Although the United Earth Government has direct control over many major industrialized nations (and their child manufacturing companies), it would be impossible to control all of the manufacturing centers in the entire world. Much of this is because industries and corporations took pains to hide some of their manufacturing centers as the UE government began to grow in popularity. Fearing their assets seized, some far-thinking corporations tried to hide their production processes, but in the name of globalization and 'worldwide security' many of these arms manufacturers were sized and liquidated, or put under direct government control.
Ironically, many smaller Axel and arms manufacturers, due to their size, managed to escape UE Gov attention and continue to produce Axels and machines of their own. So as to not alert the UEG to their operations however, many of these machines are traded over the black market. With buyers and sellers hidden behind masks of anonymity, the UEG has labeled these manufacturers "Pirate Corporations", and their products "Pirate Axels". Despite the name, Pirate Axels are rarely used for pure piracy. Many units are found in mercenary operations, insurgent armies, and compliments to the UEPC provided forces (though not publicly stated as such).
Perhaps the most successful and advanced of these "Pirate Axels" is the 97S Lique. The unit was one of the products on the development line for Astra Space Technologies when the UEG made it's overtures to Japan. The Japanese company, like the other businesses, knew that absorption into the hydra of a world government was inevitable. Given public distrust in large corporations (especially after the series of decades-long Corporate Wars in Japan), it was a foregone conclusion that they would be absorbed or dissolved, in order to 'end controversial business practices'. Astra Space Tech's CEO, refusing to see nationalization crush innovation and brilliance, moved his company to Okinawa, then to Cupps, and set up at an abandoned manufacturing plant there. During the flight the team managed to take only one machine with them, and that machine was the 97S prototype.
The Lique at that time had already undergone materials testing and systems development. Thanks to input from the Space arm of Astra's business, many new technologies from that arm managed to see form in the Lique. New joints, composite armors, and even ballistics jackets (originally designed to deflect micro-meteors) were incorporated into the frame. At Cupps it underwent rigorous testing, and when approved, limited production runs were produced out of the old Cupps manufacturing plant... now re-tooled to produce one of the most advanced independent Axel on earth.
Performance-wise, the Lique straddles the line between a light and medium axel. It's weight, frame size, and armament load suggest that it is a Light Axel, but combat performance give it the mobility, endurance, and speed give or surpass the equivalents in the medium category. It certainly causes problems for the standard KR-14, and has even been documented in a battle standing up to a KR-19 and emerging the victor. Still, there are far too little of these designs to make an accurate consensus as to the threat they pose, and as yet the UEPC has not taken any serious effort to locate the manufacturer or stop distribution.
(Tried to channel Ikuto Yamashita, Evangelion's mech designer, when drawing this. Still not there, but it's unique enough. Now fixed the leg covers and added shading.)