Special Series: Liberia - West Africa
Part 2 of the Series� introduction into the illicit arms dealing
in Liberia, we began to examine how this is an important factor in
the war on terrorism.
has been a source of illegal arms dealing and funding for
terrorists through diamond smuggling.
of intelligence on Liberia and illegal arms dealing was public by
December 2000, so the clear threat in the role that Charles Taylor
has in arms dealing with terrorists is not loose speculation and
mere accusation. It is because of these facts, our leaders are
beginning to see through the smoke and mirrors in the war on
week, during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the
Iraq Reconstruction, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis) called Deputy
Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to task. Feingold took offense to
yet another attempt by Wolfowitz to switch the focus on the war in
Iraq and the Administrations justification for the war.
Wolfowitz�s testified that Iraq is the central location
of the war against terrorism to which Feingold replied:
American people are on to this idea and are aware that this
administration has grossly exaggerated the connection between the
war on terrorism and the Iraq situation. And I would strongly
suggest we focus on the merits of trying to deal with the Iraq
situation that we have in hand instead of constantly trying to
pretend that September 11 and Iraq are the same issue�There's a
heck of lot better evidence of possible Al Qaida connections with
regard to their financing of their operations in Liberia than
there ever has been with regard to Iraq. And I can't vouch for
that absolute validity of that. But if you're focused on the war
against terrorism, you'd certainly be focused on Liberia at least
as much as Iraq.� (1)
the same hearing, Barbara Boxer cited that in the Bush
Administration�s report on the Network of Terrorism-released
October 11, 2001, the countries listed did not include Iraq.
fact, the countries listed for the Network of Terrorism did not
include the Congo, Rwanda, Sierra Leone nor Liberia- all countries
in which illegal arms dealing with terrorists have been evident.
very same countries, along with Niger, South Africa, Zambia, Saudi
Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, were listed under the heading
�Building Coalition.� These countries, where the government
& citizens have either been accused of possible collusion
(Niger) or have collaborated with terrorists, are recognized by
the Bush Administration, as those that �have offered military,
financial, humanitarian, and diplomatic cooperation with the U.S.
government in fighting terrorism.� (2)
is no wonder that Russ Feingold candidly questioned the
Administration�s strategy in the war on terrorism; "Are you
sure we have our eye one the ball?�
replied in simplistic terms that spoke volumes, " I am
absolutely sure we have our eye on the ball and the ball is a
global one;" to which he later admitted, �It's going to be
a long struggle.� (1)
the Atlantic, Tony Blair held a press conference, wherein the
Egyptian press questioned the PM on the nuclear threat in North
Korea. The reporter
explained how the nuclear threat in North Korea, in comparison to
Iraq, has been far greater a threat to the world.
�How could Blair justify this war in Iraq and not do
anything about the threat in North Korea?� To which Blair took
up the point where Wolfowitz had left off ��Iraq was the right
place to begin.� (3)
earlier this week, Vice President Cheney queried, "How could
any responsible leader ignore the threat in Iraq?"
the leaders around the world, who have supported this war - leave
us all with more questions on the future & where this war will
of the critical questions we should all be querying the nation�s
has the Bush Administration taken a hands-off approach to the
crisis in Liberia, and continued to ignore Charles Taylor�s
links to terrorists, with the known arms deals & funding of
the al Qa�ida in Liberia?
Clinton had raised the issue of unfettered arms trading in a
speech at the United Nations. A directive he signed afterward made
the mission clear: Suppliers who catered to criminal enterprises
had to be confronted before they linked up with terrorists. (4)
shift in policy on terrorism under the Bush Administration would
not become apparent in any obvious way, until 9/11. And since
9/11, the Bush Administration�s approach to illicit arms dealing
still continues to be tamed by the Administration�s loyalty to
the gun lobby and the arms exportation to covert allied
with Liberia, various factions in the intelligence community have
not always worked towards the road to peace- for many covert and
overt reasons. In
some cases, they have worked against each other.
Why this has been allowed to continue without an
investigation is a complex array in diplomacy issues, profit
margin and pure outright corruption.
Instead of investigation, the Bush Administration has
shielded this corruption within the grand bureaucracy of the
Department of Homeland Security.
understand who and what has been shielded, a review of Part 2 in
the series on Liberia is necessary.
In Part 2, we discussed what one official termed the
��piece of luck� arrest of Leonid Minin of the �Odessa
Minin is a key figure that illuminates the level and span of this
corruption. Minin had
been under surveillance since 1992, by the Milan customs police.
His initial arrest was in August 2000 for cocaine
possession, after the Milan vice police raided his hotel room.
What they discovered in the hotel room was what led to the
charge of arms dealing to embargoed countries.
These charges were placed on Minin over a year later, in
June of 2001, while still in custody for cocaine possession.
were over 1500 documents that were translated- and led
investigators down a trail from money laundering to diamond
smuggling to international arms and drug trafficking- the list
goes on. His ties
with both Charles Taylor and his son �Chuckie� were far more
intimate than the occasional illegal arms deal; this association
even involved communiqu�s with China on their behalf.
One of the most telling and significant links on the level
of corruption, found within the wealth of documents, was a record
of a $10,263.02 payment to MARC RICH. Rich's oil company, Glencore,
once shared a London phone number with one of Minin's companies
a review in the chronology of Minin�s arrest, the fact that
there were 1500 documents discovered with his arrest, over a year
prior to 9/11; one has to wonder why this did not lead to the more
immediate apprehension of other illegal arms traffickers?
Some have speculated that tighter regulations and closer
cooperatives with other governments are required in these
investigations, but these type of sweeping generalizations and
�fix-its,� tend to overlook the root of the corruption.
UN did use the Minin documents in their investigation on Liberia
and the Sierra Leone, but no significant arrests resulted in this
information for over a year. Sanjivan Ruprah was arrested much
later in 2002, by the Belgians- and this arrest was unbeknownst to
the UN or the US.
OF THE PANEL OF EXPERTS
May of 2001, at a UN press conference on the Liberian sanctions, a
panel of experts determined that the sanctions applied were
working, in a limited way. Harjit Singh Sandhu of India, an
expert from Interpol
said that the financiers of terrorism employed every possible
means of moving money without using banking channels -- and that
prominently included diamonds. The name of Ibrahim Bah, who
had old ties to Libya and various Islamic terrorist groups in that
regard, had come up in connection with weapons shipments from
Burkina Faso through Liberia to the RUF. Subsequent
investigations would try to establish a specific link between
those activities and Al-Qaeda, but the subject had not been within
the Panel�s mandate thus far. (6)
noted by the UN panel, the Liberian link to the al Qaeda, proposed
to investigate was Ibrahim Bah.
Bah was investigated, and in 2002 was arrested in Sierra
Leone, where he faced possible deportation. When authorities had
moved to deport Bah, he filed a complaint with Amnesty
International for excessive violence by the Sierra Leone
police.(7) He was
later released and is now reported to be a part of Taylor�s para-military.
on Ibrahim Bah and the al Qaeda:
police investigators told "The Washington Post" of 29
December that a year-long inquiry has provided substantial
evidence that Al-Qaeda leaders paid a bribe of $ 1 million to
Liberian President Charles Taylor for access to a protected zone
in Liberia on the border of Burkina Faso. It was there that they
hid for two months after the 11 September 2001 attacks in the
United States. The Al-Qaeda operatives also purchased some $20
million worth of "blood diamonds," a portion of which
they spent on buying weapons.
Washington Post" wrote that Al-Qaeda's diamond-buying
operation appears to have been hatched in response to a move by
the United States in 1998 to freeze Al-Qaeda assets after deadly
attacks on two U.S. embassies in East Africa. Liberia was chosen
for its lack of control over the illegal diamond industry, much of
which is allegedly run by President Taylor and his son, Charles
has in the past paid Russian and Ukrainian arms traffickers in
diamonds. One such reputed arms dealer, Leonid Minin -- currently
indicted on illegal arms trafficking charges and in jail in Monza,
Italy -- had $500,000 worth of uncut and polished diamonds at the
time of his arrest, according to a UN Commission of Experts report
from 26 October 2001.
European law enforcement investigations, launched soon after Sept.
11, have focused on three people who allegedly served as conduits
to the al Qaeda operatives: Aziz Nassour, a Lebanese diamond
merchant; his cousin Samih Osailly; and Ibrahim Bah, a Senegalese
soldier of fortune who has trafficked for years in diamonds and
guns across Africa. All three deny involvement with al Qaeda or in
illegal activities," according to "The Washington
paper details how on 22 September a senior Al-Qaeda financial
officer named Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, who is listed on the FBI's
list of most-wanted terrorists, arrived in Monrovia, Liberia.
Ibrahim Bah allegedly arranged for Abdullah to meet with senior
Liberian officials and their allies in the rebel Revolutionary
United Front (RUF) in neighboring Sierra Leone.
trained in Libya, then fought in the early 1980s alongside Islamic
guerrillas in Afghanistan and then with Hezbollah in Lebanon. By
1998, he was the main weapons buyer and diamond dealer for Taylor
in Liberia and the RUF, according to UN and European
investigators. Bah holds the rank of general in the RUF, which won
international notoriety for its brutality in the civil war that
raged in Sierra Leone from 1989 until this year.
Washington Post" details the alleged money-laundering scheme
that was in place until Al-Qaeda began stockpiling diamonds in
July: Bah used Al-Qaeda money to pay RUF a small amount (far below
market value) for diamonds smuggled out of Sierra Leone. Bah then
resold the diamonds at much higher prices to diamond dealers whom
the paper reports were based in Belgium. It is not clear whether
the dealers were aware of any Al-Qaeda connection. The profits
realized from the transactions were allegedly split among Bah, Al-Qaeda,
and Liberian President Taylor, who allegedly received a commission
on each deal.
obtained by "The Washington Post" purport to show that
on 2 January 2001, an Israeli arms dealer in Panama named Simon
Yelnik sent an e-mail to an unnamed Russian arms merchant in
Guatemala discussing an order that "our friends in Africa
need." Attached was a list of assault rifles, ammunition, and
rocket-propelled grenades, as well as 20 SA-8 missiles and 200
rockets for BM-21 multiple-rocket launchers. The "friends in
Africa" were apparently the Al-Qaeda couriers.
on 5 November, an Interpol expert on a UN panel investigating
illegal diamond dealing in Liberia affirmed that conflict diamonds
are likely an important channel for terrorists, like the Al-Qaeda
network, looking to raise or transfer money. The UN Security
Council met to review the panel's new report, which found
widespread violations of UN sanctions on Liberia to curtail its
diamond dealing with Sierra Leone rebels.
diamond industry reacted quickly to earlier news of Al-Qaeda
buying conflict diamonds in Liberia. The De Beers Group and its
sales and marketing arm, the Diamond Trading Co., issued a
statement "utterly condemning the way in which these
organizations are preying on otherwise legitimate industries to
further their criminal and murderous activities" http://www.professionaljeweler.com/archives/news/2001/11060story.html
trade also bankrolls bin Laden
Dominate Liberia's �Anti-Terrorists�
Charles Taylor�s elite Anti-Terrorist Unit para-military group,
accused of many atrocities in including summary executions, is
dominated by dominated by foreigners from The Gambia, Burkina Faso
and Sierra Leone, according to US State Department Human Rights
Report released 31 March 2003.
with the Devil�
international illegal arms dealer discussed in Part 2 of the
Series on Liberia was Viktor Bout.
Bout�s alleged dealings with the Taliban and al Qaeda had
been the subject of an ongoing, classified U.S. operation that
began back in early 2000, under President Clinton�s
had appealed to the United Arab Emirates at an "extremely
high level" to shut Bout�s operation down and the UAE
responded that there was no evidence in criminal activity.
Thereafter, the UAE placed expensive equipment requirements on
Bout�s air fleet. (10)
Bush took office, the Bout investigation faded into the
background, until 9/11. (10)
has had ties to three different companies in the US, registered
under other individuals� names - Air Cess in Miami, Florida
(10), San Air in Plano, Texas and Vial incorporated in Delaware.
San Air was opened in 2000, for little over a year.
Shortly after 9/11, both San Air and Air Cess were closed. (4)
Washington Post reported that in 2001, the UN had placed a travel
ban on Bout and Ruprah, one of the middlemen for Bout and Charles
Taylor. The UN travel ban was placed on Bout and Ruprah for their
ties to Liberia and the Sierra Leone rebel movement, the RUF. One
could propose that the evidence of these ties were likely
divulged, in part, from the Minin documents discovered in 2000.
an effort to have his travel ban lifted, Ruprah approached the UN
and the US with information on Bout�s dealings, shortly after
the Kenyan bombing. What
Ruprah revealed was unimpressive and ineffective in releasing him
from the UN travel ban. (9)
stated earlier - in 2002, unbeknownst to the UN & the US,
Ruprah was arrested in Belgium for using a false passport and conspiring
to print counterfeit Congolese currency.
after the Ruprah arrest, the Belgians made their move against Bout
with intelligence acquired through the Ruprah arrest. A federal
prosecutor issued an arrest warrant, alleging that Bout headed a
complex scheme to launder African weapons profits. Interpol
followed with a worldwide alert. (4)
In an LA Times article on Victor Bout, they
reported on the Brussels investigation of Bout�s money
alleged discovery made on Bout, through the Ruprah arrest was that
one of the companies controlled through �power of attorney� by
Bout, was incorporated in Delaware as �Vial�- and had sold
Antonov cargo planes to the Taliban.
of the two companies involved in the sophisticated money
laundering operation by Bout, was a Belgian company, �Air
Charter Center.� The other company was the US incorporated,
�Vial.� It was
for this reason that an arrest warrant was issued on Bout by
Belgium authorities, for the money laundering discovered through
the Belgian company. (4)
a company under the name of �Air Charter Center� is still
listed as an air broker out of Ostend International Airport in
of the LA Times article, there has been no other information on
Bout�s ties to a company by the name of �Vial� �that was
incorporated in Delaware. As
many may know, in the United States, Delaware is the easiest state
to incorporate in, with expedient processing. As with many
companies incorporated in Delaware � Vial may not have been
physically located in the state, just incorporated there. There
are a few other companies with similar names in the US- but no
significant ties to this story were evident in any of the other
possible companies. If this changes, we will update the
Ruprah�s arrest, and at the frustration of the Belgians � the
UN & CIA continued their dialogue with Ruprah. While under
arrest, Ruprah was supposedly more generous in divulging
information to the CIA, on Bout�s dealings with the Taliban and
the al Qaeda, although Ruprah�s attorney continued to deny
Ruprah had any �direct� dealings with the al Qaeda or any
illegal business dealings with Bout. (10)
Aids Pursuit of Weapons Network
Background on Ruprah:
an interesting interview from one of the UN experts on illegal
arms trading, Johan Peleman.
This interview was published 2 months prior to the LA Times
article on Victor Bout. Peleman�s interview has an interesting
contrast to the Times article, wherein Peleman views Bout�s ties
to the Taliban and al Qaida as speculative and unfounded. He also
omits information on the travel ban that was placed on Ruprah and
Bout, when Ruprah approached the UN and the US with info on Bout.
United Nations Expert Discusses Sudden Interest
citizen Johann Peleman, a United Nations expert in the area of
illegal arms trading and director of the Peace Institute in
Antwerpen, has for several years been attentively tracking the
activity of Viktor Bout.
We asked Mr. Peleman to talk about this businessman and
about the mechanism for illegal arms shipments to hot spots on the
should be noted that on Feb. 26, 2002- the Washington Post
reported that when the U.N. shut down Ariana Airways for suspicion
of supplying weapons to the Taliban and al-Qaeda in November 2000;
Bout�s air cargo company, Flying Dolphin obtained a U.N. waiver,
for reasons that are not clear, and continued flying the Dubai-Kandahar
route until being shut down by the United Nations in January 2001.
LA Times� comprehensive investigation of
say Victor Bout supplied combatants in hot spots around the world.
The elusive entrepreneur is free in Moscow.
May 19, 2002
Ruprah�s dialogue with the UN & CIA revealed how the
Liberian �flags of convenience� funds had been utilized for
the purchase of arms. (11)
noted earlier, Sanjivan Ruprah had a passport as Liberia's deputy
commissioner for maritime affairs.
This was key to understanding a method of how Liberia had
been able to purchase arms. Arms deliveries were allegedly
financed, in part, by the income from the Liberian "flags of
of convenience� is the term used for the registration of tankers
and the like, at ports of countries that are nothing more than-
convenient- with the lack of regulations and inspection
requirements. The registration of offshore oil tankers in its
national shipping registers is a major source of money for
Liberia. In 2001, 35%
of the oil tankers around the world were flying the Liberian flag
because of the minimal regulations and fees in the country�s
maritime industry registration.
investigation of Ruprah�s bank records allegedly indicated that
funds from the Liberian �flags of convenience� passed through
his account, in order to pay for illegal arms, on behalf of
President Charles Taylor. (11)
OF ALEX VINES
Security Council Liberia Panel of Experts Report
April 2002, an intelligence source of the Guardian Weekly
suggested that the CIA may have been bargaining to provide not
only Ruprah, but also Bout with impunity and a green card in
exchange for information on al-Qaida's network.
or not this was based upon sheer speculation, within weeks of the
issuance of an arrest warrant in Belgium, Bout went on the air of
a Moscow radio station and boldly called out his whereabouts.
Not long after that, Bout met in France with LeMonde for an
interview to dispute the charges against him, "If they're
looking for me, I don't understand why they can't find me."
to a US official, �There was a lot of
egg on faces when Bout went on the radio.� (4)
the Trail of the Elusive Victor Bout
by Interpol, the Russian 'merchant of death' who helped arm the
Taliban and al-Qaida is alive and well in Moscow
Stephen Smith, Additional reporting by Afsane Bassir Pour in New
York, Natalie Nougayrede in Moscow, Jean-Philippe Remy in Nairobi
and Jean-Pierre Stroobants in Brussels
evidence of the Bush administration�s stifled investigations on
terrorism, and complicity in illicit arms dealing have surfaced
through several comprehensive reports from other journalists- here
an investigation on the Saudi role in terrorism, Greg Palast (BBC)
interviewed several key sources within the US intelligence
community. What Palast found was that after George W. Bush�s
election, the agencies were told to "back off"
investigating the Bin Ladens and Saudi royals.
Telling evidence of this hands-off policy came with Palast�s interview of Michael Wildes, a lawyer for a defected Saudi diplomat. Wildes went to the FBI with over 14,000 documents that implicated Saudi citizens in the financing of terrorism. Wildes explained that the agents would not even read the documents stating that they were �not allowed� to and refused to accept the file presented to them.
Soghanalian, an arms dealer from the Cold War, who often operates
in cooperation with the US government, explained in an interview
for Frontline/World the level of his collaboration with the
military industrial complex.
one instance, Soghanalian spoke of an arrest, where he was charged
on conspiracy with Hughes helicopter executives.
The executives were acquitted of the charges, but
Soghanalian was convicted and sentenced to 6 1/2 years. In the
end, Soghanalian served only a fraction of that sentence- when the
US government required his services again- he was released.
In an interview with FRONTLINE/World co-producer William Kistner in March 2001, Sarkis Soghanalian, one of the world's most accomplished arms salesmen, gave his unapologetic and seasoned views on the international arms trade and U.S. policy. A veteran of many Cold War arms deals, Soghanalian has seen wars, rebel movements and ideological conflicts become U.S. priorities and then fade into history. He speaks frankly about his role in helping the United States pursue its interests. He is confident that every deal has been undertaken with the approval of the U.S. government.
Interview cont. here:
AND US SPY AGENTS SAY BUSH SPIKED BIN LADEN PROBES BEFORE 11
arrest in Europe of a known arms dealer out of Florida:
Just days after the publication of this Web-exclusive report on
May 23, Jean Bernard Lasnaud was arrested in Switzerland in
response to an Interpol request. Swiss authorities contacted the
Argentina courts, where the current judge on the case quickly
requested Lasnaud's extradition. If sent to Argentina, Lasnaud
will face 22 years in prison on charges of arms smuggling and
"abuse of authority."
this FRONTLINE/World report pointed out, the U.S. had broken from
standard practice and never took even basic steps toward detaining
Lasnaud. If he finally faces the Buenos Aires courts, it is hoped
Lasnaud's testimony will help shed light on how a wanted
international arms smuggler was able to spend a decade living
openly in the U.S.
Article cont. here:
Ofcansky, an African affairs analyst with the State Department
Bureau of Intelligence and Research, has closely monitored arms
sales to Africa. In the 1990s, he developed a detailed classified
database that tracked the suppliers and shipments of small arms to
Africa. In an interview with FRONTLINE/World producer Rick Young
in February 2002, he says that the Clinton administration was
aware that small-arms trafficking was greatly contributing to
violence and destruction throughout Africa, and that high-level
officials were speaking out about the problem. But, he says, in
the end, the issue was given a low priority.
good source for further information on what may be contained in
the �missing pages� of 9/11 investigation:
and Almihdhar: The 9/11
More background on the investigation:
before Senate Foreign Relations committee on the Iraq
Reconstruction Wolfowitz justified the Bush administration�s
hands-off approach to the bloodshed in Liberia by explaining that
the opposing factions to President Charles Taylor are of the same
ilk, leaving few options for a positive change for the people of
Liberia. One could
speculate that if the Bush Administration is planning on occupying
Iraq for a substantial period of time, which it is now openly
admitting - Iraq has
just as few options for a democratic government after the US
why has the Bush Administration set the US approach of Iraq and
Liberia apart? Some
would speculate that Liberia has posed more of a threat to the
world, with the constant flow of arms to terrorists within Pres.
Charles Taylor�s corrupt government. Much evidence of the terrorist funding through diamonds and
the arms dealing in Liberia has been accessible to us all, since
December 2000 - well before 9/11.
It is impossible to say that if we had dealt with the
corruption of President Charles Taylor�s government back in
2000, we would not have seen the attack on World Trade Center. But
it is without a doubt, had we dealt with this conflict, in a
method that would have brought peace and prosperity to the people
of Liberia; terrorism would have been stifled at a profound level.
Bush Administration and the legacy of his father�s
administration have been complicit in the continuance of this
plague on the people of Liberia.
Some believe that the purpose in avoiding conflict and
disclosure in both Liberia & Saudi Arabia, is merely to
prevent the government�s complicity from reaching public view.
price of peace is a heavy one, but it is worth it to us all. The
President is surely not immune to the debt we all owe to the peace
July 30, Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, gave
his mid-year press conference.
This was an unusual conference, in which Annan spoke with
much candor. He called for �radical reform� of the UN programs set up
to combat terrorism. These
radical reforms addressed, on face value, are a method to combat
the abject poverty, which has bred terrorism. (12) Perhaps, the
leaders of the world are listening to what we are saying - but what those radical reforms
shall be, we have yet to see in great detail. In the coming weeks, we will examine these proposed reforms
with whatever resources we have available to us.
on that same day�President Bush inadvertently, took
responsibility for the infamous sentence uttered before the people
in the President�s National Address� �Iraq has attempted to
purchase Uranium in Niger.� Perhaps he has realized that the
admission of responsibility for his own speech is minute, in
contrast to the evidence of complicity in the corruption of
Liberia. What the future holds, we shall see�
valuable research resource:
of acronyms for Liberia:
1) Sen. Feingold�s transcript of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on Iraq: Status and Prospects for Reconstruction
2) THE NETWORK OF TERRORISM
CSPAN July 30, 2003 On Air Press Briefing
�On the Trail of a Man Behind Taliban's Air Fleet,� LA
writers John Daniszewski, Stephen Braun, Judy Pasternak and Maura
Reynolds and special correspondent Sergei L. Loiko contributed to
this report, as did researchers John Beckham, Janet Lundblad and
Robert Patrick. Written by Braun and Pasternak.
Leonid Efimovich Minin
5/11/2001 Press Briefing
UN HEADQUARTERS PRESS CONFERENCE ON LIBERIA SANCTIONS
On the Trail of the Elusive Victor Bout-Hunted by Interpol, the
Russian 'merchant of death' who helped arm the Taliban and al-Qaida
is alive and well in Moscow by Stephen Smith The Guardian Weekly
April 17, 2002 http://www.cooperativeresearch.org/timeline/2002/guardian041702.html
10) �Arrest Aids Pursuit of Weapons Network Dealer Supplied Taliban, Al Qaeda, Officials Say� By Douglas Farah Washington Post Foreign Service 2/26/02
UN Secretary-General gave mid-year press conference Wednesday,
July 30, 2003