A former Canadian brigadier-general who has spent the last three weeks in an Afghan jail is expected to be released “imminently,” according to the company he works for.
Daniel Ménard, now the Afghanistan head for private security corporation GardaWorld, was allegedly detained on gun smuggling charges, an accusation that has not been confirmed.
Wednesday, a GardaWorld spokeskman told CBC News Ménard was detained by Afghan officials because of “administrative issues related to licensing of the company’s work in Afghanistan.”
A newspaper carrying a report from Kabul on Thursday alleged Ménard’s run-in with the law centred on accusations of possessing military equipment without permission, including 129 rifles and 148 radios.
But later in the day, a company spokesman told CBC News the “issue has been resolved.”
“[Ménard] has his release authority,” Farquhar said. “That should happen imminently.”
Ménard is GardaWorld’s managing director in Afghanistan, where he’s responsible for the company’s operations, “including existing and new contracts with the U.S. government, non-governmental and commercial clients,” according to the company’s website.
Officials at the Afghan embassy in Ottawa say they have yet to hear full details on the case from Kabul.
“Reports received thus far by the embassy on the developments surrounding Mr. Ménard’s arrest in Kabul are sketchy,” the embassy said in a statement.
“All we can say at this point is that an investigation is underway to determine his role in the alleged ‘gun smuggling.'”
But now it appears as if those allegations may have been settled.
Ménardonce headed Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan. His tenure in the country was cut short in 2010 when he was charged with fraternization for having a sexual liaison with a female subordinate.
He was charged and later pleaded guilty to two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline, in violation of the National Defence Act.
By the time he was convicted, Ménard had already left the military, but was symbolically reduced in rank. He was also fined $7,000.
Afghanistan has tough rules for private military contractors regarding the possession and use of weapons and other military gear.
It’s those rules – and the way the Afghan government enforces them – that Canadian security consultant Alan Bell says could be to blame for Ménard’s detention.
Bell’s Globe Risk International has done security work in Afghanistan on behalf of clients like the Canadian Foreign Affairs department. In fact, Bell says he once even reported to Ménard during a stint in Kandahar province.
Afghanistan’s rules for private security contractors were toughened significantly several years ago.
“This was for licensing purposes and for generating revenue for the Afghanistan government,” Bell said. “It was also a way of tying a weapon to an individual if that weapon was ever used illegally.”
‘It’s happened to a lot of companies.’– Alan Bell, security consultant
That Afghan system’s rules require security companies to keep accurate, detailed records of all military equipment uses in Afghanistan including rifles, radios, ballistic helmets and other gear. Bell says those records are sent to Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry along with licence fees.
Afghan officials frequently audit security companies to ensure they only have the weapons they have licences to support.
Bell says these audits can frequently cause trouble for security companies in Afghanistan, in part because the requirements are onerous, but also because the Afghan system frequently doesn’t operate with the same business ethics that Western companies are used to.
“It’s happened to a lot of companies. These people turn up out of the blue and try to audit their weapons and what they have what they don’t have,” Bell said. “When there is an audit and they find you’ve got X amount of weapons that haven’t been listed or licensed, they take that very seriously.
“If you get caught, then you have a problem. They will arrest usually the country manager because is the one that is on the ground all the time,” Bell said.
“They’ve arrested a lot of [expatriates] over the years and they fine then, they fine the company. They usually confiscate the equipment that wasn’t registered with them, and then you carry on business as normal.
“Then [Interior Ministry officials] go on to another company and do the same things.”
It appears it’s a situation similar to this that has Ménard spending time in jail. GardaWorld does lots of work in Afghanistan, including, at times, for the Canadian government.
It’s also had more than one rules run-in with Afghan authorities.
GardaWorld faced similar problem in 2012
In 2012, two British employees of GardaWorld were arrested by Afghan authorities and faced similar accusations after being found with 30 allegedly unlicensed AK-47s. At the time, GardaWorld maintained its employees were planning to buy the weapons but wanted to test their functionality on a range first.
GardaWorld also faced a forced shutdown of its operations as a result of those arrests.
That dispute occurred in the early days of an Afghan government plan to take over and “Afghanize” most of the work undertaken by private security contractors in the war-torn country.
Bell says these latest accusations levelled against GardaWorld and Ménard remind him of that 2012 dispute.
“This is down to hard cash at the end of the day and whether Garda did have equipment that wasn’t registered or not,” Bell said. “[Garda] obviously had their reason for doing that, now they’ve been found out so consequently they will have to pay the fines and then it will be business as usual and next week it will be another company.
“This has happened so many times with so many companies. It isn’t rare.”
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department said it is aware of the arrest, and that “consular services are being provided to a Canadian citizen who has been detained in Afghanistan.”