Attempts made to acquire Finnish technology for building weapons of mass destruction
Companies urged to exercise more vigilance
The Finnish Security Police (SUPO) says that there have been attempts to use Finnish technology for the development of weapons of mass destruction. SUPO says that a few cases come to light each year, in which there have been attempts to acquire dual-use products for the development of weapons of mass destruction.
SUPO says that officials have managed to intervene early enough to keep the goods from ending up in the wrong hands. Usually the destination of the products would have been Iran, but occasionally, countries such as Syria, Pakistan, and North Korea have come up.
These countries have not committed themselves to all international treaties which ban the development and manufacture of various weapons of mass destruction.
Some of the attempts to acquire dual-use goods are thwarted in connection with the export licence process. Such a licence is required when dual-use products, which can be used for conventional use or for the production of the more dangerous weapons, are exported outside the European Union.
Eero Aho, head of the export supervision unit of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, says that about 300 export applications are made each year. Fewer than ten applications a year are denied.
Negative decisions usually stem from the fact that officials have more information than the companies on the possible applications of the products in the intended destination country.
“I do not remember a single case in which a Finnish company would have deliberately tried to deceive officials”, Aho says.
He adds that about 2,000 products have been listed as having potential dual use capability. “For instance, even in a nuclear programme it is possible to use many different kinds of goods.”
SUPO says that there are attempts to deceive Finnish companies through skilful cover-up arrangements. A company might be told that the product is being sent to Switzerland, for instance, but it ultimately ends up outside Europe.
In addition, the product might be taken outside Europe through subsidiaries located abroad.
“If we suspect that a product might end up being used illegally through some indirect route, then the export will be prevented”, Aho says.
In recent years, exports of certain pumps and transformers to Iran have been blocked on suspicion that they might end up being used in a possible Iranian nuclear programme.
SUPO says that there have been attempts to export dual-use goods from Finland to “sensitive” countries past the official licencing process.
SUPO chief inspector Martin Westerlund says that according to information from intelligence and security services, Finnish technology has been used in the development of weapons of mass destruction.
SUPO has held discussions on cases together with companies. According to Westerlund, ignorance on the part of the companies has been the main factor.
“There is nothing deliberate here. Every company is concerned about its own reputation. There can be situations in which a company does not even know that their products have dual-use potential.”
Finnish Customs now has an investigation underway linked with dual-use products. Customs officials are not giving out information about the case yet.
VERIFIN, the Finnish Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention