Sunday, June 24, 2007

Book alert: Doug Farah vs Viktor Bout

Doug Farah's book on Viktor Bout is out. You can read an excerpt in this month's Men's Vogue, which is certainly a fittingly Hunter Thompson-esque scene for him, and an interview. Salient points include this:
I think one of the most startling moments for me was when we were talking to Treasury Department people doing Viktor who were completely unaware in 2005 of the whole previous effort to get him in 1999, 2000, and 2001. They had never been briefed and there weren't any type of intelligence files that they could get. They thought they had hit on this one new person and we told the guys we were dealing with, "But what about the other effort?" and they were like, "What?" It was startling that the disconnect was so huge.

It's only because I remembered some of the original inquiries in the late 90s that I noticed anything significant about it back in May, 2004. There's plenty more good stuff in the body of the thing, too - like this anecdote..
In one celebrated case, his operation boldly spirited away a decrepit Ilyushin plane that had been consigned for use as a Soviet war monument. Former Russian aviation official Valery Spurnov recounted a tale of Bout offering one of his pilots $20,000 to fly a shuddering wreck out to a desert landing in the Emirates, where it was promptly turned into a highway-side billboard.
That'll be this aircraft, TL-ACN, serial no. 53403072, ex-Centrafrican Airlines, now rotting in Umm Alquwain as an advert. Note the engine covers that still carry her Air Pass/Air Cess registration.

And then there's this:
As soon as Bout's plane took off, British agents sent an encrypted message notifying superiors in London to prepare for his imminent arrest in Athens. But shortly after the message was sent, the aircraft suddenly veered off its flight plan and disappeared in mountainous terrain. About 90 minutes later the plane reappeared on radar screens, and when it landed in Athens, Greek and British special forces stormed the aircraft, only to find it empty except for the pilots and a few passengers..."There were only two intelligence services that could have decrypted the British transmission in so short a time," says one European intelligence official familiar with the operation. "The Russians and the Americans. And we know for sure it was not the Russians."

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