Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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Did a Viktor Bout Company Help Divert Weapons to Insurgents?
In one of the strangest twists of recent Bout-related events, a company in Bout's business orbit was found to have flown several hundred thousand AK-47 assault rifles from Bosnia to Iraq, theoretically for use by the new, U.S.-traine Iraqi army and police. Unfortunately, there is no record of the weapons ever actually landing in Iraq, although it appears that the now-defunct air freighter, Aerocom, did make the flights.

This was first reported in a new report by Amnesty International report and I have confirmed the basic outlines from other intelligence sources.

Aerocom shared an address and telephone number in Moldova with Jetline, a company publicly named as a Bout company by then senior Pentagon official Paul Wolfowitz. But when the first the Aerocom flights were made (Aug. 7, 8, 21, 22, 2004) , the airline had lost its vital Air Operating Certificate, issued by Moldova. The AOC expired on Aug. 6, 2004 and has not been renewed.

As the AI investigation found, there is no record of the 200,000 AK-47s flown from the U.S-military controlled Eagle Base near Tuzla, Bosnia, ever actually reached Iraq. The End User Certificate were from the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority and the interim Iraqi administration.

Yet there is no record of the aircraft landing or the weapons being signed over. So what happened? We will likely never know. But Bout has double-dealt with all sides of every war he has supplied. He has routinely rerouted weapons shipments for his own commercial gain, and that does not inspire much confidence. A person who can supply the Taliban and the Northern Alliance at the same time, and who has experience dealing weapons in Bosnia, would be unlikely to flinch at the thought of further weapons diversions.

U.S. and European intelligence sources said the flights took place but that it was an extremely sensitive operation and the details are highly classified. Air freighters on the ground know about the shipments, but not where the weapons actually ended up.

There are several things wrong with the picture to begin with. The most obvious is that Iraq did not need to import weapons, as it has a surplus. Bosnia is supposed to be destroying weapons, not selling them. The sales can only proceed with the permission of EUFOR, the EU-led peacekeeping body that remains in charge of much weapons issues in Bosnia. There were many other air freighters available if this unusual weapons transfer in fact did have to happen. Why Aerocom? Why no paper work at the end?

As the AI report said, "The arms brokering and freight forwarding network can be viewed in this case as a pyramidal structure with a primary contractor sitting at the apex astride a collection of largely unregulated, secretive companies operating out of private apartment buildings and gunshops but involved in an arms deal worth tens of millions of dollars."

That sums up Bout's operations in a nutshell. Congressional overseers should begin demanding answers. If they are going to hire Bout, they should at least make sure he delivers the weapons to the proper place.
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