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The home that Gaza bought: BAE Systems CEO acquires multi-million pound property from share sales amid Gaza conflict

Charles Woodburn, CEO of Britain’s largest arms manufacturer BAE Systems, has sold off a massive tranche of shares in his defence company in order to buy a property, Action on Armed VIolence (AOAV) has learnt. 

Woodburn sold 485,694 shares on 4 June 2024, yielding £6,746,289 – as confirmed by BAE Systems. The international arms company told AOAV that the millions were for a real estate purchase. 

The sell-off is part of a larger series of share sales by Woodburn so far this year, in all amounting to over £10.9 million. In March, Woodburn sold 331,716 shares for £4,163,035, as previously reported by Byline Times, and on 17 April, he transferred 90,000 shares to his wife, valued at some £1,188,000.

Such sell-offs come amid record highs in BAE Systems’ share price. Since Hamas’ attack on Israel on 7 October 2023, which resulted in around 1,200 deaths, BAE Systems has seen its share price go up by some 31%, hitting £1,288 a share at the time of writing. 

This hike has meant record profits to some. Had Woodburn completed all his share sales before 7 October 2023, he would have earned £8 million. This means Woodburn has profited an additional £2.89 million (based on the share differences at time of sale) from the company’s bullish market performance during Israel’s almost 9-month-long siege of the Gaza Strip.

While BAE Systems is not transparent about the weapons it has sold to the Israeli military, it has been accused of trading in components for F-35 fighter jets, munitions and missile launching kits. Specific weapons in the alleged list of sales include the M109 Self-Propelled Howitzer (SPH) in conjunction with Rheinmetall; 155mm artillery shells (in a joint venture called CTA International (CTAI) with French-owned Nexter System – including those with white phosphorus); 120mm mortars; and missiles like Tomahawk, Storm Shadow, Brimstone, and Spearfish torpedoes produced by MBDA in collaboration with BAE.

Such weaponry has been implicated in a conflict that has had a devastating impact on Gazan civilians. 

The Gazan Ministry of Health reports more than 37,500 Palestinian deaths and over 85,000 injuries due to Israel’s siege and bombardment, with an estimated further 10,000 buried under rubble and assumed dead, including 4,000 children. ​​The UN has claimed that Israel’s repeated use of 2000-pound and 1000-pound bombs on Palestinian civil infrastructure, including schools and refugee camps, may have violated fundamental principles of the laws of war.

Woodburn’s series of sales off the profits of carnage in the Middle East marks a wider trend amongst executives of the world’s leading weapons manufacturers and the market success of the arms industry. 

Some 26 executives of the world’s leading arms manufacturers have sold their personal shares in their respective companies since 7 October .

In total, these executives have generated close to $150 million through personal share sales alone, with over $30 million attributed to share price increases since 7 October 2023. Far more arms executives have sold their personal shares since 7 October compared to any financial quarter in the previous few years.

Recently, the UN urged arms manufacturers, including BAE Systems, to halt arms transfers to Israel, citing risks of complicity in human rights violations. Despite this, the UK issued over 100 arms export licences to Israel between October 2023 and May 2024, without rejections or revocations.

The UK Foreign Secretary, David Cameron, stated that continued arms sales to Israel are essential to counter Hamas. The Biden administration has also supplied Israel with a substantial quantity of munitions since the onset of the Gaza conflict. Reuters reported last week that this includes over 10,000 powerful 2,000-pound bombs and thousands of Hellfire missiles.

BAE Systems, valued at over £40 billion, filed record profits in its 2023 annual report. In 2023, it was also reported that Woodburn’s pay package had risen above £10.6 million. There is no allegation that Woodburn has engaged in any illegal activities in his financial dealings. He has previously not personally replied to AOAV’s request for comment.

This article was also published on the Byline Times.