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Grupo Empresas Cardoen (GEC)
Metalurgica de Norte Ltda (METALNOR) / Cardoen Industries

The Cardoen enterprises Group (GEC) was born in 1977, thanks to the enterprising spirit of our President and founder Carlos Cardoen Cornejo, who has given a distinguishing seal, with a deep component of innovation in the creation of products and services since its inception. Since its inception the GEC has participated in different industries, still present today in the following areas, through strategic business units (UEN):

  • In hospitality and tourism through Almacruz
  • Oenology and agriculture through Santa Cruz vineyard
  • Animal feed and products for agriculture through New Tech Agro
  • Generation and distribution of electric energy through EnorChile
  • Real estate through Real estate Santa Cruz
  • Services for mining through New Tech Copper
  • Special steels for mining through MetRan
Despite the spectacular expansion of the public sector of the Chilean defense industry since the mid-1970s, the privately owned Cardoen Industries (Industrias Cardoen), owned by Carlos Cardoen Cornejo, was the most successful Chilean defense manufacturer in the export field. In less than eight years, this firm developed from a modest operation manufacturing demolition charges for the mining industry into a diversified industrial empire. In the early 1990s, it employed more than 800 persons in six separate factory complexes producing a variety of defense equipment, together with nondefense-related products, and had subsidiaries in Ecuador, Italy, Spain, and Greece. Under a 1989 agreement with the Guatemalan government, Cardoen Industries agreed to establish a plant for the manufacture of explosives, grenades, and mines in Guatemala.

In 1979 Cardoen Industries took over the project of rebuilding the Chilean Army's World War II-vintage M-3A1 half-track APCs, which Famae had commenced five years earlier but had been forced to drop for lack of funds. This venture resulted in the development of an entirely new vehicle, the BMS-1 Alacran, a number of which were acquired by the Chilean Army.

Building on the experience gained in the Alacran project, the Cardoen company commenced the assembly, under license, of the Swiss Mowag Piranha 6x6 APC in the early 1980s. In 1993 there were 180 of these in service with the Chilean Army as the Cardoen/Mowag Piranha. Several variants of this vehicle, including a mortar carrier and a fire-support version, with the turret-mounted 90mm Cockerill gun, were also developed. Simultaneously with the Piranha project, Cardoen Industries also developed the VTP-1 Orca 6x6 APC/armored load carrier, the world's largest vehicle of its kind, capable of carrying sixteen men with their equipment. The Chilean Army eventually ordered 100 Orcas. Limited numbers of another tracked infantry vehicle, the VTP-2 4x4 Escarabajo light APC, were in service with the FACh for airfield defense. With Chinese collaboration, the company also produced a 6x6 all-terrain truck for both civilian and military purposes and a light two-seater hovercraft.

In keeping with its origins as a manufacturer of explosives, Cardoen produced three types of demolition charges and a series of detonators and Bangalore torpedoes, in addition to three types of hand grenades, two types of antipersonnel mines, and an antitank mine. The company also produces 70mm ballistic rockets, 300- kilogram fragmentation bombs, and three types of general-purpose aircraft bombs. Experiments with fuel-air bombs were reported to have been carried out at the corporation's testing area in the Atacama Desert.

The most successful of all Cardoen products, however, and one used extensively by Iraq against coalition forces in the Persian Gulf War of January-February 1991, is the patented Cardoen cluster bomb, a 227-kilogram bomb whose 240 "bomblets" create a lethal zone of up to 50,000 square meters. The company reportedly sold more than US$200 million worth of cluster bombs to Iraq between 1984 and 1988 and was described in early 1991 as the world's leading producer of this type of bomb.

Cardoen Industries also developed a low-cost combat helicopter, based on the Bell 206. The prototype of the Cardoen helicopter was presented with a mockup in the year 1986, Chile FIDA, was a helicopter designed for a low-cost attack helicoptr and focused on attacking armored forces. This aircraft was a multi-role attack helicopter based on the LongRanger III. On the prototype, which was the first helicopter to be built in Chile, the classic two-pilot cabin has been replaced by a single-seat flat-plate canopy nose section, and armament is carried under fuselage hardpoints. This prototype flew in mid-1989 and had logged 100 flying hours before being flown to Fort Worth to undergo FAA certification.

A demilitarized version of this gained a United States Federal Aviation Administration license in 1990. In the summer of 1990, Commerce Department special agents in Dallas received information that a Bell 206 Long Ranger helicopter, owned by a subsidiary of Swissco Management, Inc. in South Florida, was being tested in Texas by the Federal Aviation Administration for "airworthiness" and was then to be exported to a Chilean "arms merchant" named Carlos Cardoen. Information they received led the Commerce agents to believe the helicopter was a prototype for helicopters that would be modified for military applications and eventually exported to Iraq. In March 1991, the government seized appellants' Bell Model 206L helicopter, pursuant to a search warrant. In 1992 the prototype remained impounded in the United States on the grounds of the company's known involvement with Iraq, and Cardoen's contract to service Bell helicopters was revoked.

Between 1983 and 1988, Teledyne Wah Chang Albany (TWCA), an American manufacturing company, exported over $3.5 million worth of zirconium to Cardoen's bomb plant, Industrias Cardoen, Ltda., in Chile. Zirconium is a rare metal with incendiary properties. The zirconium was sold to Carlos Cardoen, an international arms merchant based in that country. The zirconium was used as an incendiary agent in cluster bombs that Cardoen was selling to Iraq for use in the Iran-Iraq war. Most of the zirconium sold to Cardoen was in the form of manufactured zirconium compacts specifically designed for use in cluster bombs. In 1982, before zirconium shipments commenced, TWCA asked the Department of State Office of Munitions Control (OMC) for a ruling on whether zirconium was on the Munitions List. It explained that TWCA wished to export zirconium for use in industrial explosives. In early 1983, OMC issued a commodities jurisdiction ruling stating that zirconium was a dual use item and therefore was excluded from the Munitions List.

Although export license applications showed the zirconium was for use in explosives for "mining operations," witnesses alleged the zirconium was actually used as an incendiary additive in the production of cluster bombs sold to the government of Iraq. Further investigation uncovered copies of Cardoen's cluster bomb production manuals that outlined how the zirconium was used in the manufacture of these munitions. In addition, the head of Swissco's Miami office, a high level official in Cardoen's operations and his international sales and marketing representative, testified at the trial that the end user statements on the license applications submitted to BIS were false and there was no intention of using the zirconium for "mining operations."

In fact, the testimony given at the trial made it clear representatives from Teledyne Wah Chang were told the zirconium was intended for use in cluster bombs rather than mining, that the Teledyne representatives had made several visits to the Cardoen facilities in Chile, that the use of the zirconium for "mining operations" was never mentioned as the intended end use for the zirconium, and that tests on cluster bombs were held in the presence of the Teledyne officials.

By early 1992, Cardoen Industries and its various subsidiaries were finding the previously close association with Iraq, particularly the illegal export of zirconium for use in armorpiercing cluster bombs, highly embarrassing in the wake of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Consequently, the company was assiduously emphasizing its nonmilitary activities at the expense of the defense sector, on which the prosperity of Cardoen Industries had been built. Following a two-year investigation of Carlos Cardoen, United States officials brought civil charges against him and moved to confiscate Cardoen-owned properties in Florida valued at more than US$30 million.

These problems prompted Cardoen Industries to change its name to Metalnor [Metalurgica de Norte Ltda], which by 1992 claimed to have no further military products. But by 2012 Janes reporting on one model of handgrenade stated that, although described as the 'Metalnor', it was believed that the manufacturing company name had changed to 'Cardoen-Metalnor'. Carlos Cardoen sold all his interests in defense industries following these difficulties with the US government over Iraq.

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