Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1620 - 1639)



  1620.  And what date was it received by those people?
  (Mr Murray)  To my knowledge the same day.

  1621.  So on 19 January when you had your meeting with Mr Spicer one of the people in the room knew that Mr Spicer had signed a contract and yet a minute was written to the effect that he had not.
  (Mr Murray)  I am not sure the point is actually covered in the minute of 19 January. I have no doubt that he said he had not. If he had already given that information to the Department that is interesting and something which I would not claim to be able to explain.[9]

  1622.  If you say he said there was a prospect of a contract but the two of you knew that there was, why did not you challenge him when he kept referring to the prospect of a contract by saying, "You told an official in this Department on 5 January that you had signed one"?
  (Mr Murray)  If I had read the minute of 5 January I am afraid it was not something which I had recalled or held to him at the time of the meeting.

  1623.  Had Mr Andrews read that minute by the time of the 19 January meeting?
  (Mr Murray)  I imagine he would.

  1624.  And he did not raise it either?
  (Mr Murray)  Neither of us challenged saying we know that there is already a contract.

  1625.  Are we to conclude that you did not know what that earlier minute said or you had forgotten it or had chosen to ignore it?
  (Mr Murray)  In my case I either had not read that minute or I had forgotten it. I am sorry I cannot now tell you which.

  1626.  We are in a dilemma, are we not, Mr Murray? You have earlier on said that other people knew things and you denied it. It would appear on this occasion when people are suggesting that you did know something which you subsequently denied you in fact did know it?
  (Mr Murray)  At the time I met Spicer on 19 January I had not retained any information that he had actually got the contract. That minute to which you refer was actually written on the first day I ever set foot in the Department. If I was not at my best in taking in information at that stage I think that is understandable but you could well have a point. It is perfectly possible that I had seen that minute and had failed to retain that information which would be my fault.

  1627.  You accept it is possible that you knew something and forgot it and subsequently said you did not know?
  (Mr Murray)  I accept that is possible.

  1628.  I think that is highly significant. Could I just move on to one other thing. You explained earlier on this morning that if somebody were to sign a $10 million contract it would not necessarily mean that arms and ammunition were involved. You heard Mr Penfold's evidence last week?
  (Mr Murray)  Yes.

  1629.  You did. You heard me ask him what conclusions could be drawn from a $10 million contract and he said very clearly that he as somebody who was in no way special found it quite reasonable to assume that arms and ammunition were involved.
  (Mr Murray)  Yes I heard that.

  1630.  Earlier on you said it does not necessarily follow that arms and ammunition were involved. Will you now accept that it could well have meant that and that big a sum to a colleague of yours indicated arms and ammunition?
  (Mr Murray)  It may have indicated arms and ammunition to him. If he says that indicated to him arms and ammunition I am perfectly prepared to accept that. What I am saying is that the fact of the size of the contract and the fact of the sum did not indicate to me that it must necessarily include arms and ammunition.

  1631.  You include the word "necessarily". That is not the point that I am pursuing. The point that I am pursuing is whether or not when you heard $10 million it occurred to you that it might include arms and ammunition.
  (Mr Murray)  No, I do not believe it did. Spicer was outlining what was planned and talked in terms of training, logistics and non-lethal equipment. He appeared to me to be signalling directly that it did not include arms and ammunition.

  1632.  But it did not cross your mind therefore that it was possible?
  (Mr Murray)  Certainly when he then went on to ask about night vision equipment it obviously crossed my mind that might be dual purpose equipment and I had my suspicions about it.

  1633.  When you had your suspicions did you not then say, "Does this include arms and ammunition?"
  (Mr Murray)  I did not ask him directly if this contract, this prospective contract included arms.

  1634.  Why did you not ask him if you had suspicions?
  (Mr Murray)  Because he used the phrase "non-lethal" several times and appeared to me to be deliberately setting out to answer that question before I asked it.

  1635.  Despite your suspicions you did not think it was necessary to get a categorical denial?
  (Mr Murray)  I did not particularly as I had set out to him what the legal position would be on arms.

  1636.  When was your Department first aware that the Nigerians were planning a counter-coup?
  (Mr Murray)  We were never aware of when it would happen and I think I can say that the date took us by surprise when they attacked on 5 February. That really was a surprise to us. Spicer had talked of a term of eight weeks for the sort of training and logistics contract he was hoping to get and I had presumed that that meant that there would be at least eight weeks before certainly the Kamajors might be going to launch any attack, but the idea that Nigerian ECOMOG forces might attack and might attack reasonably soon was prevalent certainly from the time I joined the Department. It was one of the worries about how the position could be regularised in international law to accommodate both the wishes of ourselves and other western countries and the aims of ECOWAS. So the possibility of an attack by the ECOMOG forces was a constant preoccupation from before I joined the Department but I could not tell you myself precisely where it started. Perhaps Ann can answer that.

Sir John Stanley

  1637.  Mr Murray, can I put some questions to you first and then I have got some for Ms Grant. We have had a lot of discussion this morning about the meeting on 19 January but there is one issue where I do find it very difficult to reconcile two points you have made with equal clarity and firmness as far as your recollection is concerned. On the one hand you have an extremely firm recollection that all Mr Spicer told you about in terms of the content of his agreement with President Kabbah was that he was going to provide logistic support, non-lethal equipment, to use your phrase and yet, equally, you are very clear that you had an extensive discussion about the arms embargo and potential breaching of the arms embargo and I fail to understand how those two can be reconciled.
  (Mr Murray)  Well, they are reconciled by the point that when he raised the question of arms he raised it ostensibly as a matter of what would be the position in preventing arms getting there from a third party who were sending them to the other side and that was when the relevant parts of the Resolution were read out and the legal position explained. He then asked about his supplying or his company supplying night vision equipment and that was the context in which the United Kingdom situation was explained.

  1638.  Did you have any discussions with Mr Andrews before he produced his minute of that meeting as to the nature of that minute?
  (Mr Murray)  I do not believe I did, no.

  1639.  Can I come to the minute that you produced on 3 February to Mr Dales and Ms Grant about Sierra Leone policy. You referred to it earlier and you referred to the fact that you pointed up to a potential dichotomy in policy towards Sierra Leone and as you have already made clear this morning you set out in the opening paragraph of your minute what you understood to be the British Government's policy to be. And in the course of that paragraph you say that the official policy could embrace a limited necessary use of force or the threat of force, did you not?
  (Mr Murray)  I did but that is prefaced in the same sentence by "under cover of a UN Security Council Resolution, monitored and assisted by UN advisers/observers", so under those conditions that could be the case.

9   Note by Witness: In fact Mr Everard wrote two separate minutes of 5 January about Sandline, one to Ms Grant and one to Mr Andrews. The Committee has copies of both. As my memorandum submitted to the Committee states, Mr Everard had told me of the minute to Ms Grant and I therefore asked for and read it before the meeting of 19 January. I was not aware of the second minute and had not read it before the meeting of 19 January. Neither minute was addressed or copied to me. I can therefore confirm to the Committee that I was not aware on 19 January, nor had I then seen, that Spicer had earlier told Mr Everard a contract had been concluded. In Mr Everard's minute to Mr Andrews of 5 January it is interesting that Mr Spicer told Mr Everard his contract included medical and communications equipment "and nothing higher profile". This appears to be further evidence that Sandline hid the arms component from officials in Africa Department (Equatorial). Back

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