Gilligan defends radio report on arms company

Andrew Gilligan, the former BBC Radio 4 Today defence and diplomatic correspondent, is standing by his radio report about an arms manufacturer which he accused of contravening the Landmines Act two years ago.

The Chemring Group defence firm has called on the BBC to remove the transcript from its website.

Chief executive David Evans told journalists and institutional investors at a meeting on Tuesday that it had decided not to take the BBC or Gilligan to court because of the allegations.

But he did say he was trying to persuade the BBC to remove all details from its website. Evans also insisted that Gilligan’s story was “not true”.

A Chemring spokesman confirmed the company was “in good-faith dialogue” with the BBC, but warned: “If we are unable to have this material removed from the website, we will have to look at our options.”

However, Gilligan told Press Gazette: “The idea that they were ever going to sue was complete fantasy – they had no grounds whatsoever on which to do so. They would have done so years ago. The story is completely unimpeachable.

“We have the audio equivalent of a signed confession – we have the sales manager offering to sell us landmines on tape,” he added.

In May 2002, Gilligan posed as an arms buyer and secretly recorded a conversation in which an overseas sales manager for Chemring subsidiary PW Pains Wessex Defence allegedly offered to sell him 500 landmines for £25,000.

Following the radio report, Chemring executive David Howell was suspended from the company and later arrested by the police.

However, in November 2002, following an investigation, the police and Customs decided not to take further action.

The BBC refused to say whether or not it was dealing with a complaint from Chemring. A spokesman said: “We have been listening to Chemring for some time and while we may not agree with them on every point of the press coverage today (Wednesday) we do consider the discussions to have been constructive.”

An edited transcript of the taped conversation between Gilligan and Howell can be found on the BBC website at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/ today/reports/archive/features/landmines_ transcript.shtml.

However, links to the actual audio reports have been removed.

By Wale Azeez

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