Air NZ not in breach of export rules after helping Saudi Navy

Benedict Collins
Source: 1News

Officials have decided Air New Zealand will not be prosecuted after getting caught secretly helping the Saudi Navy. 

After a five week investigation the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has decided the airline was not in breach of export control orders.

In February, 1 NEWS revealed the airline's business unit, Gas Turbines, had been carrying out work for the Saudi military which is linked to war crimes in Yemen.

It had been repairing engines for the Saudi Navy but the airline tried to hide its work from New Zealanders and abandoned the work when the public found out. 

After 1 NEWS alerted the Government to the work it immediately asked officials to investigate whether Air New Zealand should have obtained export control permits for the engines. 

Air New Zealand had never applied for them. 

In a statement released today the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it has decided the engines are "not a controlled item". 

"This is because they are not a component specially designed for military use, and they do not possess any unique military capabilities or any inherent military technologies," the statement said. 

The Ministry said it will now carry out a review of its export control regime to determine whether it is fit for purpose.

The Ministry itself had, on at least two occasions, approved military items for export to the Saudi Military in recent years despite the war in Yemen. 

Air NZ released a statement today, with chair Dame Therese Walsh saying the company received legal advice "that the export of the two engines to Germany for the Royal Saudi Navy did not require an export permit under the Customs Act, nor did it require a notification to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade".

Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Greg Foran said in February they took "immediate steps to ensure all future work of a military or government nature is escalated to executive level for review, including ethical considerations, and approval before a contract can proceed".

"We will also work with relevant Governmental agencies to ensure our understanding of issues for differing jurisdictions is kept up to date."

In February, the Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran and chair Dame Therese Walsh repeatedly apologised to the public for carrying out the work.  

Amnesty NZ told 1 NEWS there were still questions to be answered around the work that was carried out and around Air NZ's other contracts.