The Guardian, February 16th, 2002
Brussels holds Kenyan wanted by UN and UK for fuelling civil war
Andrew Osborn in Brussels
One of Africa's most notorious arms dealers, a man who has been banned from entering Britain and been described by the government as "odious" for his alleged role in illegally supplying weapons to rebel forces in Sierra Leone, has been arrested in Belgium.
Sanjivan Ruprah, a Kenyan national of Indian extraction, was charged in Brussels with criminal association and travelling on a false British passport; other more serious charges are expected to follow.
Mr Ruprah was named by the UN two years ago as one of four men who sold arms to the now defunct Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone in clear breach of international sanctions, fuelling a bloody decade-long civil war against the government that claimed at least 50,000 lives.
Last month, the UN declared the civil war officially over as the last of 47,000 combatants laid down their arms.
The world body has moved to establish a war crimes tribunal to try those responsible for atrocities in a conflict noted for horrific treatment of civilians, particularly children.
British paratroopers were sent to Sierra Leone to ensure the safety of British nationals in the capital, Freetown, and clashed on numerous occasions with rebel forces only to find themselves fighting rebels armed by Mr Ruprah and his associates
The UN says that Mr Ruprah worked closely with Victor Bout, a Russian arms dealer known as "Africa's merchant of death", who supplied weapons to the rebels from eastern Europe in exchange for diamonds.
The arrest follows a lengthy surveillance operation by the Belgian secret service. They have been watching Mr Ruprah since the middle of last year when he arrived in a Brussels suburb to be with his wife.
Like many said to have been involved in the "blood-for-diamonds trade" during Sierra Leone's civil war, Mr Ruprah operated out of neighbouring Liberia, where the government backed the RUF.
In January 2001, Peter Hain, who was the Foreign Office minister for Africa, was asked in the House of Commons what he was doing to stop Mr Ruprah supplying arms being used against British troops.
"The actions of Sanjivan Ruprah are equally odious as those of Victor Bout," said Mr Hain. "He supplies diamonds and brings in arms with Victor Bout's assistance. We have barred him from entering Britain, as he sought to do last summer with his family, and we are working with the UN to obtain a security council resolution that will clamp down on his activities."
Mr Ruprah is known to have several Liberian diplomatic passports, including one which identifies him as Liberia's deputy commissioner for maritime affairs. He often travels under the alias Samir Nasr.
The Belgian daily Le Soir said he has been in frequent contact of late with the CIA, offering his services as an informer. He and his associates are said to have a good knowledge of Afghanistan and to be willing to talk about arms smuggling to the Taliban.
An investigation by the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has recently claimed that Victor Bout sold arms worth millions to the Taliban in the late 1990s.
The consortium said that a company owned by Mr Bout, operating from Ostend, Belgium, was suspected of delivering at least 40 tonnes of Soviet weapons to the Taliban in 1996, earning about £35m.
Afghan generals, allegedly helped by Pakistan, financed a Boeing 707 to bring in the shipment.
Mr Bout remains at large and is reported to be in either the Congo or Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates.