Dexter Jerome Smith reports from Doha on MILIPOL '98
Some $800 million worth of security-related business was negotiated during the MILIPOL '98 exhibition in Doha, Qatar, in early November, making the event the most successful MILIPOL ever to be held in the region.
The emirate of Qatar has clearly established a successful formula for its biannual police and security exhibition, which it first hosted in 1996. The show ran for more than a decade based in Paris, France, but now alternates between Paris and Doha.
Its French and Qatari organisers are extrapolating that with the Qatar show doubling in size each time it is held, it should match the size of its Paris-based counterpart when it returns to Doha in 2002.
MILIPOL '98 was opened by Qatar's deputy prime minister, accompanied by Pakistan's minister of the interior. Qatar's prime minister, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, who is also the Emirate's interior minister, was abroad at the time, though MILIPOL Qatar is very much his project. Foreign government delegations from nine Muslim countries visited the event, including all the other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. The largest visiting government delegation -- numbering more than 20 -- came from the UAE.
High-ranking Qatari officials from the police, coast guard and armed forces were present throughout. 1996 visitor totals were broken during the third of the show's four days, with visitors from Qatari and foreign government departments and up three-fold on 1996.
The exhibition director in Qatar, Colonel Mohammed Al-Mana, began the show cautiously predicting that MILIPOL '98 would match the success of MILIPOL Qatar '96 at which $200m worth of contracts were negotiated. Of course contract conclusions are largely reflective of preparatory work done beforehand, and in Doha every detail was well attended to. Plentiful transport ran between the exhibition site and local hotels, including 60 Lexus limousines for VIPs made available by the show's main sponsors Abdullah Abdulghani & Brothers, who have the local Toyota and Lexus dealership.
However, the issue of what to do with the crowd-pulling seminars that were a feature of MILIPOL '96 remains unresolved. It was decided not to run them this year since it was felt the seminars served as a distraction from the main event. Colonel Al-Manae, said that the success of the anti-drug trafficking and secure installations seminars at MILIPOL '96 indicated that such seminars had their place. The decision not to run seminars alongside the exhibition this year was a matter of timing. "If time could be found within the exhibition day for seminars -- while the exhibition was closed for a few hours over an extended lunch period -- that might work, but it would probably require extending the exhibition for another day or more," he said. The Colonel did not rule out the possibility that such security-related seminars might be run separately in the future.
Jeidah Motors & Trading Co, which has the General Motors/Chevrolet dealership has been heralded as the first paid-up exhibitor for the MILIPOL Qatar 2000 show. General Motors hopes that a police patrol car based on the 1999 Chevrolet Lumina, similarly specially engineered for the Middle East and available next summer, might scoop up one third of the Gulf police market, about 1500 out of some 4000 cars. Colonel Al-Mana said another four or five companies had already booked for MILIPOL 2000, which he expected to be twice the size of this year's exhibition.
Among notable first-time exhibitors at MILIPOL Qatar was the Russian state armaments corporation Rosvoorouzhenie, which was showing a fascinating range of equipment, including items from the special products arm of the FSB (the Russian Security Service' formally known as the KGB). Amongst a wide array of small arms were not only an underwater pistol (with four slender barrels) and an underwater assault rifle (with just one barrel). The "Gyurza" 9mm pistol, reputed to be the most powerful hand gun in the world, capable of penetrating all known bullet-proof vests, was also on display.
Amongst various bullet-proof vests, pride of place was given to the very one that ex-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev used to wear under his shirt. Bugging devices were complemented by bug sweeping equipment that could find listening devices buried deep in concrete walls, and noise/vibration generators that could, for example, prevent externally located laser microphone systems reading conversations from minute vibrations off window panes. Rosvoorouzhenie officials said they had not sold any security equipment to the Gulf as yet but were looking to MILIPOL Qatar to give them international exposure, particularly in the Middle East region.
Another first-timer was Denel, the principal South African defence manufacturer. Denel products had been displayed at the last MILIPOL Qatar on another company's stand, but this time the company was exhibiting in its own right. Its heavy machine guns were also present on the Omani-built Invader catamaran patrol boat being displayed on the Marine Development Services stand.
Denel, likewise, was showing a wide array of small arms from its subsidiary, Vektor, including some larger machine guns with interchangeable barrels to fire different calibre bullets, smaller rounds being cheaper for practice exercise purposes. But among its many products it was also showing its LEO gyro-stabilised TV and thermal imaging camera with a 360-degree field of view, which is the world's most widely sold day/night heat-seeking sensor for search and rescue (SAR) and other civil surveillance applications. LEO has already been sold in the Gulf for police and SAR helicopters in Bahrain and Dubai. Using infra-red, LEO can detect a person in the sea at a range of up to one mile just from the heat coming off their head above water.
The presence of 10 Israeli firms under the umbrella of the state defence export organisation SIBAT, was also notable. It was not the first time Israeli firms had been to MILIPOL Qatar; eight were present in 1996, but their presence still seemed somewhat anomalous given the tortuous route of the Arab-Israeli peace process...