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Victor Bout, The Romanian Connection

Following the trail of the “Merchant of Death”


By --March 18, 2008

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Warsaw, Poland: In my previous article, first published on the CFP on March 14, and then reposted on political Web sites in BritainSwitzerland and in the United States, I reported about the DEA sting operation against Victor Bout and also on some events from the past, involving him and other people. Only a few hours after the CFP publication, I received an interesting documentation from Bucharest in Romania and an article from the current issue of a Polish conservative magazine Gazeta Polska. Both provide very interesting disclosures about the illegal weapons trade and Mr. Bout’s connections to the Romanian and Polish military intelligence. Here is the first of my follow up reports.

A letter from Romania

“I graduated from the Romanian Air Force Academy (1984), trained as a pilot on fighter jets MIG-21. In 1992, I also graduated from the War College, obtaining my Master’s degree in Aeronautical Science. For me all troubles started on May 6,1998 when I was arrested, like a dangerous criminal, in my office of the assistant commander of the Bucharest-Otopeni International Airport,” Valentin Vasilescu wrote to me from Bucharest. (Valentin Vasilescu.)

His letter really intrigued me, as he went on: “When they put me in jail, they kept me there for 100 days without any proof shown against me.  According to Romanian legislation, an absence from duty for more than 60 days means that you will lose your job forever. The Romanian authorities made up a fake cigarettes-smuggling case against me, which had a huge echo in the media as a so- called “TIGARETA 2” scandal. In fact, no cigarettes on board Viktor Bout`s airplane IL-76 operating for AIR SOFIA, landed and were unloaded at the Bucharest-Otopeni Airport. Overnight standing at its military apron was necessary for the Romanian secret services to load Romanian-made anti- aircraft missiles for destination to a country under UN embargo (Teheran-OIII code IATA). It was not for the first time. When the Court allowed me to prove that (more than one year after the beginning of the trial), I put the documents on the table.

One can read about that in a 1999 issue of “Ziua” newspaper [a translation from Romanian]:

“Two days ago, the Panel of Judges of the Supreme Court adjourned the case named “Cigarette 2”.The real motive is presented by documents provided at the end, which represent ‘mostly military secrets’, which because they are classified, cannot be published.

“Ziua” journal found out that these documents had been sent [to the Court] by the Defence Commission [of the Parliament] which examined the ex-commander from the Otopeni Airport, Valentin Vasilescu…. Commission members asked the Panel of Judges to take these documents into consideration, because they could change the juridical interpretation of the given case. Asked what those documents were containing, V.Vasilescu declared that it was about seven containers of weapons hidden in cigarette transports… with destination to Iran, Burundi, Eritrea and to other countries in Africa…Only in these documents there was the information about other smugglers and intermediaries never questioned before by the authorities. From our sources,  we have learned that there are some high-ranking persons implicated not only in the “Cigarette2” affair but also in other transports. Weapons under the cover of cigarettes were exported… apparently by a company owned by Viktor Bout and Shimon Naor (a former collaborator of Col.Oliver North in the Iran-Contra operation) because they had the monopoly on such secret transactions at that time. It is interesting that these documents were not immediately included in the dossier. They remained at the leadership of the Supreme Court and were “found” only during a Monday court session, after V.Vasilescu made “waves” in other offices….So, the “Cigarette2” affair will have a totally changed final.”

Victor Bout shipped missiles to Iran

“The commercial deal between Romania and Iran involved the delivery of the equipment for 2 regiments of A.A. missiles, estimated cost ~ 8-9 million USD. Each regiment composed of 3 launching batteries (L.B.) and 1 technical battery (T.B.). Each L.B. composed of 4 mobile launching ramps (L.R.) on trucks and 1 mobile radar tracking system (M.R.T.S.), cm and dm frequency antennas included.

At least 80-90 missiles, 24 L.R.; 6 M.R.T.S.; 2 complete T.B. with a few mobile components ... For the deployment by air of the 2 regiments of missiles there were planned at least 20 flights of wide-body aircraft ( IL-76 or B-707 type ) of Viktor Bout`s companies and 6 flights using medium cargo aircraft (AN-12). In 1996 there were only 11 flights.”

Mr. Vasilescu continued:

“On my web page  you can see in addition the flight of February 21, 1998 of Uzbekistan Airways (UZB-3509/3510 ) operated by AN-12 registered UK-11639. The agreement of landing and over-flight for this flight was issued by the Romanian Department of Defence MApN (Acord de survol nr 00096/02.98).This document mentions: the purpose of flight was to transport components of missiles, the property of Army Arsenal (transporta componente de racheta din Arsenalul Armatei ). For the high priority of this flight, the Romanian Air Force issued special permits for Air Traffic Controller (8683 specify for special flights and cargo). The destination of the flight was wrong. Nobody could find out this type of Romanian AA missiles in the Uzbekistan Army or Azerbaijan Army. The second flight was on March 1,1998. Boeing 707 ex-Santa Lucia`s Oliver North Airways company first registered as J6-SLF, now re-registered in Liberia EL-JNS operated by Sky Air together with Air Atlantic Cargo property of a US-Iranian aviation magnate and gun-runner Farhad Azima, a business partner in Heavy Lift company with the Russian arms dealer Victor Bout. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the U.S.Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce. This guy had since May 1987 until 2003 an office at Ostend (Oostende) Airport in Belgium, where his aircraft was also periodically stored for maintenance purposes. He donated 1 million USD for the presidential campaign of Bill Clinton (in 2000).”

Under the protection of the Romanian MI

Connections of Victor Bout and other gun-runners to the Romanian military intelligence seem apparent. Mr. V. Vasilescu has proved it:

“Only a few Romanian intelligence agencies covered the import-export firms and were involved in cigarette smuggling on the Bucharest airport and in the free trade zone of Agigea, in the Constanta Sea Port (new and old), to make money for support of the military training of Islamic organizations . This person started up his career as a naval intelligence officer in a Middle East country. His partner in these firms was a Romanian Army General, appointed the head of Guardia Financiare [Financial Police]. In fact, the management of this network of the under-cover firms belonged to Colonel GEORGE DUMITRESCU (ID serial DM no. 365850), an active duty,  high-ranking officer of Brigada Antiterorista [Antiterrorist Brigade] of the SRI (The Romanian Homeland Intelligence Service), which coordinated the activities of the Arab citizens and their Muslim brothers in Romania. He was the person who signed all the documents I enclosed in my attachment. His cousin, the ex-personnel head of staff of the Intelligence Academy in the 1990s, was appointed colonel prosecutor of the Military Panel [of the Supreme Court]. In all operations with cigarettes this network was supported by a general and the head of the Economic Counter Intelligence Division of the SRI. This job was very profitable for the general as he could multiply his official salary by many thousand times. Personnel of the SIE (Foreign Intelligence Agency of Romania) based in the Romanian Embassies was responsible for preparing the fake documents necessary for commercial operations of the [arms smugglers] network. They were following the orders of their superiors.”

This is only a part of a large dossier compiled by Mr. Valentin Vasilescu. He also identified to me a former (and possibly also present) Romanian partner of Mr. Victor Bout:

“His business link with the Romanian Government in 1996-1999 was Colonel Gigel Bratiloveanu of the military enterprise ROMTEHNICA.

At that time, his business was to illegally transfer the Romanian Government’s weapons, loaded on Bucharest-Otopeni military apron, for almost a hundred flights with the destinations to: DR Congo, Angola, Iran, Liberia, Sudan, Rwanda, Uganda etc. Now Mr. Bratiloveanu is the commercial representative at the   Romanian Embassy in Moscow. He gave to Victor Bout in Moscow a computer memory stick with the price-list of Romanian surface-to-air missile systems for the Columbian FARC guerrillas.

Bout’s planes operated not only from Romania but also from the neighboring Republic of Moldova. One of these planes registered in Moldova, ER-75929 operated 73 flights, smuggling Romanian-build weapons for Africa via the military apron of Otopeni-Bucharest airport under Air Acvila (RRM code), a company owned by the Romanian Department of Defense.

To the attention of NATO

My correspondent, Mr. Valentin Vasilescu, was a Member of Parliament (MP) in Romania (2000-2004), and now he is a jobless person. In March 2004, Romania became a member of NATO, together with six other European post-communist countries. It could be interesting to find out if weapon-smuggling practices have been abandoned, or they still continue in that country. The same concerns Bulgaria, another NATO-member, which was the home of a large logistic base of Viktor Bout’s air-transport enterprises. By the way the IGLA missiles, offered by Bout to alleged FARC commanders, had been produced and stored in Bulgaria.

A Polish TV journalist, Mr. Witold Gadowski, reported in his article, published in March of this year, that “only from July 1997 to October 1998, CIA officers documented 37 flights of Bout’s planes from the Black Sea Coast airfield in Burgas to African countries. Only to Angola, Victor Bout’s airlines shipped 15 million dollars worth of artillery shells, 20 thousand of mortar bombs and also 20 missile launchers and 6,300 missiles. In Africa, Bout cooperated with another notorious arms trader,  Ranjivan Ruprah of Kenya. Investigators consider Ruprah one of the main arms supplies to al Qaeda. By selling weaponry and munitions to various conflicting parties in Afghanistan only, Victor Bout cashed in over 50 million of US dollars.”

In my follow-up article I will write more about interesting information received from Polish sources. My next article will be entitled:

“DID THE FSB BETRAY VICTOR BOUT.”

 



David M. Dastych -- Bio and Archives | Comments

David Dastych passed away Sept.11, 2010.

See:David Dastych Dead at 69


David was a former Polish intelligence operative, who served in the 1960s-1980s and was a double agent for the CIA from 1973 until his arrest in 1987 by then-communist Poland on charges of espionage. Dastych was released from prison in 1990 after the fall of communism and in the years since has voluntarily helped Western intelligence services with tracking the nuclear proliferation black market in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. After a serious injury in 1994 confined him to a wheelchair, Dastych began a second career as an investigative journalist covering terrorism, intelligence and organized crime.

Other articles by David Dastych

 

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