Accessibility links

Corruption Watch: October 4, 2002

4 October 2002, Volume 2, Number 35
A 21-year-old Bulgarian subject, Nikolay Dzhonov, was arrested on 30 September at the airport in Atlantic City, New Jersey, after federal screeners found a pair of scissors embedded in a bar of soap and two box cutters in a lotion bottle in his backpack. He is being held on charges of weapons possession with bail set at $100,000, according to the BTA news agency.

The scandal surrounding the Czech military intelligence service (VZS) continues to raise eyebrows at NATO, the Pentagon, and elsewhere. The Czech military intelligence service has been involved in several scandals which have not only caused embarrassment for the country, but, as some analysts see it, raise the question of who is in control of that service.

The head of Czech army intelligence, Andor Sandor, was fired in August by Czech Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik for having kept Karel Srba on his payroll as an agent. Srba, formerly the secretary-general of the Czech Foreign Ministry under Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, was arrested for allegedly masterminding a plot to assassinate "Mlada fronta Dnes" journalist Sabina Slonkova in July. Sandor said he was unaware that Sara was being retained as an agent, claiming that the organization has thousands of agents in the field and that he could not personally keep track of all of them.

According to "Jane's Intelligence Review" of 26 September, Tvrdik also ordered the dismissal of Miroslav Kvasnak, the Czech defense attache to India. Kvasnak previously held the post of deputy director of Czech army intelligence. He allegedly failed to discontinue cooperation with Srba after being given a specific order to do so by Tvrdik in the spring of 2001.

Jane's wrote in its 15 February 2002 edition: "Before going to work for Czech army intelligence, Kvasnak headed the Czech National Police's elite anti-terrorist unit (URNA), and was sacked in 1995 following a series of scandals involving members of the unit selling weapons, ammunition and Semtex plastic explosives to organized crime elements."

Colonel Akhberdilav Akilov, the head of Daghestan's directorate against terrorism within the Interior Ministry, was shot dead on 27 September according to Interfax. Akilov was traveling in his Volga car when the assassins fired at his car with submachine guns, killing him and his driver. A woman in a passing bus was injured.

The mystery surrounding the kidnapping and release of LUKoil First Vice President Sergei Kukura, who was kidnapped near Moscow on 12 September and released two weeks later, continues to fascinate Russians. The latest twist is the contradictory story of whether LUKoil paid the $6 million ransom demanded by the kidnappers as well as a new version of the motive for the kidnapping.

On 26 September, the Russian newspaper "Kommersant" published a story in which they quote a police source who stated that one version the police are looking at is that Kukura had himself kidnapped in order to soften the hearts of LUKoil's competition, with the belief that even the fiercest competitor would sympathize with the loss of a top executive from a competing firm. A high-profile kidnapping could also be used to buy time if a company is involved in some serious negotiations.

According to the police reports issued when Kukura was freed, the ransom of $6 million was not paid by LUKoil. But subsequently, LUKoil spokesman Dmitrii Dolgov made the following statement: "Sergei Kukura's release took place as a result of joint actions by the law-enforcement bodies and LUKoil's protection units." However, Dolgov refused to confirm or deny reports of a ransom being paid. His colleague, Aleksandr Vasilenko, merely added that "those who helped release Sergei Kukura will be paid the promised reward of 30 million rubles ($1 million)."

On 27 September, Interfax quoted Interior Ministry official Aleksandr Ovchinnikov as saying police had detained several persons involved in the kidnapping. On 1 October, Russian television reported that the names of those suspected of the kidnapping as Aleksandr Vetlugaev, a former army officer, and paratrooper Sergei Melchakovskii.

A search for them is under way and investigators are said to have concluded it was those two men because of the way the crime was committed. Vetlugaev and Melchakovskii are alleged to have kidnapped businessmen before, tricking their victims by wearing the uniforms of riot or tax police.

A highly placed Ukrainian government official who insisted on anonymity told RFE/RL in Kyiv that Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma did tell the head of the Ukrainian arms sales company, UkrSpetzExport, to sell a Kolchuga radar system to Iraq, but the system was never delivered. However, the source stated, Russian arms dealers learned of this incident and sold and delivered a radar system comparable to the Ukrainian Kolchuga to Iraq.

Asked about this version during a press conference in Kyiv on 27 September, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Carlos Pascual, replied that Russia's possible role in the sale will be investigated.

According to available information about the Russian Kolchuga program, the Signal Enterprise in Tambov was involved in upgrading the original Donetsk-made Kolchuga radar system and finished this project in April 2001. The Ukrainian Kolchuga underwent its own upgrading much earlier and it is purported that it was the newer version of the Ukrainian Kolchuga which Kuchma gave the orders to sell to Iraq on 10 July 2000. Thus, in 2000 the Russian version of the Kolchuga was not ready to be sold. According to some analysts in Kyiv, the "revelation" that Russia sold the Kolchuga to Iraq is but another ploy by the current presidential administration to protect Kuchma if the Kolchugas are proven to be in Iraq.

On 24 September, "The New York Times" reported that the U.S. State Department had authenticated a taped conversation between Kuchma and the head of UkrSpetzExport, Valeriy Malev, during which the president gave the go ahead to covertly sell four Kolchuga passive radar systems to Iraq for $100 million.

Kuchma and the Ukrainian government vehemently deny that the sale took place.

A Hungarian-Italian joint venture company registered in Foggia, Italy, was involved in a huge Colombian cocaine smuggling operation, according to the Hungarian police who seized 3 billion florints ($12.16 million) of pure cocaine; Hungarian radio reported on 27 September. Hungarian detectives had become suspicious when 17 hydraulic cylinders, each weighing several tons, arrived at the small company which specializes in selling diapers for babies. The hydraulic cylinders contained 50 kg of cocaine. The consignment came from Colombia.

-- In Russia, police made over 30 drug busts on 17 September in 31 regions of Russia. They confiscated 282 kilograms of marijuana, 2.24 kilos of hashish, and smaller amounts of opium and heroin, Italy's RIA news agency reported on 18 September.

-- A Russian border guard was wounded and two drug traffickers were killed attempting to smuggle 53 kilos of heroin from Afghanistan to Tajikistan on 19 September. The incident took place in the jurisdiction of the Panj border detachment, the scene of numerous earlier drug smuggling attempts. (Asia-plus)

-- The Russian-Kazakh border is soon to be reinforced to prevent drug smuggling, the head of the Russian Customs' Committee, Mikhail Vanin, told the 24 September session of the State Council Presidium. This, according to Vanin, is the main route for drug smuggling into Russia. Some 80 percent of the heroin, 70 percent of the opium, and 60 percent of the marijuana reaching Russia goes through this border. (ITAR-TASS 24 September)

-- Romanian authorities seized over 50 kilos of heroin and arrested two members of an international drug smuggling ring on 20 September on the Romanian-Hungarian border crossing of Bors in Bihor county. The heroin was hidden in a Volkswagen Vento, Mediafax news agency reported on 21 September. The chief of the antinarcotics police in Cluj said that the heroin, with an estimated value of nearly 2 million euros, came from Asia, "probably through a Turkish connection," and was to be transported to Western states. According to investigations, the men who were arrested are part of an international drug-smuggling network, operating mostly in Western Europe, particularly the Netherlands.


By Roman Kupchinsky

Q: What camp were you assigned to in Afghanistan?

A: He sent me to the Khalden Camp�

Q: What type of training did you receive next?

A: I received training in explosives.

Q: What type of explosives training did you have?

A: How to make a charge, the types of explosives, TNT, C4.

Q: What is C4?

A: It's a plastic explosive, and there is another one that was called black plastic.

Q: Were you taught applications for the use of these explosives in that training?

A: Yes, we used them; we blew them up.

(Excerpts from Ahmed Ressam's testimony before a federal district court in New York. Ressam was convicted for conspiring to blow up Los Angeles International Airport in December 1999.)

Ressam, arrested by a U.S. Customs officer as he was entering the U.S. from Canada, could have been spared the long trip to Khalden Camp in Afghanistan in order to learn how to make bombs. All he, and thousands like him really need today is a computer and an Internet connection.

The international effort for the eradication of terrorism has focused on many important and vital facets of both preventative action as well as offensive steps, which can be taken to obliterate this threat. Strangely enough, little has been said in the media or in legislative debates about the availability of terrorist manuals in the public domain. Any person with an Internet connection can easily access a number of websites on which one can learn how to construct a simple (or even complex) explosive device using materials that can be easily purchased in most cities. With a basic knowledge of chemistry the options grow much larger.

These manuals, such as William Powell's "Anarchist Cookbook," a "classic" leftover from the days of the "Weather Underground" in the United States, are not meant for hardcore terrorist training. They are mainly intended for the solo performer who needs to commit an act of violence; the person who does not know how, or wish, to join an Al-Qaeda-type organization for fear that the group might be infiltrated by law enforcement or intelligence agencies. This is also one of the most difficult terrorists in existence to stop. And while the entire "Anarchist Cookbook" is not available on the Internet, the explosive-making sections are widely available. According to one website: "I am told that (the "Anarchist Cookbook") will soon be for sale online (along with other "underground" materials)."

If you're looking for a free copy of the real "Anarchist Cookbook," note that this would be technically illegal to download it, as it is a copyrighted book. More to the point, it's unlikely you'll be able to find it; I've never found it online despite extensive searching (although some websites have excerpts from the explosives section). Several people insist they've seen the whole book online, but nobody has been able to give me a web address.

A lone terrorist sitting in a small apartment in front of a computer in any city in the world can learn how to make a plastic explosive, napalm, or a simple pipe bomb. Any one of these devices, placed in the New York city subway during rush hour, could create terrible havoc and paralyze the city.

Many neo-Nazi groups have posted bomb-making manuals on their websites. There is even a terrorist's handbook, or a manual on the Internet which instructs readers on how to construct a Molotov cocktail or make a phone bomb. One neo-Nazi website based in New Zealand includes this message to readers: "On a local level we organize our own...cell groups and carry out whatever actions we feel to be necessary to enable us to achieve our goals. Each cell group is self-directed, self-motivated and answerable for it's own actions whilst working within the basic founding principles of...."

But the Internet sites of neo-Nazi and other fringe groups are not the only sources a potential terrorist can use to learn how to make a bomb. The U.S. government also makes this information available. The United States Department of Agriculture's Forest Service publishes a handbook that explains how to make ammonium-nitrate/fuel bombs.

The U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League of Bnai B'rth states that U.S. federal agents recovered bomb-making literature at 30 locations while investigating bombings and attempted bombings, most of them taken from websites.

Censoring these publications is a difficult option facing lawmakers worldwide. Setting aside the questions of freedom of speech, it is the widespread availability and international aspect of the Internet that makes any attempt at censorship so difficult. But, as in the case of child pornography on the Internet, a concerted worldwide effort may also be needed to prevent the creation of mini-Khalden Camps in hundreds of cities targeted for terror.