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Albanian witness in U.S. arms probe dies suddenly
Trebicka was involved in repackaging ageing Chinese ammunition that was being sold from Albania to AEY Inc, a U.S. firm contracted by the Pentagon to supply the Afghan army.
He turned whistleblower after the Albanian defense ministry removed him from the contract and appointed another company in his place.
It was at this second company's plant in Gerdec, near Tirana, that 26 people were killed in an explosion of artillery shells in March. An Albanian official involved in the sale of ammunition to AEY Inc. and two businessmen are in jail pending trial for multiple murder over the blast.
Whether Mr. Trebicka’s death was a result of an accident or something more sinister, the public reaction has revealed how little faith the people of this small, poor European country have in their authorities after enduring decades of Stalinist repression followed by years of everyday corruption.
The deadly blast and ensuing corruption investigation, and then the sudden death of a major witness, raise questions for allies like the United States, which have strongly backed Albania’s bid for NATO membership. The European Union, too, has been working to build up institutions and civil society in Albania for possible membership down the road.
A lengthy investigation published Thursday reveals that the Pentagon gave an inexperienced 22-year-old a $300 million contract to provide ammunition to Afghanistan. The shady deal resulted in decades old, substandard munitions being delivered to US and Afghan troops fighting on the front lines of the war on terror.
Small business qualifier AEY Inc. in Miami Beach, FL received a delivery order amount of $48.7 million as part of a $298 million firm-fixed-price contract for various ammunition for the Afghanistan Security Forces. AEY, Inc. was established in 1999; unsurprisingly, Craigslist says they’re hiring.
UPDATE: A major scandal followed this award, which was reportedly contested by up to 10 firms. See “AEY’s Ammunition: Ain’t An April Fools, Alas.”
AEY’s Ammunition: Ain’t An April Fools, Alas
03-Apr-2008 18:51 EDT
Reports surfaced in late March that a company with several hundred million dollars worth of contracts, acting as the main supplier of munitions to Afghanistan’s army and police forces, has been delivering substandard ammunition and violating military export regulations. It operated out of an unmarked office in Miami Beach, FL, and employed a 22 year old licensed masseur as its Vice President. Naturally, a number of readers recommended it as DID’s lead April Fool’s Day story. Unfortunately, the story is not a joke
June 20, 2008
R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Sharon Woods, Director, U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Anthony V. Mangione, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Office of Investigations in Miami, Brigadier General Rodney Johnson, Commanding General, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, and Paul Phillips, Regional Director, Defense Contract Audit Agency, announced today that AEY, Inc. (AEY), Efraim Diveroli, David Packouz, Alexander Podrizki, and Ralph Merrill were indicted by a federal grand jury in Miami on wide-ranging fraud charges in connection with their provision of ammunition to Afghanistan.
The Indictment alleges that the defendants submitted documents to the Army falsely attesting that the ammunition they were providing was manufactured and originated in Albania, when, in fact, the ammunition came from China. To effectuate the scheme, defendants Efraim Diveroli, David Packouz, and Alexander Podrizki would direct others to assist in the packaging of ammunition to be delivered to Afghanistan, and would provide instructions to remove Chinese markings from containers in order to conceal that the ammunition was manufactured and originated in China.
"We must know as soon as possible whether Kosta Trebicka died accidentally or was killed by criminals that have started hunting the people that know a lot about the Gerdec blast," the main opposition Socialist Party leader Edi Rama said.
Trebicka was to be the key witness in Albania's investigation into the affair.