An anti-gun activist has filed suit against a German gun manufacturer after it was revealed that a notorious Mexican cartel hitman used one of the company's 9 mm handguns to kill at least 12 people, including a prominent human rights activist in the Latin American nation.
Jürgen Grässlin filed charges on the suspicion of illegal weapons export against SIG Sauer, after documents came to light that connected one of their firearms to the 2010 death of 52-year old activist Marisela Escobedo - whose own daughter was killed by a member of Los Zetas drug cartel.
"It's a particularly horrifying case, but it's also a special case - it's very rare," Grässlin told German news network Deutsche Welle. "We have a convicted killer who confessed that he killed at least 12 people, and the gun's serial number - and SIG Sauer themselves say it is one of their guns."
He added: "We don't know where exactly the gun was assembled - but we know it was German expertise, German technology - either separately or in one piece - and it found its way to the perpetrator in Mexico - the fact that he had it was illegal, because there was no export license.”
Escobedo's daughter Ruby disappeared in 2008 and, frustrated by the lack of progress by local authorities, Escobedo found that the killer was Ruby's boyfriend, a Los Zetas member, who was subsequently arrested and confessed. The boyfriend, however, was acquitted for lack of evidence and Escobedo spent the rest of her life campaigning against Mexico's judiciary.
Escobedo's killer, a member of the cross-border gang Aztecas, was found and convicted, and the SIG Sauer gun – part of the arsenal of 200 firearms found is his possession – was identified as the murder weapon.
"Now we know that it was a 9 mm gun, from a German firm," said lawyer Gabino Gómez, a close associate of Escobedo. "According to the files, he killed another 11 people with this weapon alone."
Chihuahua is one of four states in Mexico deemed too dangerous by the German government to allow exports of weapons to be shipped to and the German Economy Ministry confirmed to Deutsche Welle that SIG Sauer has not been granted an export license to ship their firearms to Mexico since 2000.
While SIG Sauer did not respond to request to comment from the German news outlet, the state-run TV network ARD reported that weapon was produced in the company's New Hampshire factory and shipped to a legal dealer in Mexico in a bulk shipment.
Besides the lawsuit, SIG Sauer has been hit with a number of legal issues, including charges from Grässlin that tens of thousands of the company's handguns, manufactured in Germany, found their way to Colombia via its U.S. subsidiary. In the U.S., SIG Sauer is battling the federal government over the design and functionality of the company's muzzle devices, which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) claims is a silencer and thus illegal.