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Dr. Gerald Bull fined and jailed

The Story

Gerald Bull has already been sentenced to jail time by a U.S. court for his role in dealing arms to an embargoed South Africa when another blow comes. A Montreal sessions court has levied a $55,000 fine on his company, the Space Research Corporation. His operation is nearing financial ruin and the creditors are lining up. A reporter from the Burlington Free Press in Vermont talks to CBC Radio's As It Happens about the case.

Medium: Radio
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: Aug. 14, 1980
Guest(s): Sam Hemingway
Host: Alan Maitland
Reporter: Dennis Trudeau
Duration: 7:24

Did You know?

• South Africa needed weapons in 1975 when it got involved in a civil war in neighbouring Angola. The Portuguese, who had colonized the country, were in the process of leaving and three groups were fighting for control. Each had its allies: one was supported by the Soviets and Cubans, one by South Africa and one by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States.

• Gerald Bull's Israeli clients introduced their South African allies to Space Research Council's 155-millimetre shells. When the South Africans saw what the shells could accomplish, a deal was struck for SRC to manufacture and export the shells and the howitzers to shoot them. Elaborate steps were taken to conceal the weapons' shipping destination, but the scheme unravelled in 1978 thanks to Antiguan dockworkers, growing media attention, and the U.S. government's new, unforgiving attitude toward South Africa.

• After the SRC raid and subsequent investigation by Canadian and U.S. authorities, Bull and 11 others were indicted on charges relating to the smuggling of shell casings to South Africa via Antigua and other routes. The other charges were dropped when Bull and his Antigua operations manager, Rodgers Gregory, pled guilty to exporting munitions without a licence.

• Bull spent about four months at Allenwood, a minimum-security prison in Pennsylvania, and was released in February 1981.

• While Bull was in jail, the Highwater operation collapsed. It had been partly owned by a South African front company, who closed it after the arms smuggling was revealed. Workers were laid off, assets were sold and the South Africans made off with much of the technology Bull had developed. South Africa subsequently made millions of dollars by manufacturing and selling hundreds of GC-45s, a gun Bull had invented. Bull never got a cent.

• Bull emerged from prison an embittered man. He felt he was innocent and had been made a scapegoat in the United States and sold out by the CIA, which knew about the South African deal but looked the other way. He resented Canada too, because of his experiences with HARP and CARDE. He vowed never to work in North America again and moved to Brussels -- an international arms-dealing centre -- and set up shop there.


Dr. Gerald Bull: Scientist, Weapons Maker, Dreamer more