Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Monzer's Ball Meets the Transporter

Victor Bout and Monzer al-Kassar: household names, if not in the land of the living, then among the houses of the soon to be dead: the victims of the world's Merchants of Death. Victor Bout was a notorious Russian arms dealer, doing business all over the world, who was arrested in a DEA sting operation in Thailand, where he remains. The Americans want him tried in New York. The Russians don't. The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

Bout was arrested in a sting operation initiated by the US Drug Enforcement Administration a few hours after he arrived in Bangkok. The agency says he came to Thailand to negotiate the sale of Igla surface-to-air missiles to two undercover agents posing as officers from the Colombian narco-rebel movement known as FARC.

Bout claims he's an innocent man who used to be a fan of the United States. "I used to admire the Americans, I looked up to them. But today I despise the Americans, and so does the entire world. They think they can do whatever they want anywhere." But he's still politically correct kind of guy. The Herald continues: "Bout presents himself as just an ordinary, conscientious businessman. During the interview he said his only businesses were an airport maintenance company and a farm in the Caucasus, where he rears goats to make cheese for restaurants in Moscow. He was a vegetarian and concerned about the disappearance of rainforests in Africa, he said."

Bout also denied that he was ever involved in illegal arms trafficking. "I used to run an air transport company. Perhaps there were guns on board, but I was only a transporter. If I was guilty of smuggling guns, then any taxi driver in Bangkok would have to be arrested if he has had a drug trafficker or arms merchant as a passenger."

As Bout was fuming in his Thai cell, another distinguished figure from the shadow world was disembarking in New York city in the custody of -- the DEA. "from a clear blue sky, an ordinary A-Star helicopter touched down at a helipad on Pier 6. ... A white-haired man, in shackles, emerged from the cabin and was led across the tarmac to a waiting black Cadillac Escalade ... The city has its secrets, many of them openly on display, and this was one of them: an international arms dealer arriving in New York, having just been extradited by the government of Spain. His name is Monzer al-Kassar, and he had recently come off a flight from Europe, followed by a 40-minute helicopter jaunt from Westchester County Airport. He looked haggard, and was perhaps wearing the clothes that he had slept in. He did not look pleased."

The Jerusalem Post writes that Monzer al-Kassar was the man who supplied weapons to terrorists and criminals the world over:

Monzer al-Kassar is not a name most Israelis would identify as one of its terrorist enemies. He has neither planned nor participated in such attacks, nor is he a member of any of the groups that has carried them out. But Kassar has in fact played a key role in some of the worst atrocities committed against Israeli and Jewish civilians, and his links to one Arab regime in particular - that of his native country, Syria - deserve special scrutiny at a moment when Jerusalem is just about to begin potentially historic negotiations with its government.

Earlier this year, he was arrested by Spanish authorities after allegedly offering to sell weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, to agents of the US Drug Enforcement Agency posing as representatives of Colombia's FARC guerrilla group. On Friday he was extradited from Madrid to New York City, where he is scheduled to face trial on charges that also include conspiracy and money-laundering.

Like Bout, Monzer al-Kasser claims he was nothing if not a nice guy. He lived so munificently in Spain that he was called the "Prince of Marbella". Maybe one day someone will write a book about how the darkest black of night sometimes lurks amidst sunny beaches, vegetarian dishes and beautiful goat's cheese.

But the gathering of these two shadowy figures in New York City raises some interesting lines of speculation. Among the questions which immediately come to mind are: why Bout and Monzer, guilty of a string of crimes as long as your arm, happened to go down in connection with a MANPAD missile sale involving Columbia's FARC? Is there a connection between Monzer's sudden loss of official protection and the mooted peace deal between Israel and Syria? Is the DEA handling this affair because other agencies might have a conflict of interest in any trial involving Bout and Monzer? What political candidate(s) may be embarassed by revelations about FARC and connections to Lebanon or Syria?

The DEA and DOJ description of charges against Monzer make interesting reading. And so does the DOJ sheet against Bout. Here's my guess. The US wants both Monzer and Bout down for offenses not limited to the FARC manpad missile sale. But making the FARC missile sale the actual offense of record means that the discovery will go to places nobody minds visiting, except certain politicians who are now frantically checking so see whether they are in any shape, way or form connected with FARC, Syria and Lebanon.

The Belmont Club is supported largely by donations from its readers.


Blogger Unknown said...

Might the connections to FARC might also be related to the recent capture of Raul Reyes' computer?

6/17/2008 04:41:00 PM  
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6/17/2008 05:12:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

...certain politicians who are now frantically checking so see whether they are in any shape, way or form connected with FARC, Syria and Lebanon.

Would those be the same politicians who have received political donations via Syria, and who have current Muslim associates in their campaign as well as Muslim relatives out there in the world?

6/17/2008 06:09:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

Actually a Bout and Monzer trial would tar a whole lot of people on both sides of the aisle. By all accounts these guys did all the jobs civilization didn't want to hear about. They know where all the bodies are buried. That was why they stayed out of the stir for so long.

But now something has happened to make the Bush administration go after both of them. My guess is that someone has made the calculation that after all the mud is slung, some will be more mud-caked than others.

However that may be these two beauties are going to be in New York for trial. And you can bet your bottom dollar that their principle defense won't be "I was vegetarian", but "here's what happened, I s**t you not". Anyone who is willing to let that stuff come out in court probably knows that however many hits he takes, he'll be the last man standing.

6/17/2008 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger herb said...

As a not-so-keen observer of these sort of proceedings, I dont really expect that the truth will be revealed in all of its beauty. The Powers will protect their interests and the interests of their objects.

Move along now, nothing to see here. No fuss, no bother. Quiet down.

Ask me no questions, I'll tell you no lies.

6/17/2008 07:23:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Oh, herb, you silly boy. It's all show and will remain show. The serious blackmail theater is going on behind the scenes, depending on what Bush/the Feds have on whom. Justice will serve secret subpoena's on this person and that person, and discreet but insidious phone calls will be made to aides of whichever candidates are being targeted.

For God's sake, the prisoners were PARADED through New York in the full light of day. In an Escalade -- could you *get* any more ostentatious "looky at what I got" than that???

Election coming up in a few months, you know. There's a rumor that the Democrats have the House and the Senate and the Presidency all locked up. That is a *lot* of people who may have had dealings with overseas no-goodniks who are now under the thumb of dumb ole Dubya.

I am absolutely positively certain there will be no trial, no court room, no swearing before Allah until after next November.

6/17/2008 07:34:00 PM  
Blogger Fred said...

True, there may be people on both sides of the aisle who are involved somewhere in this food chain, but if it is the FARC and the FARC has been supported by Hugo Chavez, it does not take a rocket scientist to know who in the United States has done or said things to either elevate Chavez' standing or keep him out of the line of fire. Favors are not doled out for free in that world with those kinds of people.

6/17/2008 10:17:00 PM  
Blogger A Jacksonian said...

I will take up the Monzer al-Kassar side as I invented the game Four Degrees of Monzer al-Kassar (like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon only tighter connections): take any politician or mover and shaker in the criminal world and that individual is four degreees or less from Monzer al-Kassar...

Using corrupt institutions with individuals having common reliance on them is fair game... so BCCI-London with Gaith Pharoan is a legitimate connection point. Semion Mogilevich, the untold connection between these two, was also pulled in, and you get the entire Red Mafia set of connections through him. Marc Rich you get via Iranian deals through Syrian and Lebanese banks with the Audi Bank - Geneva Office being fair game as a connector.

With that you can now put the following into play: John McCain with connections to Keating and Oleg Depripaska, Sen. Clinton with Marc Rich and Jackson Stephens (the likely POC for North/Secord/Hakim and al-Kassar) and Sen. Obama with Nadhmi Auchi (via arms and banking through the Al Mahdi system).

As al-Kassar has connection to the old-line Sicilian and Italian Mafias, and the newer Albanian and Red Mafias, that gets a whole set of connections via that. Go through the Menem regime in Argentina to see corruption of the arms sales from there along with places like Bank Republica.

A thorough investigation of Monzer al-Kassar gets you contacts with PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah and al Qaeda. At some point the question becomes: who doesn't he know?

He has also had the circumstances of having prosecutorial cases evaporate as he is brought to trial, via witnesses having 'unfortunate accidents', recanting from jail or having family kidnapped by drug Cartels... all of that in one, single case. The question for the DEA is: can they keep everyone alive and on their stories long enough to get a conviction. And as he has a year to prepare, even those in a supermax cannot be put into the 'safe' category.

This can be done right, and start pulling all of the late Cold War networks and contact systems apart... but it will reach deep into political parties across the West as a whole with *no* Nation and *no* political 'side' excepted. I support that - let the chips fall where they may for those alive and dead who got us to where we are today.

6/18/2008 01:53:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

You know those that telephone wiretap program the Administration and the Left have been fighting over for the past few years? The one that the Administration swore was only to listen to terrorists overseas and not to listen in on American conversations?

Well, if you've got a big old international terrorist-supplier in Thailand and he's calling Americans in, say, Washington, DC, I wonder if anyone would be listening in.

Fred, you've got to expand your thinking. It's not just FARC and Colombia we're talking about here.

6/18/2008 06:32:00 AM  
Blogger joe buz said...

Bout no doubt realizes that he has a good chance of ending up standing before liberal (che poster in office) judges. Thus the anti-american watermelon statements espoused to win their hearts and favor. Evidently he learned quite well to think on his feet while selling his arms.

6/18/2008 07:14:00 AM  

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