Friday, May 13, 2005

Evening Standard Censored

Back on Monday, the London Evening Standard ran a long and sensational story by Andrew Gilligan regarding none other than my alter-ego, Viktor Bout, who it seems has been working for the MoD even after many of his companies were blacklisted by the US. Now, I intended to blog about it in a free moment during the week, but when I got around to I discovered that the Standard's website, www.thisislondon.com, contains no trace of the story. Nothing. Nada. Nitchevo. Down the memory hole, it seems.

You may recall that when, a few weeks ago, Duncan Campbell's report on the "ricin plot" that involved neither ricin nor a plot was scrubbed from The Guardian's site because the government invoked a Public Interest Immunity certificate on the names of some people involved, many bloggers including but not limited to Phil Hunt of Cabalamat Journal, Justin of Chicken Yoghurt, and Tim Worstall of, well, Tim Worstall reproduced the text of the article in order to preserve it. I am going to do exactly the same thing, and I would request that fellow-bloggers mirror the text as was done on that occasion. We could call it Operation Mirrorball.

Here goes:
Headline: HOW CAN BRITAIN STILL USE THE MERCHANT OF DEATH? Strapline: Today the UK will promise to curb arms traffickers. But the MoD is hiring planes from a dealer linked to Bin Laden.

By Andrew Gilligan. Evening Standard, Monday, 9th May 2005.

Victor Bout [sic] is the most notorious arms trafficker in the world. Linked to Osama bin Laden by the British government, linked to the Taliban by the US government, he was described by a New Labour minister as a "merchant of death" who must be shut down.

Yet an Evening Standard investigation has found that, just two months ago, a Victor Bout company was hired by that very same British government to operate military flights from a key RAF base.

Bout, a 38-year old Russian, owns or controls a constellation of airlines that have smuggled illegal weapons to conflict zones for the past 15 years. He has been named in countless official investigations and reports - the most recent only last month. The authorities in Belgium, where he used to work, have issued a warrant for his arrest. In 2004, the US froze his assets and put him on a terrorist watch list [not that they stopped him flying to and from Baghdad, TYR].

But between 6 and 9 March this year, according to official Civil Aviation Authority records, two Victor Bout charter flights took off from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. The cargo was armoured vehicles and a few British troops. The client was the Ministry of Defence.

The charters were operated by an airline called Trans Avia. It was named as one of Mr. Bout's front companies by the Government itself - in a Commons written answer on 2 May 2002. The Government cannot claim ignorance of Bout's dubious links. The Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane reassured MPs: "The UK has played a leading role in drawing international attention to Bout's activities, initially in Angola and Liberia and more recently relating to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda".

A specialist aviation journal reported that the "al Qaeda link" was Bout's role in supplying bin Laden with a personal aeroplane - in the days before September 11, when he had a little more freedom of movement. Could Trans Avia have gone legit since then? Not according to the United States Treasury Department. Only two weeks ago, on 26 April, the Treasury "designated" Trans Avia as one of 30 companies linked to Bout, "an international arms dealer and war profiteer". Bout "controls what is reputed to be the largest private fleet of Soviet-era cargo aircraft in the world", says the Treasury press release. "The arms he has sold or brokered have helped fuel conflicts and support UN-sanctioned regimes in Afghanistan, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Sudan. Notably, information available to the US government shows that Bout profited by $50 million by supplying the Taliban with military equipment when they ruled Afghanistan."

The story doesn't end there. Another two flights were made in the same three days of March by an airline called Jet Line International, also from RAF Brize Norton. A further three flights were made at the same time from another base, RAF Lyneham. The destination was Kosovo. The client, once again, was the Ministry of Defence.

Yet Jet Line, too, is a company that has been accused of close connections to Bout. According to the authoritative US newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, it appeared on a list of Bout companies circulated by the State Department to US diplomatic posts around the world.

"There is no doubt at all about the links between Jet Line and Bout," says Johan Peleman, the researcher who wrote the UN report. "It's one of his most important assets." Intelligence agencies say the same thing. Jet Line's office address in its base at Chisinau, Moldova, is the same as that of Aerocom, a company exposed by the United Nations as involved in sanctions-busting and arms-smuggling to the brutal rebels of Liberia. According to the UN, Aerocom was involved in the illegal smuggling or attempted smuggling of more than 6,000 automatic rifles and machine guns, 4,500 grenades, 350 missile launchers, 7,500 landmines, and millions of rounds of ammunition in breach of a UN arms embargo.

Tracking down the registration numbers of the sanctions-busting aircraft, it turns out that the Jet Line aircraft that flew the MoD flights in March were previously registered to Aerocom. They are in fact the same planes.

Bout's activities have helped cause quite literally thousands of deaths in many of the worst places in the world. Born in 1967, he served in the Soviet air force and then military intelligence, where he developed a gift for languages. When the USSR broke up, he "acquired" a large fleet of surplus or obsolete aircraft, which he used to deliver arms and ammunition also "acquired" from old Soviet stockpiles. That weaponry fuelled some of the most savage wars in Africa. Charles Taylor's insurgent guerrillas used Bout weapons to destroy Liberia. In Sierra Leone, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) used Bout weapons to terrorise the country, seize the diamond mines, and chop off their opponents' hands.

None of our business? Well, the RUF's Bout-supplied weapons were almost certainly used to attack British troops engaged on the Sierra Leone peacekeeping mission in 2000.

Bout's planes would arrive at obscure African airstrips, loaded with weapons, then leave heaped with diamonds, coltan - vital for making mobile phones - and other precious minerals in return. "He was apolitical," said one UN official. "He would fly for anyone that paid." Bout's willingness to go places that no-one else would go made him the market leader in the arms-trafficking business. Little wonder, therefore, that the then Foreign Office minister Peter Hain said "The murder and mayhem of Unita in Angola, the RUF in Sierra Leone, and groups in Congo would not have been as terrible without Bout's operations." He was truly "a merchant of death", Hain said [and for a long time I respected Hain for it, too - TYR].

Bout used to operate from Ostend, in Belgium, where a shabby hotel in the city centre acted as his informal marketplace. There was a flight departures screen in the hotel bar, so he could keep track of his planes' movements. Then he was forced to retreat to Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates - and after September 11, to Moscow, where he controls his empire through front companies such as Trans Avia. "You are not putting facts. You are putting allegations," he tells journalists on the rare occasions they manage to get through on his Russian phone number. [Actually, the quote comes from his surprise appearance on Ekho Moskhy radio in 2002 - TYR]

Britain has been embarrassed by dodgy airlines before. Last year, the Department for International Development promised a full investigation after the Standard exposed its use of Aerocom on an aid flight to Africa. The problem is that few reputable carriers want to fly to Kosovo, Iraq, Darfur or some of the places where the government needs transport. And the airline brokers used by Whitehall seem to have learned surprisingly few lessons from past embarrassments.

In a statement, the Ministry of Defence said the fact that its broker "seems to have used an aircraft in Jet Line International livery" was not the same as saying that the MoD itself had contracted Jet Line. But, whatever hairs the MoD may choose to split, the payout - for Mr. Bout - is the same.

Today and tomorrow, at the MoD's vast procurement headquarters in Bristol, defence officials are holding a special conference with human rights groups and arms trade campaigners. The purpose is to persuade them that the government is serious about cracking down on the scourge of arms trafficking.

One good way to start might, perhaps, be to stop putting British taxpayers' money into the pockets of the worst arms trafficker in the world."


Well, what can I say? TransAvia Export, of all firms, too. Perhaps the longest-standing and best-known of Boutcos. And it doesn't get any better for Andy G, either, does it? The Standard piece referred to in the text is still available on the paper's (badly designed and slow) site, but this one has been sanitised. Not any more.

8 comments:

D-Notice said...

Hi

I've also put it on my blog: http://d-notice.blogspot.com/2005/05/d-notice-2-aka-operation-mirrorball.html

jamie said...

likewise on mine...

CuriousHamster said...

Ditto

Anonymous said...

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Paddy McKay said...

Paddy McKay A challenge to the JAMESTOWN FOUNDATION

PUBLIC CHALLENGE TO JAMESTOWN FOUNDATION and other organisations listed below for irresponsible and badly informed malicious promulgation of inaccurate information

http://www.jamestown.org/terrorism/news/article.php?articleid=2369857

An article (to be found at the above link and repeated at the links listed below) was posted on your site about two years ago and was brought to my attention by a number of professional colleagues. I emailed your Mr Donald Temple at the time asking him if he had carefully researched the article he proudly signed before publishing. No reply, what a surprise? People like Donald Temple (who are pitifully badly informed on the matters they so enthusiastically plagiarise from the gutter press) can now vent their spleen on blogger sites and professional pilot rumour networks without too much concern as it is almost impossible to track them down. The sites that permit these damaging articles are not interested in accuracy since they are dependent on a diet of manure.

I am Paddy McKay and I am not difficult to track down. I am not and have never been wanted by the UK authorities or by the authorities of any other state in connection with the subject matter of your article. I have worked in aviation in Africa and the Middle East for the past thirty five years during which time I have met (and sometimes befriended) numerous colourful characters including some of those mentioned in the article. The part I challenge is the suggestion that I am somehow connected with illegal activities. I publicly challenge Mr Donald Temple or any other Walter Mitty from the self styled “Think Tank”, Jamestown Foundation or any of the other publishers named here or unnamed to call me for an interview which may be conducted face to face or over the telephone in a jurisdiction of their choice in the presence of the law enforcement agencies of United Kingdom or USA. (Note: If by telephone the interview will be recorded) Contact my voicemail for appointment on: Telephone: (USA) +1 877 473 3016 or Fax: (USA) +1 707 929 0284 email: info@intavsur.com

Note:
The same article referred to above was plagiarised by numerous delusional self styled investigative journalists for other gutter press agencies rather similar in style and content to Jamestown Foundation’s offerings. It originally appeared in a Sierra Leone rag just over two years ago and was instigated by a disgruntled individual who felt we (IAS) were not being cooperative (we would not accept bribes) and in an effort to get revenge he promulgated by way of an anonymous press release a malicious attack on me personally and on a number of Sierra Leone officials. He was discovered and very rapidly left Sierra Leone making it impossible for my company or the authorities to pursue him in the Sierra Leone courts.

OTHER GUTTER PRESS PUBLISHERS, WEBSITES, NEWSPAPERS, BLOGGERS AND RUMOUR NETWORKS WHO MAY WISH TO TAKE UP THE CHALLENGE; DO STEP FORWARD AND BE EXPOSED FOR WHAT YOU ARE:

The Yorkshire Ranter http://yorkshire-ranter.blogspot.com/2006/02/9l.html
The Yorkshire Ranter http://yorkshire-ranter.blogspot.com/2005/09/26-down-in-drc.html
The Yorkshire Ranter http://yorkshire-ranter.blogspot.com/2005/08/new-mystery-jet-developments.html
All Africa http://www.allafrica.com/stories/200408310218.html
Agora VOX The Citizen Media http://www.agoravox.com/article.php3?id_article=4674
Various Walter Mittyisms: http://www.ruudleeuw.com/vbout27.htm
NISAT Partly correct but completely out of context: http://www.nisat.org/publications/armsfixers/Chapter7.html
pprune Inaccurate remarks made by SNARFEL on pprune 12 June 2006 (pprune = outlet for aviation bullshitters) http://www.pprune.org/forums/showthread.php?p=2660434
The Green Ribbon http://www.tomgriffin.org/the_green_ribbon/mercenaries/index.html
Jamestown Terrorist Monitor http://www.jamestown.org/terrorism/news/article.php?articleid=2369857
Nosuchblog http://nosuchblog.blog-city.com/kam_air_and_the_missing_727.htm
SOCNET http://www.socnetcentral.com/vb/showthread.php?t=55633
No dhimmitude http://nodhimmitude.blogspot.com/2005_12_01_archive.html
del.icio.us http://del.icio.us/Alex/McKay
Maltamedia http://209.85.135.104/search?q=cache:w-iJRsXMi44J:www.maltamedia.com/news/2004/ln/article_3177.shtml+Times+Paddy+McKay&hl=en

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I have some good inside info on mia airlines /Jetex Flight Support. How do I contact the Yorkshire Ranter without entering all my details!!!!!!!!!

Alex said...

Send me an e-mail at a.harrowell@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

I also have info on Jetex and their involvment with viktor where can I post

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