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Feds want RCMP to look into Canadian firm's armoured car shipments to war-torn Libya

The Liberal government has asked the Mounties to review a UN report that found a Canadian-owned company shipped dozens of armoured personnel carriers into the chaos of Libya, possibly in violation of an arms embargo. The request comes days after CBC News published a series of stories about shipments to conflict zones in Africa.

Request comes days after CBC News published series of stories about shipments to Africa

Members of Libyan pro-government forces look on in an army camp in Benghazi in 2015. Libya has been the site of bloody, factional chaos since civil war broke out in 2011. (Esam Omran Al-Fetor/Reuters)

The Liberal government has asked the Mounties to look into a UN report that found a Canadian-owned company shipped dozens of armoured personnel carriers into the chaos of Libya, possibly in violation of an arms embargo.

In a statement released late Monday, the Global Affairs Department said a copy of the UN panel's findings about the Streit Group has been handed to the Mounties.

There's no indication at the moment whether the RCMP intends to launch a full-blown investigation.

Handover to Mounties

The Liberal government says it will leave the matter up to law enforcement.

"It is the role of the RCMP to investigate potential offences under Canadian law, while the prosecution of offences under federal jurisdiction is the responsibility of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada who will determine if Canada has jurisdiction to prosecute based on the facts of the case," spokesman Francois Lasalle said in a statement.

The department didn't say when the UN report, which was released in March, was shared with the Mounties.

But the handover of the file to the RCMP comes less than a week after CBC News published a series of stories about the activities of Streit in both Libya and South Sudan.

The UN panel monitoring sanctions against Libya criticized the company, which has a plant in Innisfil, Ont., north of Toronto, for the "illicit transfer" of 131 armoured vehicles in 2012.
Typhoon armoured carriers were among the patrol vehicles delivered to Libya in 2014. (CBC)

Company officials met with international investigators during the writing of the panel's evaluation in 2014 and handed over a variety of records showing the transfer of Cougar, Spartan and Cobra-type vehicles to Libya in 2012, as well as customs declarations. Streit insisted it had done nothing wrong, strenuously rejecting any suggestion it "could knowingly or otherwise break national or international law,'" the panel's report says. 

UN investigators raised concern with Streit and even shared a copy of their findings, which said the transfer of the vehicles constituted a violation of sanctions. 

But CBC News obtained copies of leaked shipping records and sales delivery schedules that show the company continued to ship armoured cars to the troubled North African nation even after the warning.
Protesters stand atop a vehicle as others burn in front of the National Conference Hall in Tripoli in 2014. Libya was essentially a lawless nation in 2014 as fighting continued between rival parliaments and jihadist and tribal groups. (Mohamed Ben Khalifa/Associated Press)

At least 79 Typhoon and Spartan patrol vehicles were delivered to the effectively lawless nation in 2014, according to records obtained from highly placed sources.

Human rights groups have demanded an investigation into the shipments to Libya as well as those to South Sudan.

In both cases, the UN investigators found that​ Streit shipped unarmed vehicles that were later outfitted with weapons and used in the conflicts in both countries.

UN wants total ban

The UN panel investigating Libya says all transfers of armoured vehicles should be forbidden.

"The panel believes that all transfers of APCs should be under embargo as they significantly increase the military capability of armed groups," the report says. "In addition, most types of APCs identified by the panel can easily be mounted with weapons after delivery. The panel is also concerned about diversions of this ... [material] to militias."

Human rights groups have said the sale of the vehicles has contributed to the civil wars in both countries.

The Streit Group, which is owned by Canadian businessman Guerman Goutorov, was repeatedly asked for comment by CBC, but did not respond.

Prior to Monday, Global Affairs said the vehicles were manufactured at the company's location in the United Arab Emirates, so the deals in both Libya and South Sudan fell outside Canada's arms control regime.
Streit has plants in nine countries, including Canada and the United Arab Emirates. It also has offices in war-torn regions such as South Sudan and Libya. (CBC News)