Today, Bout has the capacity to transport tanks, helicopters and weapons by the tons to virtually any point in the world. The arms he has sold or brokered has helped fuel conflicts and support UN sanctioned regimes in Afghanistan, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Sudan.
The title seems to say that the US actually created this network, that's what i meant.... and yes, i think it is misleading, because the word designate implies involvement in the US making this arms network
MSNBC.com: Iraq Government Deal With a 'Merchant of Death'
In an effort to crack down on one of the world's most notorious international criminals, President George W. Bush last summer signed an order barring U.S. citizens from doing business with Russian arms trafficker Victor Bout. But not long afterward, U.S. officials discovered Bout's tentacles were wider than anticipated: for much of this year, NEWSWEEK has learned, a Texas charter firm allegedly controlled by Bout was making repeated flights to Iraq—courtesy of a Pentagon contract allowing it to refuel at U.S. military bases. One reason for the flights, sources say, was that the firm was flying on behalf of Kellogg Brown & Root, the division of Halliburton hired to rebuild Iraq's oilfields.
U.S. officials say Bout—once dubbed a "merchant of death" by a British foreign minister—built an empire in the 1990s flying weapons to the Taliban and African dictators and rebel groups, in violation of international sanctions. Bush's order banning business with Bout, a former Soviet military officer, was for supplying guns to the rogue regime of ex-Liberian president Charles Taylor. "Our ultimate goal is to shut down his network," says Juan Zarate, assistant Treasury secretary.
Lee Wolosky, a former National Security Council official who tracked Bout, says it's "seemingly inexplicable" that the U.S. government could have been "doing business with an international criminal organization."
Douglas Farah: Viktor Bout Flys On
April 19, 2005
Unbelievable as it may seem, Viktor Bout, internationally-wanted fugitive and weapons supplier to the Taliban and al Qaeda, continues to fly for U.S. firms in Iraq, being paid by U.S. taxpayer dollars. So confident is he of whatever protection he seems to have, that he has not even bothered to change the call letters of his aircraft, flying under MCC, the designation of Aerocom. Two flights, MCC 9025 and MCC 9027 are scheduled today and tomorrow into Iraq.
It does not seem to matter that Aerocom lost is Moldovan air operator certificate in August 2004 and, according to international aviation officials, does not appear to have re-registered anyplace else.
And yet, nothing seems to change. Bout's planes are spotted in Iraq, Afghanistan, the DRC, and no one seems to be able to actually DO anything. Ultimately, it is no one's responsibility. So our tax money continues to go to international criminals who, in theory, are barred from taking our money and who supplied airplanes and weapons to a regime bent on destroying us. Interesting, and not a good omen in the fight against terrorism.
The Yorkshire Ranter: Jet Line lose a Jet
An Ilyushin-76TD belonging to suspected Boutco Jet Line International has crashed into Lake Victoria immediately after take-off from Mwanza. All 8 crew were killed. The aircraft was ER-IBR, serial number 43454623, belonging to Jet Line of Chisinau, but apparently operating as Airline Transport, another suspect outfit from Moldova. Unlike Aerocom and Jet Line, Airline Transport doesn't share an office, but it has flown to Iraq.
Reports have it that the aircraft carried "fish" on its way to Croatia, but then Viktor Bout has frequently claimed that his aircraft carry only "fish and flowers", so frequently that it has reached the status of an aviation joke that an aircraft loaded with "fish" probably contains contraband. (Perhaps the smell of fish transported in tropical heat keeps Customs away.)
Douglas Farah: A Bit More on Chichakli, and Spicer's Iraq Contract Not Up to Standard
May 02, 2005
Well, it seems as though accused Viktor Bout associate Richard Chichakli was not happy when his house and businesses in and around Richardson, Texas, were raided by law enforcement last week as part of the Treasury Department's OFAC asset freezing order. Seems that Viktor himself and Viktor's brother Sergei, who has taken over the day-to-day operations of the Bout network, called into Chichakli while he was with law enforcement folks, asking what was going on. [---]
His attitude during questioning by law enforcement ranged from outrage to saying he wished he had died fighting the cops when they came in in order to be a hero to his children. Chichakli is not under arrest, only his assets have been taken. The computer forensic work is going quite well, and there is alot that is being learned about the finances of Bout's empire. [---]
An interested reader sent me a nice little Reuters story from April 22 that I had missed, regarding the $293 million contract British mercenary Tim Spicer magically managed to procure to work in Iraq. See earlier blogs for details, but suffice it to say he is a bad, rogue element, joining Viktor Bout in receiving millions of dollars in U.S. tax payer money for shady work. His company is Aegis Defense Services Ltd. [---]
In a sample of 20 records of 125 Iraqis employed by Aegis, six had not been interviewed, 18 had not had police checks and no records existed at all for two of them. [---]
That is great. We hire a bad guy of very questionable reputation, and he doesn't even do the work properly. Very good choice, all the way around!
The Washington Post: A Protected Friend of Terrorism
Monday, April 25, 2005
The Bush administration is touting the rule of law and democracy as priorities in its effort to create stability and defeat terrorism. Yet it remains curiously apathetic about the activities of one of the world's most notorious indicted war criminals, a man who is also an abettor of al Qaeda and Hezbollah. I am speaking of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, who has not only escaped answering for his crimes so far but who may be given an opportunity to repeat them if the United States does not act.
It seems to matter little here that Taylor's efforts to escape justice may well succeed because of U.S. inertia. Indicted on 17 counts of crimes against humanity, Taylor poses a clear and present danger to West Africa and U.S. interests. Yet the State Department continues to respond to congressional inquiries with bland assurances that everything is fine and Taylor is no longer a problem. It's not true.
In August 2003, under siege militarily, Taylor fled to Nigeria under an asylum deal backed by the Bush administration and Britain's Tony Blair. The terms of the agreement with Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo were that Taylor not be allowed to participate in "active communications with anyone engaged in political, illegal or governmental activities in Liberia." In return, Obasanjo would not be criticized for harboring an indicted war criminal.
Originally posted by Muaddib
The title seems to say that the US actually created this network, that's what i meant....
The Yorkshire Ranter: Congo Incident
At the moment, I can offer little further information expect that "List" is a typo, it should be Kisangani Air Lift. This outfit was created sometime this year, and its only known aircraft was the one that crashed. Apparently it was leased from "Aeroworld", but I have yet to trace any company of that name. There is a World Aero Airways in Kisangani, though, started this year, which possesses one aircraft, an An-26B registered EK-26060, serial no. 17311107. Its past includes various small operators in the CIS and a period with "private users" in Kyrgyzstan.
Various media reports disagree on key points, some of them stating it was leased to, not from, "Aeroworld" which might anyway really be called "Euroworld". However, no operating airline of that name exists either - it is however the old (pre-1992) name for BA's subsidiary Cityflyer Express. I suspect the disagreement is down to mistranslation as there seems to be a majority of each version in different languages.
Everyone seems to agree it was an aeroplane, that it crashed, and that ten people were killed. Four of them are described as being Russian and making up the crew.
The Yorkshire Ranter: Evening Standard Censored (Operation Mirrorball)
Friday, May 13, 2005
HOW CAN BRITAIN STILL USE THE MERCHANT OF DEATH?
Today the UK will promise to curb arms traffickers. But the MoD is hiring planes from a dealer linked to Bin Laden.
By Andrew Gilligan. Evening Standard, Monday, 9th May 2005.
Victor Bout [sic] is the most notorious arms trafficker in the world. Linked to Osama bin Laden by the British government, linked to the Taliban by the US government, he was described by a New Labour minister as a "merchant of death" who must be shut down.
Yet an Evening Standard investigation has found that, just two months ago, a Victor Bout company was hired by that very same British government to operate military flights from a key RAF base.
Bout, a 38-year old Russian, owns or controls a constellation of airlines that have smuggled illegal weapons to conflict zones for the past 15 years. He has been named in countless official investigations and reports - the most recent only last month. The authorities in Belgium, where he used to work, have issued a warrant for his arrest. In 2004, the US froze his assets and put him on a terrorist watch list [not that they stopped him flying to and from Baghdad, TYR].
But between 6 and 9 March this year, according to official Civil Aviation Authority records, two Victor Bout charter flights took off from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. The cargo was armoured vehicles and a few British troops. The client was the Ministry of Defence.
The charters were operated by an airline called Trans Avia. It was named as one of Mr. Bout's front companies by the Government itself - in a Commons written answer on 2 May 2002. The Government cannot claim ignorance of Bout's dubious links. The Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane reassured MPs: "The UK has played a leading role in drawing international attention to Bout's activities, initially in Angola and Liberia and more recently relating to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda".
A specialist aviation journal reported that the "al Qaeda link" was Bout's role in supplying bin Laden with a personal aeroplane - in the days before September 11, when he had a little more freedom of movement. Could Trans Avia have gone legit since then? Not according to the United States Treasury Department. Only two weeks ago, on 26 April, the Treasury "designated" Trans Avia as one of 30 companies linked to Bout, "an international arms dealer and war profiteer". Bout "controls what is reputed to be the largest private fleet of Soviet-era cargo aircraft in the world", says the Treasury press release. "The arms he has sold or brokered have helped fuel conflicts and support UN-sanctioned regimes in Afghanistan, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Sudan. Notably, information available to the US government shows that Bout profited by $50 million by supplying the Taliban with military equipment when they ruled Afghanistan."
The story doesn't end there. Another two flights were made in the same three days of March by an airline called Jet Line International, also from RAF Brize Norton. A further three flights were made at the same time from another base, RAF Lyneham. The destination was Kosovo. The client, once again, was the Ministry of Defence.
Yet Jet Line, too, is a company that has been accused of close connections to Bout. According to the authoritative US newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, it appeared on a list of Bout companies circulated by the State Department to US diplomatic posts around the world.
"There is no doubt at all about the links between Jet Line and Bout," says Johan Peleman, the researcher who wrote the UN report. "It's one of his most important assets." Intelligence agencies say the same thing. Jet Line's office address in its base at Chisinau, Moldova, is the same as that of Aerocom, a company exposed by the United Nations as involved in sanctions-busting and arms-smuggling to the brutal rebels of Liberia. According to the UN, Aerocom was involved in the illegal smuggling or attempted smuggling of more than 6,000 automatic rifles and machine guns, 4,500 grenades, 350 missile launchers, 7,500 landmines, and millions of rounds of ammunition in breach of a UN arms embargo.
Tracking down the registration numbers of the sanctions-busting aircraft, it turns out that the Jet Line aircraft that flew the MoD flights in March were previously registered to Aerocom. They are in fact the same planes.
Bout's activities have helped cause quite literally thousands of deaths in many of the worst places in the world. Born in 1967, he served in the Soviet air force and then military intelligence, where he developed a gift for languages. When the USSR broke up, he "acquired" a large fleet of surplus or obsolete aircraft, which he used to deliver arms and ammunition also "acquired" from old Soviet stockpiles. That weaponry fuelled some of the most savage wars in Africa. Charles Taylor's insurgent guerrillas used Bout weapons to destroy Liberia. In Sierra Leone, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) used Bout weapons to terrorise the country, seize the diamond mines, and chop off their opponents' hands.
None of our business? Well, the RUF's Bout-supplied weapons were almost certainly used to attack British troops engaged on the Sierra Leone peacekeeping mission in 2000.
Bout's planes would arrive at obscure African airstrips, loaded with weapons, then leave heaped with diamonds, coltan - vital for making mobile phones - and other precious minerals in return. "He was apolitical," said one UN official. "He would fly for anyone that paid." Bout's willingness to go places that no-one else would go made him the market leader in the arms-trafficking business. Little wonder, therefore, that the then Foreign Office minister Peter Hain said "The murder and mayhem of Unita in Angola, the RUF in Sierra Leone, and groups in Congo would not have been as terrible without Bout's operations." He was truly "a merchant of death", Hain said [and for a long time I respected Hain for it, too - TYR].
Bout used to operate from Ostend, in Belgium, where a shabby hotel in the city centre acted as his informal marketplace. There was a flight departures screen in the hotel bar, so he could keep track of his planes' movements. Then he was forced to retreat to Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates - and after September 11, to Moscow, where he controls his empire through front companies such as Trans Avia. "You are not putting facts. You are putting allegations," he tells journalists on the rare occasions they manage to get through on his Russian phone number. [Actually, the quote comes from his surprise appearance on Ekho Moskhy radio in 2002 - TYR]
Britain has been embarrassed by dodgy airlines before. Last year, the Department for International Development promised a full investigation after the Standard exposed its use of Aerocom on an aid flight to Africa. The problem is that few reputable carriers want to fly to Kosovo, Iraq, Darfur or some of the places where the government needs transport. And the airline brokers used by Whitehall seem to have learned surprisingly few lessons from past embarrassments.
In a statement, the Ministry of Defence said the fact that its broker "seems to have used an aircraft in Jet Line International livery" was not the same as saying that the MoD itself had contracted Jet Line. But, whatever hairs the MoD may choose to split, the payout - for Mr. Bout - is the same.
Today and tomorrow, at the MoD's vast procurement headquarters in Bristol, defence officials are holding a special conference with human rights groups and arms trade campaigners. The purpose is to persuade them that the government is serious about cracking down on the scourge of arms trafficking.
One good way to start might, perhaps, be to stop putting British taxpayers' money into the pockets of the worst arms trafficker in the world."
Douglas Farah: U.S. Military Moves to Cut off Bout Flights (Finally), and the Taylor Battle Drags On
Saturday, May 28, 2005
It looks like the US military in Iraq is finally starting to crack down aimed at forcing Viktor Bout's companies from flying there, at least under currently-known names. My sources on the ground tell me Air Mero, suspected of being a Bout operation, has suddenly stopped flying. And the CAA, which controls the flights, has just issued a new list of requirements to for all air operators there, asking them to re-file, with much more detailed information on ownership and maintenance, for permission to operate in the theater.
It isn't the first time measures have been taken, and Bout has proven extremely adept at simply re-registering companies and moving back. Still, it is the first sign that someone in the Pentagon has finally felt enough pressure (it is not likely a twinge of of conscience) to take some basic steps to at least make life moderately more difficult for the Merchant of Death.
Originally posted by Moretti
I fail to understand what make Mr. Bout so special as to have to "designate" him, he just seems to be one out of tens of thousands arms dealers around the world. What has he done to attract the vindication of the "US department of treasury" ?
From page 23 in this previously mentioned report
He had two important assets that set him apart from other traffickers: a private fleet of about 50 aging Russian-made aircraft, acquired as the Soviet bloc crumbled, and the ability to procure not only weapons, but advanced weapons systems (anti-aircraft, anti-tank systems, attack helicopters), on short notice. This came from his unparalleled access to stockpiles of weapons in the former Soviet bloc
Bout´s reach extends far beyond Africa. His network has been documented delivering weapons in the Philippines, Colombia, Bosnia, and Afghanistan.