Accessibility links

Breaking News

Corruption Watch: June 19, 2003

19 June 2003, Volume 3, Number 21
The United States has accused BAE Systems, Britain's largest weapons company, of "corrupt practice" in connection with alleged attempts to bribe Czech officials to support a multibillion-dollar arms deal, Britain's "The Guardian" reported on 12 June.

Citing "documents obtained by the 'Guardian'" and "reports from the CIA and rival firms," the paper reported that British Defense Minister Sir Kevin Tebbit responded to the U.S. allegations in a letter to U.S. State Department Assistant Secretary Anthony Wayne.

The newspaper added that Tebbit was told of the alleged attempt, illegal under British law, and not only failed to notify the police but insisted that the complaint was investigated and found to be groundless. Tebbit told "The Guardian" that the accusation "has never been substantiated by any evidence whatsoever."

The newspaper, investigating in Prague, reported that there had in fact been attempts to influence Czech politicians: "Two senior Czech politicians separately claimed they were offered bribes last summer in an attempt to prevent them voting against the deal to buy Gripen fighter jets from a BAE-Saab joint venture."

Those attempts were directed at opposition politicians, but "The Guardian" also claimed that large sums of money were believed to have gone to "people linked to politicians in the governing Social Democrat coalition." "I am convinced that money went to the Social Democrats," the paper quoted a senior Czech government official as saying.

BAE has repeatedly denied the charges, and a spokesman for the company told "The Guardian": "BAE Systems did not pay bribes in the Czech Republic in order to influence any decisions in Gripen's favor. Nor did BAE Systems ever authorize or direct anyone to pay bribes to that end." RK

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev denied any involvement in a scandal involving kickbacks from Western oil companies interested in developing Caspian oil resources, instead blaming former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin of having manufactured the scandal. In an interview for the "Financial Times" of 12 June, Nazerbaev called the charges against James Giffen, a banker and former presidential adviser, "provocative and baseless." A federal court in the United States indicted Giffen and a Mobil executive in April on charges of corrupt business practices (see "RFE/RL Organized Crime and Terrorism Watch," 15 May, 2003).

A second indictment accuses J. Bryan Williams, a retired Mobil senior vice president, of having failed to pay taxes on an alleged $2 million kickback from Giffen for his role in Mobil's 1996 purchase of a 25 percent stake in Kazakhstan's Tengiz oil field.

According to the "Financial Times" of 10 June, Williams has agreed to cooperate with U.S. prosecutors and begun providing details of the activities of other oil company executives. However, after entering a plea of guilty, Williams denied cooperating with the prosecution and said he acted alone and without the knowledge of Mobil executives, the "Financial Times" reported on 13 June. RK

As part of the newly implemented U.S. Visitor and Immigration Status Indication Technology (U.S. VISIT), Russian citizens entering the United States will be fingerprinted and have their travel documents scanned in order to scrutinize them against a watch list of suspected terrorists. According to "The Moscow Times" of 23 May, U.S. Homeland Security Department Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security Asa Hutchinson said the "checks will apply to all visitors who need U.S. visas and will be carried out at their point of entry into the United States." Presently Russian males aged 16 to 45 applying for nonimmigrant visas to enter the United States must fill out form DS-157, which requires them to list the countries they have visited over the past 10 years, any military experience, and organizations of which they are members. RK

The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) detained 55 suspected members of the Islamic Liberation Party in Moscow on 7 June, according to a report in "The Moscow Times" on 10 June. The Islamic Liberation Party is on a list of terrorist organizations in several countries, including the United States, Germany, and Egypt. The suspected head of the Moscow cell of the group, Alisher Musaev, was detained. The FSB reportedly found 100 grams of plastic explosives and three grenades in his possession. Another man who was detained was Akram Shzalolov of Tajikistan, who allegedly had 400 grams of TNT in his possession. According to "The Moscow Times" report, the FSB raided a factory in east Moscow and detained 121 Central Asians. Most were illegal migrants, but 55 were deemed suspected members of the organization.

The Islamic Liberation Party was founded in the early 1950s by Palestinians, and opened its first branches in the Middle East, Europe, and the Indian subcontinent. It is now operating in Russia, Ukraine, and Central Asia. Some experts cited by "The Moscow Times" regard the party as a "radical" rather than "terrorist" organization. RK

Igor Klimov, the acting general director of the defense-industry consortium Almaz-Antei, and Sergei Shchitko, the commercial director of the Ratep defense plant, an Almaz-Antei subsidiary, were shot dead on 6 June in separate incidents, Russian news agencies reported. Klimov was killed near his home in central Moscow in the morning of 6 June by an unidentified man bearing a silencer-equipped pistol. He was a former officer of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and formerly served in President Vladimir Putin's administration. The 42-year-old Klimov was appointed acting head of Almaz-Antei in February following a power struggle within the consortium, which was scheduled to hold a shareholders meeting on 26 June to appoint a permanent general director. Klimov was expected to be named to the post. Almaz-Antei was formed last year by presidential decree and manufactures some of Russia's most advanced air-defense systems, such as the S-400 and the S-300 antiaircraft and antimissile systems, accounting for export contracts worth $5 billion-7 billion. Unidentified investigators believe some members of Almaz-Antei's old guard might have feared that Klimov would gain access to the consortium's cash flow upon his expected appointment as permanent general director, according to

According to an editorial in the "Russia Journal" on 10 June: "Klimov was brought into the highly criminalized defense industry early this year. His mandate was to enforce government control over the sector and increase the money flow from arms sales into the state's budget. As part of this, he had begun investigations into alleged criminal behavior on the part of managers of a number of consortium member companies. One of those companies was Ratep." Victor Yasmann/RK

Ratep Commercial Director Shchitko was found dead on 7 June in his vehicle in Serpukhov, a small city about 90 kilometers south of Moscow, reported. Investigators believe he was shot in the head multiple times late on 6 June or early on 7 June by a lone gunman with a pistol equipped with a silencer. They speculate that Shchitko's death is related to his "professional activities" and to Klimov's killing. Ratep manufactures electronics for the defense industry and for commercial use. commented on 8 June that Klimov's slaying is a serious blow to the Kremlin's plans to create a fifth-generation air-defense system. Almaz-Antei's management includes several battling military-industrial groups and Klimov's task was to harmonize them, added. Klimov was considered a protege of General Viktor Ivanov, a deputy presidential administration head and veteran of the Soviet and Russian state-security services, who is currently the chairman of Almaz-Antei's board. Victor Yasmann/RK

The new government of the South Pacific state of Nauru announced on 13 June that it had ended its offshore banking operations, according to "The Washington Post." The tiny island state with a population of 8,000 had been on the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) blacklist for allowing numerous offshore banking facilities to conduct what the FATF dubbed money-laundering operations, many of them for Russian organized-crime groupings. The decree of the new head of state, Willie Star, revoked the offshore banking licenses of 139 banks, leaving only one for the Bank of Nauru. RK


By Roman Kupchinsky

The polygraph examination, commonly known as the "lie detector," has been around for decades. It has been used since 1924 by law enforcement and later by intelligence agencies in the United States to screen new applicants and periodically renew high-level clearances for employees, as well as to help determine if recruited agents are telling the truth. It is also used by private companies in order to help them determine if their employees are up to no good.

Recently, the Computer Voice Stress Analysis (CVSA) test has been used for similar purposes.

The heyday of polygraph testing by intelligence agencies came during the Cold War; yet, interestingly enough, the Soviet KGB did not bother to use this device. Instead, it did things the old fashioned way, relying on its own agents to spy on each other -- a system it believed was more reliable then a machine that measured perspiration, blood pressure, and heartbeat. Evidence of failures to detect intentions or deception is considerable, however, the case of Aldrich Ames being among of the most glaring examples. This senior CIA employee regularly passed polygraph examinations while actively working as a Soviet agent. Likewise, numerous Russian intelligence officers such as Oleg Penkovskii worked for the West despite the watchful eyes and ears of their colleagues. The West won the Cold War, but it is highly doubtful that victory came about as a result of polygraph testing.

The Soviet doctrine against using the polygraph was most likely the result of fear that it could produce evidence clearing a person's guilt when the state had predetermined that the person was guilty regardless of the evidence. Had Bukharin, Kamenev, and others been subjected to a lie-detector test, Stalin's infamous show trials of the 1930s would likely have found considerable evidence that they were not "imperialist agents."

The use of polygraph results as courtroom evidence stirred a debate in the United States as to its possible infringements on civil rights and, above all, the reliability of the results. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1998 case "United States v. Edward G. Scheffer" that polygraph results could not be admitted as evidence, since they are "no more accurate than the toss of a coin."

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a report on the use of the polygraph in 2002. According to "The Washington Post" of 27 May, the NAS concluded: "Polygraph testing yields an unacceptable choice...between too many loyal employees falsely judged deceptive and too many major security threats left undetected. Its insufficient to justify reliance on its use in employee security screening in federal agencies." At the same time, the NAS called for additional research into the topic and noted that real world conditions are difficult to replicate in a laboratory.

The NAS report was mildly disputed by the American Polygraph Association (APA) which released a statement on its website ( saying, "Polygraph testing admittedly [is] not perfect, [but] has been and continues to be an extremely valuable tool. We firmly believe that continued scientific research will support our position."

According to Katherine Ramsland, an author who writes on criminality (see, the problem with the polygraph was "that fear, anger, and other emotions are similar to the kinds of reactions that many people have when they lie. Thus, if a person being questioned is merely upset or nervous, the measurement might indicate the type of emotion that accompanies lying when in fact that person is telling the truth."

The former director of Central Intelligence, Admiral Stansfield Turner, in his book "Secrecy and Democracy --The CIA in Transition" came out in favor of the lie-detector test, describing it as "the most important specific tool of counterintelligence" (p. 69). But Turner also expressed his reservation as to the reliability of the test: "I would not count on the polygraph as the only evidence against an individual" (p. 69). Turner went on to relate the story of how he wanted U.S. workmen involved in the construction of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to be tested on their return home to see if they might have been bribed to allow Soviet technicians to install listening devices in the building. After gaining initial support for the project from President Jimmy Carter, this decision was reversed and the polygraphing did not take place.

An important consideration in Turner's thinking was the fact that the old embassy in Moscow was discovered to have been bugged, as was exposed in 1960 by Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, who revealed that the seal of the United States had a listening device embedded inside.

Others have argued that the problem lies not with the polygraph as a tool for counterintelligence, but with legislation adopted in the 1970s such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, which placed restraints on electronic surveillance of suspected enemy agents. In a discussion of this problem in the 1979 publication "Intelligence Requirements for the 1980s," it was pointed out that one radical domestic group that in its publication called for the violent overthrow of the United States and urged its members to join the armed forces in order to learn how to fight could not be placed under FBI surveillance since it could not be determined if the group was acting at the behest of any foreign country (p. 62). This legislation also denied the FBI the right to investigate individual members of such a group, limiting that right to its leadership. Such prohibitive legislation arguably limited the other investigative tools needed to supplement polygraph tests. Fortunately this legislation was later changed.

Is it possible for an Al-Qaeda terrorist to fool the lie detector? If he orders a copy of author Doug Williams' "How To Sting The Polygraph," then he might stand a good chance. Williams assures his clients that they can download his book from the website -- once their credit card number is approved -- and that any consultation with him (he supplies his mobile phone number) will be kept in the strictest of confidence.