Friday, July 27, 2007

Ex-Viktor Bout Aircraft Running Guns to Somalia

The latest UN Monitoring Group report on Somalia is out. BBC News reports that Eritrea is accused of sending the ex-ICU large quantities of weapons aboard a chartered Boeing 707. Looking up the report, it turns out to be 9G-OAL, serial no. 19350, registered to a Ghanaian firm, Aerogem Aviation. Aerogem was contacted by the Group, and blamed a lessee of the plane, Fab Air. Fab Air (ICAO: FBA) is a Kyrgyz company based in Sharjah (natch), whose Kyrgyz AOC was revoked in January.

The 1966-vintage 707-324C has form, lots of form; from January 1996 she was working for Viktor Bout's Air Cess, before going on lease to Pamir Air, based in Mazar-i-Sharif while Bout and Chris Barrett-Jolley were working for Abdul Rashid Dostum (all the other aircraft there ended up with Santa Cruz Imperial/Flying Dolphin/Dolphin Air/Phoenix Aviation/AVE in Sharjah), before working for Johnsons Air (see here, here , here, and here) in Ghana as 9G-OLD (well, that's about right).

Fab Air's only recorded aircraft, An-12BK UN-11376, serial no. 8345805, spent June to October 2005 working for Royal Air Cargo with the BGIA Boyz.

Amusingly, the report refers to the US AC-130 raid inside Somalia, and the US representative's response was as follows:
the above-mentioned operations, the United States also states that paragraph 5 of
resolution 733 (1992) requires general and complete embargo on all deliveries of
weapons and military equipment to Somalia and that it did not believe “that these
operations against known terrorist targets constituted ‘delivery’ of a weapon within
the plain meaning of this paragraph”
I suppose you could say that. Interestingly, the ICU government saw the market price of a ZSU-23 flak gun in Somalia fall from $70,000 to around $10,000, but it's far from clear whether this was due to increased supply or reduced demand. (It has since rebounded to $25,000.)

There's also an old friend in there - the report includes a copy of a bill of sale for the Ilyushin-76 UN-76496, once of Viktor Bout's GST Aero Air Company. Evgeny Zakharov of Aerolift Ltd, a Virgin Islands company, sold the plane to "Eriko Enterprises" of 117 Waisay Street, Massawa, Eritrea. Aerolift, a Sierra Leone-registry UAE-based company, went out of business after being blacklisted in March, 2006.

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