Saturday, June 20, 2009

dad, won't you get me out of this?

So we've got an Antonov-12 seized in Kano with a load of guns heading for Equatorial Guinea. The Nigerian press have more; the Daily Independent says the aircraft made an unscheduled technical stop at 0400 local time, and that the Ukrainian crew and an unspecified Nigerian are in the hands of the State Security Service. Further, they quote a registration for the plane: UR-CAK.

The Vanguard gives a different landing time, and the detail that the arrested Nigerian was an airport handling agent who was trying to get the plane released by customs. They also provide a picture of a Boeing 747 freighter, which is after all an aeroplane if not the right one. According to the report, the police wouldn't let anyone take photos.

But there are plenty here, and they fit the description. UR-CAK is serial 6343707, currently with Meridian Aviation of Poltava, Ukraine and formerly with both Jet Line International and Aerocom. The fleet at Meridian includes two aircraft acquired from "Ruby Star" of Belarus, both of which came from Jet Line (serials 402410 and 6344610), and an An-24RV (serial 17306910) leased out to Kam Air, where it shares a roster with the Financial Advisors and Chris Barrett-Jolley's old 727 YA-GAA.

Interestingly, despite going through six apparent owners, it's looked the same since 1998.

UR-CAJ, An-12 serial 8346106, has passed through Airline Transport Incorporation, Jet Line International, ACS, and Asterias Commercial before reaching Meridian.

All of which says that, whatever the limits of the Viktor Bout network are, the crap doesn't fall too far from the arse. Ex-Aerocom and JLI planes are found full of illicit weapons, in the same companies as ex-Phoenix (old style) ones working for Afghan warlords.

The Daily Trust reports that the aircrew claim the weapons were the property of the Equatorial Guinean government, and that they offered the police a large bribe after they became suspicious. However, nobody seems sure whether Equatorial Guinea or Guinea-Bissau were meant, and the papers agree that more people were arrested, but not how many. This Day says it's one fewer, and alleges that the arms were intended for the Niger Delta insurgents, possibly via Malabo.

They also quote a flight number, MEM (which is Meridian's ICAO code) 4060. A small number - 16 - of MEMs have been recorded from the UAE, mostly with unconvincing destinations.

Interestingly, we've also heard of an aircraft being seized in Ras al-Khaimah on its way from Kuwait to Afghanistan...

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