Explosives dealer back in business

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 March, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 March, 1998, 12:00am

An explosives producer whose company was shut down for allegedly helping Iran produce weapons of mass destruction is operating again.

Jiang Chengwei, who has links to China's state arms dealer, is listed as a director of Throne Star International.

It is run out of the same offices as his previous firm, the now defunct Rex International Development, and also produces explosives from the same depot in Kowloon.

Intelligence and security sources were surprised when told of the new business.

In one of the last acts of the colonial government, the Executive Council - acting on a dossier of sensitive intelligence - forced Rex to halt business on June 27 last year.

The company, alleged to have supplied warfare materials for weapons of destruction to Iran, went to court in a bid to stop deregistration.

It reached an out-of-court agreement with the Government to be wound up.

Outside rooms 3207 and 3208 of the Shun Tak Centre, Sheung Wan, the Rex logo has been stripped from the wall.

Staff working inside identified the company as Throne Star.

A source at the Civil Engineering Department, which monitors the use of explosives in Hong Kong, said the Rex manufacturing plant at Anderson Road, Sau Mau Ping, had ceased production for a few months last year and then started as Throne Star.

Mr Jiang is the key link between the companies.

A former mainland explosives expert, he was honoured by Beijing for his 'tremendous contribution' to China's Four Modernisations programme.

Mr Jiang, who joined Rex in 1994, rose to prominence in China's defence industry as a composite dynamite specialist in the Ministry of Ordnance Industry, which later became Norinco.

He was invited to take a holiday and meet former premier Zhao Ziyang at the leaders' resort of Beidaihe in 1987, a rare distinction at the time.

One allegation levelled against Rex claimed it was behind a shipment of high-grade steel pipes suitable for chemical or explosive use to the Defence Industries Organisation of Iran.

The company also had an office in the Islamic country's capital of Teheran where it had been involved in setting up a chemical factory - which could produce precursors for chemical warfare - and an armament productions line, said a source.

The government had wanted to close down Rex, closely linked with the Middle East department of China's arms manufacturing conglomerate Norinco, because it did not want 'this sort of activity' becoming a problem in the early days of the SAR, a security source claimed.

The source said the government agreed to the voluntary winding up to prevent sensitive intelligence from having to be aired in court should it have pressed ahead with deregistration.

The decision meant its assets did not have to be surrendered. Directors were also not prevented from sitting on other companies.

Rex was established by Norinco with tycoon Tsui Tsin-tong in 1982. He resigned in 1992.