A dirty business: washing powder con man tries to sell weapons to Myanmar junta

A British arms dealer previously convicted of selling fake Persil washing powder offered to supply weapons, aircraft and armoured vehicles to the military junta in Myanmar.

Martin Forrester sent an email to a naval attache at the Myanmar embassy in London, requesting that his company become a “registered supply contractor of military goods” to the country’s military and police.

The email, seen by The Telegraph, was sent on April 2 this year, two months after Myanmar’s elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was arrested and deposed by the military.

Mr Forrester, 50, who lives in Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, set up Goto Sourcing in 2015. On its website, the company offers “equipment, weapons and ammunition from the best suppliers and manufacturers in the business”. It claims to have ties to eastern European arms suppliers and can source everything from ammunition and rifles to tanks, helicopters and drones.

The email to the Myanmar embassy was sent to its ambassador six days before he was locked out of the embassy and ousted from his role. Mr Forrester had sent the email for the attention of Captain (Navy) Soe Aung. Activists with Burma Campaign UK have requested the British Government expel Captain Soe Aung.

In his email, Mr Forrester wrote: “Please allow me to introduce myself, my name is Martin Forrester, I have worked within the Defence and Security business since 2001. In 2015, I formed my own company Goto Sourcing Ltd, based in the UK sourcing / supplying military goods / arms and ammunition around the world.”

He then goes on to list the company’s main activities as the export of “military material, weapons, munitions and pyrotechnic equipment’s [sic], wheeled and armoured vehicles, tanks, artillery and missiles, aircraft and helicopters, special electronics, radio-locating technique and reconnaissance equipment.”

He claims his business works with manufacturers in Hungary and Ukraine among others and has a “worldwide network of agents”.

‘Absolute cluelessness or callous mendacity’

Mr Forrester was previously convicted of being a member of a gang that smuggled 25 tonnes of counterfeit washing powder from China into the UK and sold it as Persil. He was sentenced in 2010 to 12 months in jail after pleading guilty to the possession of the fake goods.

GoTo Sourcing’s website says the company “can only legally work with countries/ companies that are not under any arms embargo by the UN and the EU”. Myanmar, however, has been under some form of UK and EU arms embargo since the mid-Nineties.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch, said: “Goto Sourcing reaches new lows of either absolute cluelessness or callous mendacity in its effort to gain business from the murderous Myanmar military. It’s hard to tell which because their website claims they cannot sell to countries under EU embargo, but a quick web search reveals what everyone knows, that both the UK and the EU have imposed an arms embargo on Myanmar since the 1990s.”

The charity said Mr Forrester had demonstrated “an appalling lack of morals” and called on the Government to investigate Goto Sourcing’s activities.

Mr Forrester declined to respond to email and telephone requests for comment. At his semi-detached home in Stoke, his wife, Michelle, who was listed at Companies House as the company’s secretary at the time the email was sent, said that Goto Sourcing was a legitimate business. She added: "GoTo are not arms dealers. It’s a middleman that sources equipment and puts people together."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *