Tim Spicer

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Tim Spicer
Born1952 (age 68–69)
Aldershot, England
Service/branchBritish Armed Forces
Years of service1970[1] – 1994[2]
UnitScots Guards
While serving in the UK's Scots Guard:
Falklands War
1991 Gulf War
UN force in Bosnia

Working for Private Military Companies:
Bougainville Uprising
Sierra Leone Civil War
Iraq War[3]

AwardsOfficer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)[2]
General Service Medal
South Atlantic Medal
Other workFounder of the private military corporation Sandline International and former CEO of Aegis Defence Services

Timothy Simon Spicer, OBE (born 1952) is a former British Army officer, and former chief executive officer of the private security company Aegis Defence Services. He is a veteran of the Falklands War and also served with the British Army in Northern Ireland. He became well known as the founder of Sandline International, a private military company which closed in April 2004.

Early life and military career[edit]

Born in 1952 in Aldershot, England, Spicer was educated at Sherborne School and followed his father into the British Army, attending Sandhurst and then joining the Scots Guards. He tried to join the Special Air Service (SAS), but failed the entry course.[3] In 1982, his unit was pulled from guard duty at the Tower of London and sent to the Falklands War where he saw action at the Battle of Mount Tumbledown.

On 4 September 1992, during the Troubles, two soldiers of the Scots Guards under Lieutenant Colonel Spicer's command, Guardsmen Mark Wright and James Fisher, shot and killed a civilian in the back in Belfast, Northern Ireland. At the subsequent trial, it was heard that 18-year-old Peter McBride had been unarmed and not a threat. Immediately following the shooting, the guardsmen were interviewed by Spicer along with three other officers before they were interviewed by police. Spicer later wrote "I thought between us we could reach a balanced judgement on what happened"[4] Spicer maintains the same version of events as Wright and Fisher, to wit, that the soldiers believed McBride was about to throw a coffee jar bomb contained in a plastic bag he was carrying.[5] despite the fact that McBride had been searched moments earlier by members of the same patrol. The bag was subsequently found to contain only a T-shirt.[6] Spicer defended his soldiers even after a jury convicted them of murder[7] and the judge sentenced them both to life imprisonment on 10 February 1995. Spicer argued that in the conditions applicable to the incident, Wright and Fisher had legitimately believed their lives to be in peril.[8] Spicer was involved in a lobbying campaign which contributed to the British Government's decision to free Wright and Fisher from Maghaberry Prison on 2 September 1998.[5] Each had served one week less than three years seven months in prison for the murder. They were then flown to Catterick barracks in Yorkshire to meet their commanding officer. The following month the Army Board decided that both men could return to their unit and continue their careers in the British Army. The pair subsequently fought in the Iraq War.[9] In 1992, Spicer was awarded the OBE "for operational service in Northern Ireland".[10]

Private military company[edit]

In 1994 he left the army and founded Sandline International, a private military company.[citation needed]

Sandline affair[edit]

The Sandline affair was a political scandal that became one of the defining moments in the history of Papua New Guinea (PNG), and particularly that of the conflict in Bougainville. It brought down the PNG government of Sir Julius Chan and took Papua New Guinea to the verge of military revolt. After coming to power in 1994, Prime Minister Chan made repeated attempts to resolve the Bougainville conflict by diplomatic means. These were ultimately unsuccessful, due to the repeated failure of Bougainvillean leaders to arrive at scheduled peace talks. After a number of failed military assaults and the refusal of Australia and New Zealand to provide troops, a decision was then made to investigate the use of mercenaries. Through some overseas contacts, defence minister Mathias Ijape was put in contact with Spicer.[citation needed] He accepted a contract for $36 million, but the deal fell through when the PNG Army found out that so much money was being spent on a job they claimed to be able to do. The Army overthrew the PNG government and arrested Spicer. He was eventually released and sued the PNG government for money not paid.[11]

Sierra Leone Scandal: the arms-to-Africa affair[edit]

When employed by Sandline International, Spicer was involved in military operations in the Sierra Leone Civil War, which included importing weapons in apparent violation of the United Nations arms embargo.[12] The contract was first offered to Globe Risk International who declined the contract on moral grounds. He had been contacted by Rakesh Saxena, an Indian financier hoping that a new government would grant him diamond and mineral concessions. The controversy over this incident, and whether the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) knew of Sandline's actions; inquiries into it concluded that the FCO had known of the actions, and that Spicer believed he was not breaking the embargo. However, former British diplomat Craig Murray claims that he was present at a Foreign office meeting when Spicer was explicitly read the text of UN Security Council Resolution 1132 which obliges member states to prevent their nationals from importing arms to Sierra Leone.[13]

Spicer maintains neither he nor Sandline did anything illegal:

Neither Sandline nor Tim Spicer did anything illegal and were, if anything, victims of a wider UK political controversy. Sandline was contracted to supply weapons and professional services to the legitimate elected government of Sierra Leone. This government had been deposed by a military junta in alliance with the Revolutionary United Front, a barbaric rebel movement. The British government knew of the action, which did not contravene international law or the UN Security Council’s arms embargo. The facts are borne out by a Government investigation, two inquiries and a UN Legal opinion.

— Spicer's FAQ page[2]

Spicer has claimed that he always has called for greater involvement of the British government in the PMC issue. In fact, Col. Spicer said that six weeks before the arms-to-Africa affair blew up, Sandline had submitted a paper to the Foreign Office calling for greater regulation, but had not yet received a response. At the time, with no government response, Sandline was considering setting up its own oversight committee, including a senior retired general, a lawyer and a representative of the media.[14]

In late 1999, Spicer left Sandline, which kept operating until 2004. The next year, he launched Crisis and Risk Management. In 2001, he changed the company's name to Strategic Consulting International and also set up a partner firm specialising in anti-piracy consulting, called Trident Maritime. In 2002, Spicer established Aegis Defence Services, which around the beginning of the Iraq War was consulting for the Disney Cruise Line.[citation needed]

Aegis Defence Services[edit]

Spicer was Chief Executive of Aegis Defence Services, a PMC based in London, until replaced by Major General Graham Binns in 2010. The chairman of the Aegis board of directors is former Defence minister, Nicholas Soames MP.[15] The Board of Directors include: General Sir Roger Wheeler, Chief of the General Staff; Paul Boateng, former Labour Minister and ex-High Commissioner to South Africa[16] and Sir John Birch, former British deputy ambassador to the United Nations.

In October 2004, Aegis won a $293 million three-year contract in Iraq outsourcing, among other things, intelligence for the U.S. Army.[17][18]

Spicer is effectively in charge of the second largest military force in Iraq – some 20,000 private soldiers. Just don't call him a mercenary.

— Stephen Armstrong Guardian journalist[19]

Criticism by US Senators[edit]

In 2005, following the award of this contract, five United States SenatorsCharles Schumer, Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Chris Dodd and John Kerry – wrote a joint letter[20] calling on Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld to investigate the granting of the Aegis contract describing Spicer as "an individual with a history of supporting excessive use of force against a civilian population" and stating that he "vigorously defends [human rights abuses]".

In a December 2005 letter to his constituents, then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) called on the Department of Defense to withdraw its contract with Aegis. Obama wrote that "The CEO of Aegis Defense Services Tim Spicer has been implicated in a variety of human rights abuses around the globe ... given his history, I agree that the United States should consider rescinding its contract with his company."[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ resist.org.uk (2007). "Lt Col Tim Spicer". pub. Archived from the original on 8 October 2007. Retrieved 14 August 2007.
  2. ^ a b c Aegis Defence Services (2007). "Tim Spicer OBE – Chief Executive Officer of Aegis Defence Services Ltd". Aegis World. Archived from the original on 3 July 2007. Retrieved 14 August 2007.
  3. ^ a b Robert Baer (1 March 2007). "US: Iraq's Mercenary King". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 14 August 2007.
  4. ^ An Unorthodox Soldier, by Tim Spicer, Mainstream Publishing, 1999, pp. 121-125.
  5. ^ a b An Unorthodox Soldier, by Tim Spicer, Mainstream Publishing, 1999, p. 121.
  6. ^ "The murder of Peter Mc Bride" Archived 16 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine, Pat Finucane Centre, accessed 7 January 2009.
  7. ^ David Sharrock, Ireland Correspondent (25 November 2000). "Guardsmen jailed for murder may stay in Army". The Telegraph. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  8. ^ Charles M. Sennott (22 June 2004). "Security firm's $293m deal under scrutiny". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 9 May 2009.
  9. ^ Belfast court rules on McBride killers, RTÉ News, 13 June 2003.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 May 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "The Private war of Tumbledown Tim" London Sunday Times Magazine,2 July 2000.
  12. ^ Ackerman, Andrew (29 December 2004). "Tim Spicer's World". The Nation. Archived from the original on 8 January 2005. Retrieved 14 August 2007.
  13. ^ Murray, Craig. The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and other Conflicts I Have Known (12 January 2009 ed.). Atholl Publishing. p. 220. ISBN 0-9561299-0-0.
  14. ^ Andrew Gilligan (22 November 1998). "Inside Lt Col Spicer's new model army". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 19 May 2007. Retrieved 14 August 2007.
  15. ^ Defence Services website[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ Jonathan Oliver, Political Editor (8 November 2009). "Lobbying row as ex-minister Paul Boateng lands defence firm job". The Times. UK. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  17. ^ Jon Swain (23 October 2005). "Making a killing". pub. Retrieved 14 August 2007.
  18. ^ Steve Fainaru and Alec Klein (1 July 2007). "In Iraq, a Private Realm of Intelligence-Gathering". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 August 2007.
  19. ^ Stephen Armstrong (20 May 2006). "The enforcer". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 14 August 2007.
  20. ^ Ray O'Hanlon (7 December 2004). "Pentagon now paying millions to Spicer". IR: Irish National Caucus. Archived from the original on 30 June 2012. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
  21. ^ Tom Griffin (15 December 2005). "Irish urge OBAMA to keep promises on Spicer". IR: Irish National Caucus. Retrieved 10 January 2012.[permanent dead link]

External links[edit]