Monday, November 15, 2004

"Torture Flights" and an anonymous firm

The Sunday Times reports that two unmarked civil aircraft have allegedly been used by US agents to transfer prisoners to such countries as Egypt, Uzbekistan and Syria, allegedly in order for them to be interrogated under torture. Witnesses to transfers describe the prisoners being handcuffed, dressed in nappies and sedated by suppository before their departure. According to reports of a transfer from Sweden to Egypt in December, 2001, two prisoners were handed over to hooded men, presumably CIA agents, who conducted this rather grim procedure before taking them aboard a Gulfstream-V business jet registered N379P. One of the prisoners' mothers alleges that her son was subjected to electric shocks by the Egyptian secret service after his arrival in Egypt.

The same aircraft was spotted at various sites around the world in connection with other prisoner transfers, including Pakistan, the Gambia and Indonesia. According to the Times, it and another plane (a Boeing Business Jet, that is to say a 737 converted as a luxury and extended-range corporate express) are operated by a private firm called "Premier Executive Transport Services" described as being located in Massachusetts. In fact, contrary to the Times story, it is actually incorporated in the state of Delaware, well-known for its - ahem - liberal legislation on such matters as disclosure, company law and taxation. Bizarrely, neither of the two names given as directors of the firm produce any results from any search engine. The address given is that of a small law firm specialising in real estate. Given these facts, it is very likely that PETS is a shell company consisting of very little more than two names and a Delaware registration. According to the Massachusetts corporate registry, it hasn't filed an annual report since 2000.

A brief perusal of the US Federal Aviation Administration's website shows that there is no aircraft with the US registration N379P. (If you want, look here. If you really want, why not reserve the registration yourself?) The Boeing's registration (N313P), however, is kosher and is indeed registered to PETS. It is apparently operated by a leasing firm called "Stevens Express Leasing", who also have approval to operate Gulfstream IV aircraft. Further enquiries show that N379P has been since reregistered to N8068V. This registration is genuine and leads to Premier, here spelt Premiere.

Nobody who reads this blog will be terribly surprised to find that, yes, Premier can be found in the list of DESC fuel customers that started it all (here if you want a copy). Contract no. TB2506. I have personally suspected for some time that some of the Viktor Bout contracts may have been either for the transport of prisoners, or payment for such transport. Back on the 25th of October, I said as much. Wouldn't we all love to know who the beneficial owner of PETS is, eh?

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