Saturday, July 24, 2004

A Bout in the kidneys

Further developments on the Viktor Bout scandal are filtering through the blogosphere. Laura Rozen reports that a firm called something like "Jetline" associated with the colourful African aviation identity/evil quartermaster to world terrorism has been delivering goods to US armed forces PX stores in Iraq. This story then firmed up via Rozen and Douglas Farah, the first journalist to interview Bout, who quotes sources as saying that Bout had held a lucrative contract to deliver "munitions" to Iraq for the US Department of Defense.

What is a Jetline when it's at home? Publicly available data lists two airlines of this name - one was a Spanish start-up that failed without flying in 1998, and the other is "Jetline International", registered in Equatorial Guinea but based in Tripoli and Ras al-Khaimah, UAE. Does the combination start to sound a little ominous? It is officially described as existing to provide "VIP flights" to the "Sahel-Sahara Community governments". However, the fleet seems rather large for this purpose and oddly made up, containing a majority of Il-62 aircraft ("VC-10skis"), DC-8s and an Il76 heavy freighter, besides sundry BAC111s and Boeing 727s. Interestingly, some of the aircraft have followed an odd path. Il-62 serial no. 4648414 seems to have been sold or otherwise transferred from the Russian presidential fleet to Jetline and from there to Viktor Bout's Air Bas, before returning to Jetline. In the process it went through 3 registrations in 3 countries. (EL-ALM, 5A-DKT or 3C-QQR) All very interesting...

Update, 1517 25/07/04

More interesting points on Jetline Intl. Strangely, although there are numerous photos of business jets belonging to them on the net, none of the Il62s seem to appear in any publicly available photo. Business jets, of course, fit Jetline's declared purpose far better. Although the Il76 has been repeatedly photographed by spotters, several different registrations are attributed to it. They only differ by one letter, though. Question - are there several Il76s operating under one or two registrations, or one aircraft and several registrations? Or are they hallucinating? Photos also exist of an An26, although I've not found any details of such an aircraft at Jetline.

And what about this? BAC111 3C-QRF, manufacturer's serial no. 61, is said to be owned by Jetline but operating for San Air General Trading. Yes, that's the San Air that received huge payments from the Liberian shipping registry on behalf of Richard Chichakli. Amusingly, one of its former owners was none other than Hustler magazine.

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