Ketton businessman John Charlesworth cleared of illegal arms charges

John Charlesworth'Photo: MSMP300113-041js
John Charlesworth'Photo: MSMP300113-041js
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Businessman John Charlesworth is preparing to rebuild his life after being cleared of two arms trafficking charges.

Mr Charlesworth, 50, of Aldgate, Ketton, had been accused of ignoring a ban on selling arms to Sudan between 2007 and 2011.

Mr Charlesworth was caught up in the case after customs investigators said they had found evidence that he and Christopher McDowell, 55, of Shiplake, near Henley, Oxfordshire had promoted the sale of military hardware in Sudan and had drawn up a contract to supply 10 Russian Mi-17 V5 attack helicopters in a £16.5m deal.

The investigators also claimed that Mr Charlesworth had broken export licence rules over night vision goggles supplied from Russia to China. The two men were charged but in the course of the trial it emerged that the document provided did not concern either defendant.

It was revealed that Mr Charlesworth and McDowell were involved in a deal to sell two civilian helicopters to a minister in Sudan, which fell through when the minister died.

At Guildford Crown Court last week, judge Christopher Critchlow directed the jury to return verdicts of not guilty in respect of Mr Charlesworth, ruling there was no case to answer.

Mr Charlesworth said: “It’s naturally a massive relief to have my name cleared.

“The whole case has been so stressful for my wife and daughter who have been sitting at home not knowing what’s going on. It’s been very upsetting for me and for them.

“My main emotion was anger that it took so much time and at an expense of not only my money but the tax payer’s money as well.

“It really should never have gone to court and I was so surprised it went to trial. I had done nothing wrong.

“My involvement in the case was that I had contacts in Africa and I was helping my friend Chris, who is an agent for an aircraft manufacturer for both military and civilian aircrafts, in selling civilian helicopters.

“There was no licence required for the sale, but even if there was, we would have followed the guidelines set by Government.

“It’s just great to get the whole thing out of the way and get back on with my life.”

Mr Charlesworth is director of a company called JMTC, a specialist supplier of vehicles and transportation parts to humanitarian organisations and areas of low infrastructure across the world, as well as supplying Toyata Land Cruisers to the US army.

He admitted that the accusations and potential stigma attached to his name could have had a serious effect on his business.

He added: “It could have been very damaging for me and my business.

“I travel the world and serve humanitarian organisations so to be labelled as being involved in arms trafficking could have had serious repercussions as they do not deal with people selling those goods. I would have lost many customers.

“It’s just not what I do and it was very annoying to be accused of it.

“But I was never really concerned in court that I would be convicted. Strange things have happened but the charges were clearly brought incorrectly. It’s now a relief to have it all tied up.”

Mr Charlesworth will have to foot the bill for costs of his legal team and his travel and accommodation expenses, which together will run into thousands of pounds.

His co-accused McDowell was cleared of three charges but found guilty by the jury on the one remaining charge involving in illegal brokering of a deal to sell fighter jets from China to Ghana.

He was told he would face jail when sentenced and the prosecution said it would be seeking almost £20,000 in costs. He was due to be sentenced yesterday (Thursday).