N.H. Firearms CEO Goes on Trial In Germany, With Talk of Plea Deal

Feb 26, 2019

Investigators leave arms manufacturer Sig Sauer with boxes full of seized material in Eckernfoerde, Germany, July 3, 2014.
Credit Getty Images/NHPR

The CEO of Sig Sauer, one of the country’s largest gun makers with U.S. headquarters in New Hampshire, was in a German courtroom Tuesday for the start of a trial over his role in an alleged illegal international arms sale.

German prosecutors accused Ron Cohen, along with two other Sig Sauer executives, of covering up the final destination of a shipment of approximately 38,000 Sig-made pistols. The company told export officials in Germany the weapons were bound for the United States, but those guns were then allegedly shipped a second time from the company’s facilities in Newington, N.H., to Colombia.

German law prohibits selling arms to nations considered to be in conflict, including Colombia.

After reading the indictments in court in the northern German city of Kiel on Tuesday, prosecutors announced they are considering a plea agreement with Cohen and his co-defendants, according to German media reports. The deal would reportedly include a suspended prison sentence of between 18 and 22 months for Cohen, as well as possible fines. Sig Sauer could also face fines.

Discussions on a possible agreement continued in private after the hearing concluded. The trial is scheduled to resume on Wednesday, with court dates scheduled until late June.

“We expect a fair process,” Oliver Sahan, a lawyer for Cohen, told Handelsblatt newspaper.

Sig Sauer officials in New Hampshire did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The opening of the trial comes more than four years after initial reports of the alleged arms deal broke in the German media. Sig Sauer in Germany is accused of submitting false “end use” certificates that failed to state the weapons would be sent to Colombia. In 2009, its sister-company in New Hampshire secured a contract with Columbia’s national police force worth up to $300 million.

Prosecutors believe the facility in New Hampshire may have lacked the production capacity to complete the order, and turned to its German partner for inventory. Pistols bearing a “Made in Germany” stamp appeared in videos published by members of the Colombian police.