Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fascinating Report out on Viktor Bout & Co

The International Herald-Tribune has an interesting article about a Serbian gun-runner and colleague of Viktor Bout's, one Tomislav Damjanovic. For some reason it's in the Style section; most photos of Viktor would seem to rule that out, but the one of Damjanovic they supply does have a certain Balkan sharpness.

Anyway, the report is based on one prepared by the Belgrade-based South-Eastern European Small Arms Centre, which according to the IHT has been distributed among customs, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies. You'll be pleased to know someone left a link to it in the comments; you can read it here (pdf).

Between them, they fill in a lot of gaps.

Fascinatingly, the SEESAC report tells us something about the development of the UAE's arms-aviation black market; Damjanovic was present at the creation, so to speak, having been based there working for JAT when the Balkan wars broke out and then falling in with a group of Russian ex-spooks around one Igor Avdeev. This lot, it turns out, were the creators of Jet Line International; and haven't we heard so much about them?

Damjanovic, having lost his job with JAT after the outbreak of war, specialised in running Jet Line's Ilyushin 76 flights into ex-Yugoslavia, and soon drew the attention of the Milosevic government, for whom he smuggled cigarettes to Italy in order to pay for the arms he was importing, and then smuggled surplus arms out of Yugoslavia to pay for almost anything else. His partner was killed in a plane crash with a load of jet fighter parts for Libya after offering the crew a cash bonus to fly despite electrical problems on the plane.

Since 2003, however, he became something like the missing link in the Bout-in-Iraq story; it was Damjanovic who took on US military contracts to acquire arms in the Balkans and send them to Iraq, and some other places too. The now-infamous 99 tonnes of weapons that went missing between Tuzla and Baghdad? One of his jobs. Using various companies, including JLI, Aerocom, and Kosmas Air, he became a big player in War on Terror freight, including a contract to deliver cash (!) around Iraq. Kosmas Air, a Russian operator, was essentially taken over; he and his moved into the offices and muscled in, rather as the Viktor Bout team did with Deirdre Ward's Norse Air in South Africa back in 1998.

Interestingly, the opportunities went beyond Iraq; an aircraft he chartered from GST Aero (them!) travelled from Baghdad via Sharjah to Oman, where it ostensibly "refuelled", and then proceeded to be the famous first plane into Mogadishu. There was more, though; he was also flying guns from Bulgaria to Georgia under a US Army/KBR contract, using GST Aero's UN-76009.

He is apparently now under pressure from the Serbian government to stop, and claims he's going legit; we shall see.

The report also offers some interesting incidental data; a photo of an illegal arms delivery in progress in the Sudan in 2006, clearly showing Goliaf Air of Sao Tome's Antonov 32 registered S9-PSV. Goliaf Air, you may recall, owned an Ilyushin 76, S9-DAE that was used in Iraq.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you were right wing, with the smarts you have, you'd be a billionaire.

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