Archive for category North Korea

above the law

1. border guards ‘key to trafficking in N. Koreans’

North Korean and Chinese border guards play a vital part in the trafficking of North Korean women to China, the Asahi Shimbun reported on Thursday.  In a feature report, the Japanese daily quoted a Chinese border guard as testifying he caught a few female North Korean defectors in their teens and 20s crossing the Duman (or Tumen) River and handed them over to a Korean-Chinese human trafficker.

The Chinese border guard said he gets requests from a trafficker in China and informs his North Korean counterparts, who then ask a trafficker in the North to find suitable women. The North Korean guards then let the women pass in the area on the Chinese guard’s watch. This particular Chinese border guard alone had sold some 40 to 50 women per year this way.

Traffickers reportedly pay about 6,000 to 7, 000 yuan (approximately W1.02 million to W1.19 million) a head. Of the money, 4,000 yuan go to the Chinese border guard, who hands 1,000 yuan over to a North Korean guard. The Chinese guard added, “If they are told they can eat to their hearts’ content [in China], many North Korean women are happy to be on their way.” An estimated 150 human traffickers work in the border area.

source: chosun ilbo

2. Sweden: rape suspicions mount against ex-police chief — possible tie in to sex ring involving “well-known men in high positions”

The allegations directed at a former Swedish police chief suspected of rape continued to grow on Friday with at least five women and girls now thought to be involved in the case. Göran Lindberg, a respected law enforcement official who recently retired after a career spanning more than 20 years, is now suspected of rape and plotting to rape at least five women and girls.

On Friday Södertorn District Court appointed Caroline Rainer as the plaintiff assistant for the seventh woman or girl involved in the police investigation against Lindberg.

…Göran Lindberg, who as an active police officer developed an international reputation for giving talks on the importance of gender equality and the perils of sexual harassment, was arrested on January 25th on suspicion of raping a woman and attempting to rape several children. He was arrested at a hotel in Falun in northern Sweden, where he is suspected of having been in the course of plotting to rape a girl.

The case against Lindberg has its origin in the investigation into a suspicious death in the suburb of Bredäng, in southern Stockholm, in July 2009 when a 60-year-old man mysteriously fell to his death from a balcony.  Lindberg’s name unexpectedly turned up after police launched a preliminary investigation into the suspected murder. During the investigation police confiscated a computer and a mobile phone which belonged to the deceased 60-year-old. When investigators examined the contents of the machines and found the names of several men, their suspicions were aroused and they handed the matter over to the Stockholm County police force.

After intense media speculation into Lindberg’s links to a purported sex ring, police leading the investigation issued a denial that there were further suspects under investigation. “There are no other suspects at the moment,” said Jonas Trolle, who is leading the 25-person police team investigating the case.  ”All the speculation about well-known men in high positions has nothing to do with our investigation,” said Trolle in a statement on January 31st, adding that it was important that the media exercises some restraint.

more @ the local

3. Germany: documents in Kunduz affair may have been destroyed

Military documents detailing the events surrounding a deadly bombardment in Afghanistan now under investigation by the German parliament have reportedly been destroyed.

The news came a day after Colonel Georg Klein, the German commander who ordered the controversial air strike that killed more than 140 Afghans last year, appeared before a parliamentary inquiry to defend his actions. Daily Bild reportedly has obtained documents that prove special forces were involved reading: “Clearance to destroy and liquidate under terms of ZDv 2/30 hereby issued.” This number 2/30 central service command, abbreviated as “ZDv,” indicates that files are to be “shredded or cut up with the shredder so that the contents are neither recognisable nor could be made recognisable,” the paper said.  An inside source on the parliamentary investigative committee told the paper that they believed the documents had been destroyed.

more @ the local

4. and MI5 didn’t do anything wrong either

The head of MI5 has issued a strong defence of the security service, denying that his staff had withheld documents relating to Binyam Mohamed from the parliamentary intelligence and security committee (ISC) or sought to cover up its involvement in the torture of detainees.

The director general, Jonathan Evans, said claims by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, that there was a “culture of suppression” within the service were “the precise opposite of the truth”. He also contacted the ISC to deny that the service had withheld documents relating to Mohamed, a former Guantánamo Bay detainee, the ISC’s chairman, Kim Howells, said last night.

more @ guardian

also see aangirfan: MI5 and Shaker Aamer; deaths in Guantanamo

5. the modern day versions of Stella Capes, Mandy Rice Davies, Christine Keeler, etc. (see aangirfan: the classic sex scandal)

…When I move on to Boujis - Princes William and Harry’s favourite club - I find girls who are still pretty ordinary looking. Their particular targets are the wealthy men from landed families and the financial traders who flock to the club, and the only suggestion that these girls are classier than the Movida girls is that they wear tights with their six-inch skirts.

But wherever I go, whatever the club - famous, aristocratic, fashionable or discrete - one thing is the same: it’s shocking how shameless the girls are….They know they’re trading sex for drinks, and the chance of a footballer or a celebrity or a rich boy - depending on the club - taking them back to a hotel for a liaison which, if they’re lucky, that man might actually remember.  Because for these girls, with so many of them literally flinging themselves at the men with money, it’s all about being memorable.

more @ daily  mail

6. Philippines: military exec accuses top cop of complicity in Maguindanao massacre

MANILA, Philippines—A senior police commander of Maguindanao tried to cover up the abduction and brutal slay of 57 people in the province last November 23, a top military official told the court Friday. Taking the witness stand at the hearing of the rebellion case against the Ampatuans, Lieutenant General Raymundo Ferrer said Chief Inspector Sukarno Dicay denied seeing the convoy of vehicles carrying the victims moments before they were held at gunpoint and executed by armed men allegedly led by Andal Ampatuan Jr.

Dicay, then the acting chief of the Maguindanao police office, had previously admitted in a sworn affidavit that he headed the setting up of a checkpoint near the massacre site in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town. Ferrer, the commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said Dicay’s attempt to hide the crime proved that there was a “breakdown of loyalty” of state forces in Maguindanao which later led to a “breakdown of law and order” in the province.

more @ inquirer

7. and just so you know, the only people who ever conduct child sacrifices are impoverished people from the deep back woods of third world countries. capice?

KATHMANDU - NEPALI police said on Thursday they had arrested four people in connection with the death of an eight-year-old girl believed to have been killed in a human sacrifice. Police said the child’s throat had been slit and her body pierced with a sharp weapon. Local media reported her blood was found inside a brick kiln along with religious offerings of money and food.

‘The circumstances of the killing in early December suggest the girl was sacrificed,’ local police official Narhari Adhikari told AFP from Rupandehi district in the south of Nepal. ‘We have arrested four people including the owner of the brick kiln on charges of murder. Two of those arrested confessed they killed the girl as an offering to the gods to bring good fortune to the business,’ he added.

Mainly Hindu Nepal is deeply traditional and religious rituals are a part of everyday life in the impoverished country. Around 80 percent of the 27 million-strong population are Hindu.

Nepal outlawed human sacrifices in 1780 but experts say it is still practised by some communities in poor rural areas. ‘Some people still believe sacrificing human beings will appease the gods, improve their fortunes and raise their social status,’ said Chunda Bajracharya, professor of cultural studies at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan University. ‘Such beliefs are the outcome of extreme ignorance.’ – AFP

source: straits times

North Korea, multi-purpose tool, links into all the hotspots

1. firms in 5 countries linked to N. Korean arms smuggling: Kazakhstan, Ukraine, New Zealand, UAE, Sri Lanka, Iran (natch)

Five companies in five countries were involved in a complex process of cargo laundering for a shipment of North Korean arms that was confiscated at Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport last month, according to media reports.

Efforts to track the cargo were complicated by the involvement of a Kazakh arms dealer and his wife who handled the arms through a ghost company, AP said Tuesday. Thai police discovered 40 tons of North Korean arms including multiple rocket launchers, 40 surface-to-air missiles, and hundreds of rocket-propelled grenades worth an estimated US$18 million on an Ilyushin cargo plane operated by Air West of Georgia, which landed in Bangkok on Dec. 12.

All five crew were arrested, but it was not easy to trace the route the arms had taken. Alexander Zykov, a Kazakh dealer in illegal arms, is allegedly behind the transport. He hired five crew for an air freight company he owned named East Wing in Kiev, Ukraine, in July last year. Three days later, a friend of Zykov’s established a ghost company named SP Trading in New Zealand.

SP Trading then leased the cargo plane from Air West, which is also effectively run by Zykov and had earlier leased it to Overseas Trading FZE, a company in the United Arab Emirates owned by Zykov’s wife. Once SP Trading had leased the plane, it received an order from a Hong Kong-registered firm, Union Top Management, to transport “petroleum industry components” from the [North] Korean General Trading Corporation.

The plane took off from Kiev and flew via Azerbaijan and the UAE to North Korea. Once the freight had been loaded, it was scheduled to stop for refueling in Thailand and fly west to Ukraine by way of Sri Lanka and the UAE. From there, some reports say it was leapfrogged via Iran to Montenegro, but the tiny peaceful principality seems an unlikely final destination for the cargo.

source: chosun ilbo

2. North Korea also supplying ‘Congolese insurgents’

North Korea smuggled about 3,400 tons of weapons into the Democratic Republic of Congo in the midst of a civil war there in January, with some of them going to Congolese insurgents or nearby countries, VOA quoted a UN official as saying Wednesday.

Christian Dietrich, a member of the UN Security Council committee investigating Congo, told VOA that the North Korean ship Birobong arrived in the port of Boma, Congo on Jan. 21, where it unloaded some 3,400 tons of weapons, 100 times the amount seized in Thailand earlier this month.

more @ chosun ilbo

3. US congressional report says NK also passing WMD tech to Syria, through Iran of course — sorry no details classified into, you understand

A new U.S. congressional report claims North Korea is transferring weapons technology to Syria through Iran. In the report, the Congressional Research Service, an entity that works exclusively for the U.S. Congress, revealed that Iran was assisting in the procurement of weapons of mass destruction-related technology by providing North Korea with a platform for such trade with Syria. The report however does not offer further details on the alleged interaction.

source: chosun ilbo

4. Hillary Clinton — very worried about NK and Burma

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says military cooperation between North Korea and Burma would be very destabilizing for the region, and would pose a direct threat to Burma’s neighbors. She says Washington is taking regional concerns about this connection “very seriously.” Clinton addressed the concerns on Tuesday in Bangkok after meeting Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. She will join a regional security conference in Phuket on Wednesday.North Korea’s possible cooperation with Burma made headlines in June, when the U.S. Navy began tracking a North Korean ship believed to be traveling to Burma with suspicious cargo. The ship returned to North Korea without ever docking in Burma.

more @ chosun ilbo

5. Iran buys masses of arms from North Korea, ships them all over the world, including to Hamas and Hezbollah, according to WaPo, citing US and UN officials. yup they know all about it.

Iran has imported piles of North Korean-made conventional weapons, the Washington Post reported Thursday, even though both countries are under UN sanctions over their nuclear programs. Weapons also went to two Palestinian militant organizations, the Iran-backed Hezbollah and the Islamist Hamas, the paper said.

To avoid international pursuit, the North Korean weapons were “shipped halfway around the globe in sealed containers, labeled as oil-drilling supplies, that passed through a succession of freighters and ports,” including China, Southeast Asia and the Dubai free trade zone, before reaching Iran, it said.

One example was a shipment of North Korean weapons aboard the ANL Australia which was confiscated by United Arab Emirates authorities on July 22. According to U.S. and UN officials, the ship carried 2,030 detonators for 122 mm multiple rocket launchers, as well as electric circuitry and solid-fuel propellant for rockets, which Hamas and Hezbollah use when attacking Israel.

The UAE made no official announcement, but the paper said the shipment of North Korean weapons consisted of 10 cargo containers. They left the North Korean port of Nampo on May 30, five days after the North’s second nuclear test on May 25 and before the UN Security Council adopted a fresh resolution sanctioning the North.

The UNSC adopted Resolution 1874 on June 12, extending the arms embargo on North Korea and authorizing member states to inspect its cargo on land, sea, and air. By that time, the vessel carrying the arms had already arrived in China. The containers were transferred to a Chinese ship in the northern port of Dalian on June 13.

From there, they were ferried to Shanghai, where they were moved to a third ship, the ANL Australia, a 47,326 ton freighter. They were finally discovered at the port of Khor Fakkan in the UAE. The officials claimed that there were as many as five such smuggling attempts since early this year.

source: chosun ilbo

6. on top of all that, the North Koreans are firing away past an imaginary line in the ocean

North Korea vowed to continue artillery drills Wednesday along the West Sea border after firing dozens of shells on two separate occasions there, reiterating that the de-facto inter-Korean border should be redrawn. After the first batch of about 30 artillery shells in the morning, South Korea responded by firing warning shots, but no casualties or damage occurred.

The North began firing again at 3:25 p.m., with a dozen more shells landing north of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto western sea border. But the South did not respond.  This is the first time that the North has fired artillery into the NLL in the West Sea, though the navies from both Koreas have exchanged gunfire near the border before.  No casualties or injuries were reported as both sides fired in the air and no fishing boats were present, a spokesman for the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

more @ korea times



destabilizing north korea

1. North Korea to allow more visitors from the US — NK needs tourism income, under the squeeze — Financial Times

North Korea will allow more tourists from its arch-foe the US to visit this year, seeking alternative sources of hard currency as sanctions bite deeper. …Tourism is a key foreign currency earner for Pyongyang, which is calling for sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons programme to be lifted.

Further denting Pyongyang’s dollar income, Thai authorities last month detained an aircraft packed with arms being smuggled from Pyongyang. Diplomats saw this as a severe threat to the cash flow of Kim Jong-il, the country’s leader. Reports from defectors also suggest a recent currency redenomination has caused economic chaos during a bitter winter.

In a very rare admission that the country needed to improve its economic record, Mr Kim this month confessed that the nation had failed to deliver “rice and meat soup” to the people. He vowed to improve people’s lives.

more @ financial times

2. NK moves to counter the market it fears and needs — Voice of America

On November 30, North Korea’s government suddenly re-valued its currency, ordering citizens to exchange old won notes for new bills, at an exchange rate of 100 to one. It allowed each person to exchange just 100,000 won - the equivalent of around $30. Pyongyang has since banned the use of foreign currency such as U.S. dollars, or Chinese yuan.

The changes effectively destroyed the wealth of those who had piled up won by trading in makeshift markets. Many North Koreans keep their money at home because they either cannot access or do not trust the country’s banks. Ha Tae-kyoung is the president of Open Radio for North Korea, which, like VOA, broadcasts news into the North. He says sources inside North Korea report frustration at the revaluation.

…He says those who made huge profits in the market are the losers in the reforms. However, salaried workers closely connected to the government can see the reforms as a positive development. That is because some government workers are receiving the same nominal salaries as before the 100-to-1 devaluation, effectively raising their pay by a factor of 100.

Kim says he thinks North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and his apparatus remain strong enough to keep the market in check. He says the North Korean leader would not have implemented the reforms if he thought there would be serious resistance. However, Noland warns that could change if Pyongyang tries to enforce the ban on owning foreign currency. “It’s the elites that deal in foreign currency, indeed, parts of the military and security services,” he said.  “And if the government literally tried to take their dollars or yuan away, that’s the sort of thing that could actually lead to political instability.”

read more @ VOA

3. why doesn’t everyone agree that Robert Parks is a HERO for being the hegelian dialectical opposite of patsy underpants bomber? (cue the violins…)

The other martyr, in stark contrast, was a 28-year-old Christian missionary, Robert Park. An American of Korean descent, Park offered himself up peacefully, on Christmas Day, for the cause of life and liberty for others. He went to northeast China, and from there walked across the frozen Tumen River into North Korea. Witnesses told reporters that as he went, he called out, in Korean, messages of God’s love, as well as “I am an American citizen.” He took with him a letter to North Korean tyrant Kim Jong-il, asking Kim to open his country and shut down his prison camps.

et cetera. more @ forbes

4. daredevil activist deserves more attention. well hey, i’ll bet he gets it too.

Park’s action seemed futile, but it has already begun to create ripple effects. Susan Scholte, a winner of the Seoul Peace Prize, and U.S. Special Envoy for North Korea Human Rights Issues Robert King publicly voiced their concern for Park’s safety. U.S. media, including the Christian Science Monitor, have shown interest in Park’s action, and prayer meetings are taking place in South Korea for his safety.

more @ chosun ilbo

5. see? US human rights envoy urges NK to follow in footsteps of Russia, China

Robert King, in a live conversation with South Korean Internet users held on a U.S. Embassy-run Web site, said he wants North Korea to achieve significant political and economic changes like Russia and China have gone through over the past 20 years. “I hope North Korea follows their example and makes economic and political changes,” King said, according to a transcript posted on the Web site.

more @ canadian press



6. as if to underscore the point…new suspect in 10 year old NK kidnapping case. what are the chances??!!??

It was 10 years ago this Saturday that a South Korean pastor helping North Korean refugees in China was kidnapped. And as the anniversary nears, a new suspect in the abduction of Reverend Kim Dong-shik is under South Korean investigation. Do Hee-yun, head of the Seoul-based Citizen’s Coalition for Human Rights of Abductees and North Korean Refugees, told the JoongAng Ilbo that a former North Korean spy who “played a principal role” in the kidnapping of Reverend Kim is being interrogated by South Korean authorities. According to Do, the ex-agent, named Kim, wasn’t staying at the official North Korean refugee shelter Hanawon, but instead was at another facility for investigation.

more @ joongang daily

7. NK ask for punishing sender of fliers

North Korea has called on South Korea to punish members of conservative organizations who sent anti-Kim Jong-il fliers across the border, the North’s state media said Wednesday. …Since late 2008, the fliers criticizing Kim Jong-il’s dictatorship and sometimes, containing U.S. dollars and Chinese currency, have troubled the isolated state, which controls the press and offers only limited information.

more @ korea times

8. and all this pressure for what ends? the nuclear weapons. Russia (good cop?) willing to build railways if NK give up nukes

Russia is willing to construct gas pipes, electrical power networks and railways that could bridge the two Koreas and Russia if North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons. This is according to Russian Ambassador to South Korea Konstantin Vnukov, who told Yonhap News that the proposal could be included in the idea of the “grand bargain,” which was proposed by President Lee Myung-bak as a comprehensive rewards package for North Korea if it abandons its nuclear program. The South Korean government responded positively to Russia’s overture, saying the deal can be reviewed when the six-party talks resume.

source: chosun ilbo

9. US (bad cop) : another setback on nukes

In a Foreign Ministry statement issued Monday, North Korea proposed talks to reach a peace treaty before denuclearization. The North also said it could return to the six-party talks if United Nations sanctions were lifted. But the U.S. government dismissed the idea less than 24 hours later. It stressed that a peace regime and other issues could only be discussed once the North returns to the six-party process and makes progress in denuclearization.

Our government maintains the same stance. The nuclear standoff, which had been in a lull for about a month following the Pyongyang trip by Stephen Bosworth, the U.S. special envoy on North Korea, once again has become the sticking point among North Korea, South Korea and the United States….The chances of denuclearization of the peninsula in the near future have diminished. It may have become that much more difficult to see permanent peace here. But we can’t give up on seeing the North abandon nuclear weapons. We have to be patient and mix strong and soft responses until North Korea is persuaded. One hopeful aspect is that time is not on the North Korean side. With its pending leadership change, North Korea will find it difficult to maintain its hedgehog tactics.

The problem is that there remains a possibility that the North Korean regime, which may not opt for a bold shift in foreign policy, could act provocatively toward South Korea. Furthermore, we can also predict that the antsy North will continue to raise tension on the peninsula. Meticulous and thorough countermeasures to control the North’s provocations are necessary. On top of robust military strength, we need to apply the carrot and the stick flexibly.

more @ joongang daily

10. also, US ‘unlikely to let SK reprocess nuclear fuel’ until this is all ironed out with NK. so, like, never?

The U.S. is unlikely to allow South Korea to reprocess spent nuclear fuel that is piling up in secure storage facilities until a satisfactory solution to the North Korean nuclear problem is found, a report said this week. The matter is a key issue in negotiations between Seoul and Washington on the revision of the Korea-U.S. Atomic Energy Agreement, which expires in 2014. …However, “if the North Korean problem were to be satisfactorily resolved, the U.S. might be prepared to agree to some form of pyroprocessing under strict nonproliferation conditions,” he added.  Pyroprocessing is a new technology of eletrolyzing spent nuclear fuel rods and extracting uranium and plutonium that can be reused as fuel. It is being developed under South Korea’s initiative.

more @ chosun ilbo


developments in the “war on terror”

1. Nigerian president reportedly brain-damaged in Saudi Arabia

President Umaru Yar’Adua is seriously brain damaged, is not able to recognise anyone, including his wife Turai, and can no longer perform the functions of the office of the president, according to multiple sources who have spoken to NEXT on Sunday.  But this fact, which has left a nation of 150 million people rudderless and its government in disarray, is being concealed from the public through an elaborate scam orchestrated directly and energetically by the First Lady.

read more @ NEXT

2. SITE says qaeda threatens to execute French hostage in Mali (three Saudis recently killed near Mali border recently, that was “al qaeda” too)

The north African branch of al-Qaida said it will execute a French hostage unless four of its militants are freed from jail in Mali in 20 days, the U.S. monitoring group SITE said on Monday.

source: naharnet

3. crew of seized plane turns to Kazakh president in Thai court

The four Kazakh crew members of an arms-laden cargo plane seized in Bangkok in mid-December have asked the president of Kazakhstan to defend them as they face major charges for illegal transportation of weapons….”We were making a flight ordered by the Air West Georgia company and the plane’s lessee, AirTech company, from Ukraine. In line with a contract, we should have transported a 35-ton civil cargo from Pyongyang to Kiev. The flight to Pyongyang was made on schedule… After landing in Pyongyang on December 10, 2009, in the evening, we went to a hotel,” the crew, which is now being held in the Bangkok Remand prison, said in the statement. According to the statement, the next morning, when the crew arrived at the airport, they found the cargo packed in wooden and iron boxes and sealed. “We were not allowed to inspect the cargo,” the crew said, adding “according to documents, the cargo consisted of ‘mechanical parts,’ and looked similar to oil drilling equipment.”

more @ ria novosti

4. Thailand: suspects in 20 year old Saudi case indicted

The case has received much attention from the public. Saudi charge d’affaires to Thailand Nabil Ashri, who on Monday voiced his concern over the handling of the case by Thai authorities to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, described the indictment of the five suspects as “good news” which Saudi Arabia has long been waiting for. He said Saudi Arabia waited for nearly 20 years to see the first case being brought into the judicial process.  The two other cases are the murder of three Saudi diplomats, also in 1990, and the jewellery theft in 1989.

more @ bangkok post

5. Saudi teen poses as pilot in Manila airport

A 19-year-old Saudi Arabian man dressed as a pilot was arrested Tuesday after he illegally entered a restricted area in the main airport in the Philippines, an airport official said. “He was able to elude our security by misrepresenting himself as a pilot of Saudi,” said airport general manager Alfonso Cusi, referring to the Saudi Arabian flag carrier. …The detained Saudi, identified by the local authorities as Hani Abdulelah Bukhari, told airport police he was there to meet his father, a retired Saudi pilot who later arrived on a flight from Saudi Arabia. He was wearing a pilot’s uniform from Saudi Airlines when airport security personnel noticed him lining up at the immigration section of the passenger terminal, Cusi told ABS-CBN television.

more @ naharnet

6. Canadian faces terror charges

OTTAWA - A TORONTO man who earned a six-figure salary as a computer programmer appeared in court on Monday for the first day of his trial on charges of plotting to attack Canada’s main stock exchange and other targets. Shareef Abdelhaleem, 34, is accused of conspiring to bomb Canada’s main stock exchange, spy agency offices and a military base in order to try to provoke Canada’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.

more @ straits times

7. FBI and Shin Bet tracked Teitel a year before his arrest — it was all just police work you understand

A year prior to Yakov “Jack” Teitel’s arrest, the Shin Bet and the FBI were in close contact as part of an investigation into bombings targeting homosexuals, messianic Christians and left-wing figures, Haaretz has learned.  Teitel was arrested on October 7. However, the initial exchanges on the case between the two security services on the case began in October 2008, when a Shin Bet officer, code-named Ariel, contacted the FBI with a request for assistance in the investigation. Eventually, the authorities would come to suspect Teitel as the person behind the bombings.

more @ haaretz  http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1142043.html

8. Houston TX consulate reportedly issued questionable passports

Three Indian citizens, including a man linked to the 1993 serial bomb blasts in Mumbai, were issued Pakistani passports by the country’s consulate in the U.S. city of Houston, an anti-corruption court has been told by a senior diplomat. Pakistan’s Consul General in Houston, Aqil Nadeem, appeared as a witness in the accountability court in Rawalpindi on Monday and confirmed that Pakistani passports were issued by the consulate to Indian nationals Aziz Moosa, Saleem Ali and Abdul Sadiq.

more @ the hindu

fantasy island

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.

…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.

If true, why would that be “sensitive information?”

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.

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.

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.

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.

Interesting.

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.

…“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.”

Another mystery man, like David Headley, coming and going like the wind.

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.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.

Obviously some of the information circulating in the NYT, Bloomberg, and the AP contradicts the Wayne Madsen report, up top, which concludes like this:

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.

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.

And the AP story also introduces other people who reportedly owned and chartered the plane, not Geoffrey Taylor, and questions the stop in Sharjah.

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.

Lastly, a few more holes in the story:

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.

…Speaking by telephone from Batumi, Georgia, Kakabadze said he leased the plane to the SP Trading company and could bear no responsibility for what happened next.

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.

Pretty confusing. I think that must be on purpose.

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.