Boss...the plane, the plane...
Wayne Madsen reports that it was a CIA sting operation to embarrass North Korea. Maybe.
WMR's Asian intelligence sources strongly suspect that an Ilyushin-76 cargo plane seized in Bangkok on December 12 transporting 40 tons of North Korean weapons was a CIA sting operation designed to obtain, using a "front" airline and regular arms smuggling route, the latest North Korean weaponry available for purchase on the black market.Salient points:
1. The plane was registered in Georgia, close ally of the US and Israel.
2. Before that the plane was registered to two separate Kazakhstan private airlines, where it had allegedly been involved in arms smuggling to places like Eritrea, Somalia, India and possibly Hanoi.
3. A New Zealand company which also does business in Ukraine chartered the flight.
4. The New Zealand company's parent company is registered in Vanuatu.
5. The owner of these businesses is a Mr. Geoffrey Taylor, of New Zealand, who has brokered Azerbaijani oil sales.
6. The four men on board carried Kazakhstan passports and the pilot carried a Belarus passport.
When Thai authorities seized the weapons, reportedly after a "tip" from U.S intelligence sources, the plane was discovered to have a false cargo declaration stating the plane was carrying oil drilling equipment, a rather strange export from North Korea, a non-oil producing or exploration nation. Instead, the plane was found to be transporting rocket-propelled grenades and launchers, missile tubes, surface-to-air missile launchers, military spare parts and other weapons. Thai authorities stated that the U.S. intelligence sources that tipped them off stated that the final destination for the cargo was "sensitive information." Thai authorities claimed the military cargo would be "destroyed" but the crates and boxes were trucked to a secure warehouse at a Thai air force base in Nakhon Sawan province outside of Bangkok.
The IL-76 landed at Hostomel Airport, near Kiev on October 13, reportedly without any cargo, and flew to Baku, Azerbaijan on December, 8 and onward to the United Arab Emirates (reportedly Sharjah), landing in Bangkok on the morning of December 12 for refueling.
The plane took off for Pyongyang and after picking up the weapons landed back in on Mueang, Bangkok at 4 pm on December 12.
The plane's onward destinations from Bangkok were reportedly Colombo, Sri Lanka and Ukraine.
WMR's Asian intelligence sources believe that the CIA knew the plane was planning to pick up weapons in North Korea and may have even chartered the aircraft and arranged a deal to purchase the North Korean weapons through shadowy front companies to both embarrass the North Koreans and discover what was being sold on the global weapons black market.
So how do they know the plane was empty when it refueled in Bangkok on the morning of the 12th? It had already made two stops. It sounds like they know a lot more about this flight than they let on, considering that the cargo destination is "sensitive information." Could the weapons have been loaded in Azerbaijan or the UAE?
Was it heading to Sri Lanka, as reported here?
A plane heading from North Korea to Sri Lanka with weapons onboard was detained together with its crew in Thailand today, the Thai media reported. The Thai authorities found massive numbers of the shoulder-launched missile weapon including rocket-propelled grenades (RPG), anti-aircraft SAM (surface to air missiles) and ammunition.If true, why would that be "sensitive information?"
...More than 100 Thai security personnel searched a Russian-built IL-76 military air transport bearing the designation AWG 732 when aircraft, which flew from North Korea asked permission to land at Bangkok`s domestic Don Mueang airport to refill fuel.
...The Thai authorities said the airplane was believed to be carrying the weapons to Sri Lanka, where a long civil war recently ended.
According to the authorities, the plane earlier arrived at Don Mueang airport once in the morning for refueling before departing for North Korea after it had loaded with the heavy weaponry and asked to refuel again at the airport at 4pm.
Well, there are reasons.
Compare the international outcry over the Gaza massacre to the relative silence toward Sri Lanka's war against the Tamil people in 2008 and 2009. Conservative estimates place the death roll at over 20,000 people, perhaps as high as 50,000. The Colombo regime dismissed all attempts to cease its military operations, negotiate with the Tamil Tigers or allow the transfer of hundreds of thousands of civilians to safety. Today, close to 300,000 Tamils are trapped in government-imposed camps, surrounded by barbed wire and unable to leave.So now the weapons, wherever they came from and wouldn't we like to know, are in Thailand. At first, on the 15th, Thailand was definitely going to destroy the weapons, they just needed some money from the UN to help with that not sure how much.
...Sri Lanka was fighting its own war on terror with the Israeli playbook. Ban all independent media from the war zone, demonize human rights groups as sympathetic to terrorists, dismiss all questioning of tactics as giving in to terrorism and support the doctrine of overwhelming fire-power. Like Israel, Sri Lanka won the battle, but will inevitably lose the war.
...Sri Lanka doesn't enjoy favored nation status like Israel but it should face a thorough examination of its conduct during the war. Many states, such as Israel and China, have no desire to discover the truth behind the conflict because they provided arms to the Sri Lankan government. Israel is reportedly protecting Sri Lanka from any American pressure against its actions. But obstacles to international justice should not preclude their commencement. Crimes in Congo, Sierra Leone, Cambodia and the former Yugoslavia were thoroughly investigated by legal bodies, even if the final outcomes were not perfect.
Now the story is they have to investigate some more, and then they will decide whether to destroy the weapons or keep them for the Thai military. Finders keepers.
And according to the New York Times (hahaha), you can read an entirely different story! The destination and buyer remain mysteries, but the weapons appeared to be destined for Iran according to a Belgium research organization. Meh, there's so much smoke and mirrors who can say for sure, but yeah it looks like Iran.
A research organization based in Belgium that specializes in the analysis of arms trafficking posted documents this week on its Web site that appear to show Iran as the drop-off point.
...The report by the International Peace Information Service, the Belgian organization, said the flight plan of the Ilyushin-76 is consistent with the range and cruise speed of the aircraft. A copy of the documents are posted on their Web site. The report also includes copies of what the authors say are the aircraft’s charter agreement, the air waybill and the aircraft’s certificate of registration.
The report was written in collaboration with TransArms, a U.S.-based group based that researches arms shipments.
The documents appear to show that the flight was chartered early this month by Union Top Management Ltd., a company registered in Hong Kong that was set up in November.
The document is signed by Dario Cabreros, who is described as the company’s representative.
Somsak Saithong, the lawyer for the crew, said he had seen the documents but that his copy of the flight plan shows that the cargo was bound for Ukraine. “I can certify that Iran was not the final destination,” Mr. Somsak said in an interview.
The crew members are being held at a detention center here while the police conduct their investigation. They said in an interview last week that they had traveled the world on similar missions and that they rarely asked about the nature of the cargo they were carrying.
The Thai authorities have not offered more detail on the exact nature of the weapons seized and say they will destroy the arms after they take an inventory and report it to the United Nations Security Council.
But the Thai government also appears wary to investigate too deeply into to the arms shipment.
The deputy prime minister, Suthep Thaugsuban, said last week that the inquiry would not focus on where the weapons were headed. “Thai authorities will not pinpoint where the weapons were destined for delivery in order not to displease a certain country,” he was quoted as saying in the Thai media. He did not elaborate.
And now Bloomberg with the "paper trail" dragging Hong Kong and Spain into the loop, making the whole thing completely confusing. Notice that nobody questions that the weapons are from North Korea, but has that actually been proven anywhere? I missed that part. It *appears* to be assumed as fact in every source.
Dario Cabreros Garmendia, the director of Union Top whose signature is on the charter agreement, owns 99.99 percent of the company’s shares and is based in Barcelona, according to Hong Kong registry records. The Hong Kong company’s link to the North Korean weapons was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.Another mystery man, like David Headley, coming and going like the wind.
...“If you wanted to make a clandestine flight from Pyongyang to Tehran you would go over Chinese and Mongolian airspace and then drop down through the Stans,” he said, referring to countries in central Asia. “To fly it through Bangkok, which is so well known for drugs smuggling, seems so damn stupid. For some reason Union Top Management insisted the flight had to go where it went.”
Among difficulties facing investigators is a fly-by-night infrastructure seemingly rigged up for the flight, including a Hong Kong-based company reportedly involved which was only incorporated Nov. 2 and whose director could not be traced there or at his address in Spain....But according to a flight plan seen by arms trafficking researchers, the aircraft was chartered by Hong Kong-based Union Top Management Ltd. to fly oil industry spare parts from Pyongyang to Tehran, Iran, with several other stops, including Bangkok, Colombo in Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan and Ukraine.Obviously some of the information circulating in the NYT, Bloomberg, and the AP contradicts the Wayne Madsen report, up top, which concludes like this:
Union Top was set up by a company called R & G Management Consultancy, according to a woman who answered the door at Union Top's registered office. She said she didn't know a man called Dario Cabreros Garmendia _ who signed Union Top's incorporation in Hong Kong on Nov. 2 _ and did not know how to reach anyone at the company....Garmendia listed Barcelona, Spain, as his address on another document related to the set up of the company. But AP reporters asked four people living next to the location and none had heard of him or the company.
After the plane was seized in Bangkok, dubious sources reported that the plane was en route to Pakistan, Afghanistan, or an unnamed "Middle Eastern" country, such as Iran, to deliver its weapons.
The IL-76's most recent owner, Air West Georgia, has close links with the same ownership, to Sun Air, a privately-owned airline headquartered in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, which runs service to Nyala, the largest city in war-torn Darfur.
The "arms-napping" operation against North Korea came just days after the US Special Envoy to North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, announced, after a three-day trip to Pyongyang, an agreement to restart six-party talks with North Korea. The covert operation to seize the North Korean weapons put the planned talks at risk.
And if you're still with me, back to the AP article which is surprisingly good, in that it points out a few things that MAKE NO SENSE.
And the AP story also introduces other people who reportedly owned and chartered the plane, not Geoffrey Taylor, and questions the stop in Sharjah.
Kim Tae-woon, a security expert at the Korea Institute of Defense Analyses, said the weapons known to be aboard the plane _ rocket-propeled grenades, explosives and components for surface-to-air missiles _ were those used by insurgents, not regular armies.
[SUCH AS:] "There are no insurgents in Iran, and in that sense, Iran may not be the destination," Kim said.
[SUCH AS:] Another puzzle is why the aircraft chose to risk landing in relatively well-policed Bangkok rather than taking a "safer" route. Given the aircraft's maximum range of more than 4,000 miles (6,440 kilometers), it had a number of landing options.
The complex web of companies set up to facilitate shipments adds further stumbling blocks for investigators. Brian Johnson-Thomas of IPIS said that "this is normal it tends to be a pattern. It is normal (for traffickers) to put in as much obfuscation as possible so that they can't be traced backward."
[SUCH AS:] But he said that it was "somewhat strange" that the company contracted for only just one flight rather than a series of flights after going through all the trouble.
Lastly, a few more holes in the story:
The report says the plane was registered to Air West, a cargo transport company in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Asked to comment on whether the plane was bound for Tehran, company owner Levan Kakabadze told AP he was unaware of the plane's final destination....The plane, according to the researchers, was owned by Overseas Cargo FZE, based in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates where the plane also made a landing. Officials at the company did not respond to repeated requests for comment and the extent of its physical operations in Sharjah was also unclear.
In recent years, Sharjah's international airport has become a hub of many small charter and cargo carriers serving Asia, Africa and the former Soviet republics.
Pretty confusing. I think that must be on purpose.
Somsak said the five men complained that they had been forced by police investigators into signing documents written in Thai. They asked to be provided with a translator.
The report on the flight plan from the nonprofit groups TransArms in the United States and IPIS of Belgium was funded by the Belgian government and Amnesty International. It could not be independently verified.
Researchers say the plane's previous registration documents link it to Air Cess and Centrafrican Airlines, which are allegedly connected to Bout, who has been in prison in Thailand since he was arrested March 6.
So, shorter is:
NORTH KOREA Weapons Thailand Georgia Ukraine Kazakhstan US Israel Belgium Sri Lanka Azerbaijan Belarus Eritrea Somalia India Vanuatu Hanoi Hong Kong Spain New Zealand Sharjah UAE Russia RPG CIA SAM IL AWG GT SP IPIS FZE Bout IRAN.