.”
But the machines seized at the port of Genoa by the Finance Police and the Customs Agency were actually a “grooving machine” and a “trimming machine” (worth more than €3 million) used to produce cartridge cases for ammunition, as the manuals and instructions for use that accompanied them also made clear.
The machines in question, found inside two containers, were destined for Ethiopia, where there is an ongoing war between the central government and the Tigray Liberation Front (a region seeking independence), in the course of which all sides have been guilty of war crimes.
As a result, in October 2021, a European Parliament resolution called on all European Union member states to halt arms exports to the East African nation.
In the judiciary investigation launched in October following the discovery of the containers in question, coordinated by the Genoa Public Prosecutor’s Office, three people are currently under criminal investigation, accused of exporting armament materials without the required authorization and of criminal misrepresentation by a private individual in a public document.
Meanwhile, the headquarters of the Lecco company that issued the delivery notes for those machines was also searched. In its press release on Monday morning, the Genoa provincial command of the Finance Police did not reveal the name of the company in question, whose managers were entered into the register of suspects.
However, according to Weapon Watch, the observatory on weapons in European and Mediterranean ports, the company is “Forza 3M srl […], a company that does not appear to be registered in the National Register of Enterprises under Law 185/1990, and therefore could not apply for export authorization for armament material.”
On its website, the company openly calls itself a business that sells “solutions for small caliber ammunition” (5.56 mm to 12.7 mm) and shows brochures of its products.
This is what is known about the company: it is “newly established” (March 2021), has a small share capital (€20,000), has a declared headquarters that is only for legal purposes and, in the only financial statements presented so far, it declared a quasi-negligible turnover (about €116,000) with “only one employee.”
This is why, again according to Weapon Watch, Forza 3M srl “would hardly be considered a serious entity in order to be authorized to export military equipment.”
However, the observatory further reveals, the company “is closely linked to another Lecco-based company, Minuterie 3M srl, which belongs to the same corporate owners and has been operating since 1995 in the metal small parts sector. In its 2021 financial statements, the latter declared a turnover of €12.7 million (doubled compared to 2019) and 61 employees working at a plant in the industrial area of Lecco.”
Weapon Watch stresses that “the goods presented for boarding did not qualify as dual use, because they were specifically intended for the manufacture of ammunition, as confirmed by the presence of molds for the 7.62×39 mm caliber, typical of Soviet-made weapons of war and in particular of the AK-47 Kalashnikov, an assault rifle that was also manufactured under license in Ethiopia at the Gafat Armament Engineering Complex plants.”
This is not the first time that such incidents, and the export of weapons to conflict areas more generally (such as Yemen and Syria), have occurred at the port of Genoa.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Your weekly briefing of progressive news.