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BDS claims ‘massive victory’ after company reports $4m in losses

Activists taking parts in the 'Big Ride' blockade a UK-based Elbit Systems subsidiary. Image taken on August 8, 2016
Activists taking parts in the 'Big Ride' blockade, a UK-based Elbit Systems subsidiary [File photo]

Supporters of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement are claiming a major victory following the news that an engineering company reported a loss of over $4 million on the back of a campaign exposing its alleged links with Israel Aerospace Industries.

The losses were revealed by the company’s chief executive officer during a bitter Twitter exchange with students from the University of Manchester (UoM) who brought to light a web of connection between UoM, Versarin, which is a commercial partner of UoM, and Israel Aerospace Industries. In their report released last month, campaigners alleged that Versarin made a deal with IAI in 2017.

Neill Ricketts, the chief executive officer of Versarin, who strongly rejected the conclusions of the report throughout the Twitter exchange, threatened to “sue individuals” for the loss of over $4 million which he believed was a consequence of “misinformation and mistruth”.

Read: UK government seeks to overturn BDS victory in court

“My fear is honest private investors missing out as a result of misinformation and mistruth. I would sue the individuals for my loses which total £3m today. People should not be allowed to just lie and get away with it”.

Questioned as to how the company suffered the loss, Ricketts said: “The share price dropped on the back of fake news that caused some shareholders to sell.  As a result those that made up stories are liable for the losses incurred by the other shareholders.”

Ricketts, who was cited in the original report exuding over his company’s relations with the Israeli aerospace industry, reported the losses during a long and bitter Twitter exchange with UoM student and one of the authors of the report, Huda Ammori.

Read: Activists expose UK university’s links to Israel weapons manufacturer

The exchange began after Ammori responded to a tweet by Rickett from February in which he said: “Having a busy time in Israel with long hours and lots of meetings and presentations, did you know that despite not being in Europe they still can access European grants.”

Ammori replied: “More like, having a busy time creating links with Israel’s arms trade using my university @OfficialUoM as a research hub for your dodgy deals.” Ammori’s response to a three-month-old tweet by Ricketts appears to be a reaction to Israel’s brutal attack on Palestinians in Gaza.

Describing her joy over Versarin’s losses, which in all likelihood would not have been known to the wider public without Ricketts’ admission on Twitter, Ammori said that this was a “massive success” for BDS. Speaking to MEMO she added that the loss was solely due to Versarin’s deal with Israeli companies and shareholders needed to think twice about working with a country like Israel that is responsible for the longest and most brutal occupation in modern history as well as carrying out dozens of massacres against Palestinians.

Update: A previous version of this report said that campaigners claimed that Versarin developed technology that was sold to Israel which was used by the Israeli military in the Gaza onslaught of 2014. This is not the case.

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