Thursday, January 27, 2011

Saudi Financier Adnan Khashoggi Settles with SEC in Genesis IM Stock Fraud Case

April 1 (Bloomberg) — Saudi Financier Adnan Khashoggi and former GenesisIntermedia Inc. Chief Executive Officer Ramy El- Batrawi settled a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit accusing them of orchestrating a stock fraud scheme.

Khashoggi and El-Batrawi, without admitting or denying the allegations, agreed to be barred for five years from serving as an officer or director of a company that issues registered securities, the SEC said in filings yesterday in federal court in Los Angeles.

The settlement doesn’t include any fine, George Newhouse, the lawyer for both men, said in a telephone interview.

The SEC sued Khashoggi and El-Batrawi four years ago, saying they ran a $130 million scheme in which they loaned out GenesisIntermedia stock at market value while artificially inflating the stock price. They failed to repay the intermediary brokers when the scheme collapsed, the SEC said in the lawsuit.

GenesisIntermedia is a defunct Van Nuys, California-based telemarketing company that sold the “Ab-Twister” exercise device and “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” relationship products through infomercials. Trading in GenesisIntermedia was halted in September 2001 after the shares plunged 65 percent.

The wreckage caused the failure of some of the intermediary brokers that had handled the loans and saddled the Securities Investor Protection Corp. with a $42 million payout.

Khashoggi, 74, is best known as an arms broker in the Iran- Contra scandal of the mid-1980s, when he served as middleman for illegal sales of weapons to Iran. He was often described then as one of the world’s richest men.

The case is SEC v. Ramy El-Batrawi, 06-2247, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles.)

– Editors: Peter Blumberg, Glenn Holdcraft.

The Politics of Fiji Water

… Gilmour was a powerful presence in Fiji long before he got into the water business. Back in 1969, he launched what would become—with help from a couple of Saudi princes—the region’s biggest hotel chain, the Southern Pacific Hotel Corporation, which built a massive resort complex in Fiji. His investors and advisers have included everyone from notorious arms trader Adnan Khashoggi to George H.W. Bush … “

Fiji Water: Spin the Bottle
Posted by Mehret Tesfaye
Mother Jones/Ethiopian Review – August 16th, 2009

THE INTERNET CAFÉ in the Fijian capital, Suva, was usually open all night long. Dimly lit, with rows of sleek, modern terminals, the place was packed at all hours with teenage boys playing boisterous rounds of video games. But one day soon after I arrived, the staff told me they now had to shut down by 5 p.m. Police orders, they shrugged: The country’s military junta had declared martial law a few days before, and things were a bit tense.

I sat down and sent out a few emails—filling friends in on my visit to the Fiji Water bottling plant, forwarding a story about foreign journalists being kicked off the island. Then my connection died. “It will just be a few minutes,” one of the clerks said.

Moments later, a pair of police officers walked in. They headed for a woman at another terminal; I turned to my screen to compose a note about how cops were even showing up in the Internet cafés. Then I saw them coming toward me. “We’re going to take you in for questioning about the emails you’ve been writing,” they said.

What followed, in a windowless room at the main police station, felt like a bad cop movie. “Who are you really?” the bespectacled inspector wearing a khaki uniform and a smug grin asked me over and over, as if my passport, press credentials, and stacks of notes about Fiji Water weren’t sufficient clues to my identity. (My iPod, he surmised tensely, was “good for transmitting information.”) I asked him to call my editors, even a UN official who could vouch for me. “Shut up!” he snapped. He rifled through my bags, read my notebooks and emails. “I’d hate to see a young lady like you go into a jail full of men,” he averred, smiling grimly. “You know what happened to women during the 2000 coup, don’t you?”

Eventually, it dawned on me that his concern wasn’t just with my potentially seditious emails; he was worried that my reporting would taint the Fiji Water brand. “Who do you work for, another water company? It would be good to come here and try to take away Fiji Water’s business, wouldn’t it?” Then he switched tacks and offered to protect me—from other Fijian officials, who he said would soon be after me—by letting me go so I could leave the country. I walked out into the muggy morning, hid in a stairwell, and called a Fijian friend. Within minutes, a US Embassy van was speeding toward me on the seawall.

Until that day, I hadn’t fully appreciated the paranoia of Fiji’s military regime. The junta had been declared unconstitutional the previous week by the country’s second highest court; in response it had abolished the judiciary, banned unauthorized public gatherings, delayed elections until 2014, and clamped down on the media. (Only the “journalism of hope” is now permitted.) The prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, promised to root out corruption and bring democracy to a country that has seen four coups in the past 25 years; the government said it will start working on a new constitution in 2012.

The slogan on Fiji Water’s website—”And remember this—we saved you a trip to Fiji”—suddenly felt like a dark joke. Every day, more soldiers showed up on the streets. When I called the courthouse, not a single official would give me his name. Even tour guides were running scared—one told me that one of his colleagues had been picked up and beaten for talking politics with tourists. When I later asked Fiji Water spokesman Rob Six what the company thought of all this, he said the policy was not to comment on the government “unless something really affects us.”

If you drink bottled water, you’ve probably drunk Fiji. Or wanted to. Even though it’s shipped from the opposite end of the globe, even though it retails for nearly three times as much as your basic supermarket water, Fiji is now America’s leading imported water, beating out Evian. It has spent millions pushing not only the seemingly life-changing properties of the product itself, but also the company’s green cred and its charity work. Put all that together in an iconic bottle emblazoned with a cheerful hibiscus, and everybody, from the Obamas to Paris and Nicole to Diddy and Kimora, is seen sipping Fiji.

That’s by design. Ever since a Canadian mining and real estate mogul named David Gilmour launched Fiji Water in 1995, the company has positioned itself squarely at the nexus of pop-culture glamour and progressive politics. Fiji Water’s chief marketing whiz and co-owner (with her husband, Stewart) is Lynda Resnick, a well-known liberal donor who casually name-drops her friends Arianna Huffington and Laurie David. (“Of course I know everyone in the world,” Resnick told the UK’s Observer in 2005, “every mogul, every movie star.”) Manhattan’s trendy Carlyle hotel pours only Fiji Water in its dog bowls, and this year’s SXSW music festival featured a Fiji Water Detox Spa. “Each piece of lobster sashimi,” celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa declared in 2007, “should be dipped into Fiji Water seven to ten times.”

And even as bottled water has come under attack as the embodiment of waste, Fiji seems immune. Fiji Water took out a full-page ad in Vanity Fair’s 2007 green issue, nestled among stories about the death of the world’s water. Two bottles sat on a table between Al Gore and Mos Def during a 2006 MySpace “Artist on Artist” discussion on climate change. Fiji was what panelists sipped at the “Life After Capitalism” conference held in New York City during the 2004 RNC protests; Fiji reps were even credentialed at last year’s Democratic convention, where they handed out tens of thousands of bottles.

Nowhere in Fiji Water’s glossy marketing materials will you find reference to the typhoid outbreaks that plague Fijians because of the island’s faulty water supplies; the corporate entities that Fiji Water has—despite the owners’ talk of financial transparency—set up in tax havens like the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg; or the fact that its signature bottle is made from Chinese plastic in a diesel-fueled plant and hauled thousands of miles to its ecoconscious consumers. And, of course, you won’t find mention of the military junta for which Fiji Water is a major source of global recognition and legitimacy. (Gilmour has described the square bottles as “little ambassadors” for the poverty-stricken nation.)

“We are Fiji,” declare Fiji Water posters across the island, and the slogan is almost eerily accurate: The reality of Fiji, the country, has been eclipsed by the glistening brand of Fiji, the water.

ON THE MAP, Fiji looks as if someone dropped a fistful of confetti on the ocean. The country is made up of more than 300 islands (100 inhabited) that have provided the setting for everything from The Blue Lagoon to Survivor to Cast Away. Suva is a bustling multicultural hub with a mix of shopping centers, colonial buildings, and curry houses; some 40 percent of the population is of Indian ancestry, descendants of indentured sugarcane workers brought in by the British in the mid-19th century. (The Indian-descended and native communities have been wrangling for power ever since.) The primary industries are tourism and sugar. Fiji Water says its operations make up about 20 percent of exports and 3 percent of GDP, which stands at $3,900 per capita.

Getting to the Fiji Water factory requires a bone-jarring four-hour trek into the volcanic foothills of the Yaqara Valley. My bus’ speakers blasted an earsplitting soundtrack of Fijian reggae, Bob Marley, Tupac, and Big Daddy Kane as we swerved up unpaved mountain roads linked by rickety wooden bridges. Cow pastures ringed by palm trees gave way to villages of corrugated-metal shacks and wooden homes painted in Technicolor hues. Chickens scurried past stands selling cell phone minutes. Sugarcane stalks burning in the fields sent a sweet smoke curling into the air.

Our last rest stop, half an hour from the bottling plant, was Rakiraki, a small town with a square of dusty shops and a marketplace advertising “Coffin Box for Sale—Cheapest in Town.” My Lonely Planet guide warned that Rakiraki water “has been deemed unfit for human consumption,” and groceries were stocked with Fiji Water going for 90 cents a pint—almost as much as it costs in the US.

Rakiraki has experienced the full range of Fiji’s water problems—crumbling pipes, a lack of adequate wells, dysfunctional or flooded water treatment plants, and droughts that are expected to get worse with climate change. Half the country has at times relied on emergency water supplies, with rations as low as four gallons a week per family; dirty water has led to outbreaks of typhoid and parasitic infections. Patients have reportedly had to cart their own water to hospitals, and schoolchildren complain about their pipes spewing shells, leaves, and frogs. Some Fijians have taken to smashing open fire hydrants and bribing water truck drivers for a regular supply.

The bus dropped me off at a deserted intersection, where a weather-beaten sign warning off would-be trespassers in English, Fijian, and Hindi rattled in the tropical wind. Once I reached the plant, the bucolic quiet gave way to the hum of machinery spitting out some 50,000 square bottles (made on the spot with plastic imported from China) per hour. The production process spreads across two factory floors, blowing, filling, capping, labeling, and shrink-wrapping 24 hours a day, five days a week. The company won’t disclose its total sales; Fiji Water’s vice president of corporate communications told me the estimate of 180 million bottles sold in 2006, given in a legal declaration by his boss, was wrong, but declined to provide a more solid number.

From here, the bottles are shipped to the four corners of the globe; the company—which, unlike most of its competitors, offers detailed carbon-footprint estimates on its website—insists that they travel on ships that would be making the trip anyway, and that the Fiji payload only causes them to use 2 percent more fuel. In 2007, Fiji Water announced that it planned to go carbon negative by offsetting 120 percent of emissions via conservation and energy projects starting in 2008. It has also promised to reduce its pre-offset carbon footprint by 25 percent next year and to use 50 percent renewable energy, in part by installing a windmill at the plant.

The offsetting effort has been the centerpiece of Fiji Water’s $5 million “Fiji Green” marketing blitz, which brazenly urges consumers to drink imported water to fight climate change. The Fiji Green website claims that because of the 120-percent carbon offset, buying a big bottle of Fiji Water creates the same carbon reduction as walking five blocks instead of driving. Former Senior VP of Sustainable Growth Thomas Mooney noted in a 2007 Huffington Post blog post that “we’d be happy if anyone chose to drink nothing but Fiji Water as a means to keep the sea levels down.” (Metaphorically speaking, anyway: As the online trade journal ClimateBiz has reported, Fiji is using a “forward crediting” model under which it takes credit now for carbon reductions that will actually happen over a few decades.)

Fiji Water has also vowed to use at least 20 percent less packaging by 2010—which shouldn’t be too difficult, given its bottle’s above-average heft. (See “Territorial Waters.”) The company says the square shape makes Fiji Water more efficient in transport, and, hey, it looks great: Back in 2000, a top official told a trade magazine that “What Fiji Water’s done is go out there with a package that clearly looks like it’s worth more money, and we’ve gotten people to pay more for us.”

Selling long-distance water to green consumers may be a contradiction in terms. But that hasn’t stopped Fiji from positioning its product not just as an indulgence, but as an outright necessity for an elite that can appreciate its purity. As former Fiji Water CEO Doug Carlson once put it, “If you like Velveeta cheese, processed water is okay for you.” (“All waters are not created equal” is another long-standing Fiji Water slogan.) The company has gone aggressively after its main competitor—tap water—by calling it “not a real or viable alternative” that can contain “4,000 contaminants,” unlike Fiji’s “living water.” “You can no longer trust public or private water supplies,” co-owner Lynda Resnick wrote in her book, Rubies in the Orchard.

A few years back, Fiji Water canned its waterfall logo and replaced it with a picture of palm fronds and hibiscus: “Surface water!” Resnick wrote in Rubies. “Why would you want to suggest that Fiji came from surface water? The waterfall absolutely had to go.” One company newsletter featured the findings of a salt-crystal purveyor who claimed that Fiji Water rivals the “known and significant abilities of ‘Holy Healing Waters’ in Lourdes, France or Fatima, Portugal.” Switching effortlessly from Catholic mysticism to sci-fi, he added that the water’s “electromagnetic field frequency enables Fiji Water to stimulate our human self-regulation system.”

In keeping with this rarefied vibe, Fiji Water’s marketing has focused on product placement more than standard advertising; from appearances on The Sopranos, 24, The View, and Desperate Housewives to sponsorship of events like the Emmy Awards, the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, and Justin Timberlake’s “Summer Love” tour, it’s now “hard to find an event where our target market is present and Fiji isn’t,” according to Resnick. As far back as 2001, Movieline anointed it one of the “Top 10 Things Young Hollywood Can’t Get Through the Day Without.” At the Academy Awards, E! has handed out Fiji bottles to the stars; as it happens, the complex where the Oscars is held was owned until 2004 by Fiji Water founder David Gilmour’s real estate empire, Trizec (which before its acquisition by Brookfield Properties in 2006 was one of the largest real estate companies in North America, with projects including everything from the Sears Tower to Enron HQ).

In a 2003 interview, Gilmour told the London Times that “the world’s water is being trashed day by day.” He would know: Before launching Fiji Water, he cofounded Barrick Gold, now the largest gold mining enterprise in the world, with operations in hot spots from Tanzania to Pakistan. Its mines, often in parched places like Nevada and Western Australia, use billions of gallons of water to produce gold via a toxic cyanide leaching process. Barrick’s practices are so damaging that after an environmental review of the company, the Norwegian government announced last year that it would divest itself of some $200 million in Barrick stock.

Gilmour was a powerful presence in Fiji long before he got into the water business. Back in 1969, he launched what would become—with help from a couple of Saudi princes—the region’s biggest hotel chain, the Southern Pacific Hotel Corporation, which built a massive resort complex in Fiji. His investors and advisers have included everyone from notorious arms trader Adnan Khashoggi to George H.W. Bush; in 2004, Colin Powell presented him with the Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence for his work in Fiji. Gilmour’s Fijian holdings include the exclusive Wakaya resort, which boasts six staffers to each guest and has hosted Bill Gates, Nicole Kidman, and Keith Richards (who famously fell off a tree there); he also owns Zinio, an electronic publishing company that produces the digital version of Mother Jones magazine. He declined to be interviewed for this story.

In the early 1990s, Gilmour got wind of a study done by the Fijian government and aid organizations that indicated an enormous aquifer, estimated at more than 17 miles long, near the main island’s north coast. He obtained a 99-year lease on land atop the aquifer, brought a former Fijian environment minister on board, and launched an international marketing blitz inviting consumers to sample water preserved since “before the Industrial Revolution.” To this day, Fiji Water has nearly exclusive access to the aquifer; the notoriously corrupt and chronically broke government has not been able to come up with the money or infrastructure to tap the water for its people.

BY THE TIME Gilmour put Fiji Water up for sale in 2004, it was the fourth most popular imported bottled water in the United States. He found eager buyers in the Resnicks, who made their fortune with the flower delivery service Teleflora and the collectibles company Franklin Mint. The Beverly Hills-based couple are also agribusiness billionaires whose holdings include enough almond, pistachio, and pomegranate acreage to make them the biggest growers of those crops in the entire Western Hemisphere; a 2004 report by the Environmental Working Group calculated that in 2002 alone, their agricultural water subsidies totaled more than $1.5 million. They own a pesticide company, Suterra, and Lynda Resnick almost single-handedly created the pomegranate fad via their Pom Wonderful brand.

Fiji Water wasn’t the Resnicks’ first foray into the water industry: Years ago, they gained control of one of the largest underground water reservoirs in the nation, the Kern Water Bank on the edge of California’s Central Valley. This vast holding system—built with public funds in 1999 to help buffer the effects of droughts—stores water from California’s aqueducts and the Kern River; it’s estimated to be worth more than $180 million on the open market and has allowed the Resnicks to double their acreage of fruits and nuts since 1994, according to the Los Angeles Times.

With the profits from their enterprises, the Resnicks have been major players on the political scene, giving more than $300,000 each over the past decade. They have supported mostly marquee Democrats—Obama, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Al Franken—though both also donated to the McCain campaign. They give millions to museums, environmental organizations, and other charities: Lynda is a trustee of the Aspen Institute, and Stewart is on the board of Conservation International. One of Britney Spears’ recent meltdowns led to her stay at the Stewart and Lynda Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA. In June, the California Institute of Technology announced the creation of the Resnick Sustainability Institute after receiving a $20 million donation from the couple. Fiji Water also gives to a range of conservation groups, including the Waterkeeper Alliance, Oceana, the Nature Conservancy, and Heal the Bay.

The charitable works Fiji Water brags about most often, however, are its efforts in Fiji itself—from preserving rainforests to helping fund water and sanitation projects to underwriting kindergartens. This January, after catastrophic floods swept the main island of Viti Levu, the company also donated $500,000 to the military regime for flood relief, and gave another $450,000 to various projects last summer. True, some of Fiji Water’s good works are more hope than reality: Though Lynda Resnick insists that “we only use biofuels,” the Fiji plant runs on diesel generators, and a project to protect 50,000 acres of rainforest—plugged on the actual bottle label—has yet to obtain a lease. Still, Resnick told New York’s WNYC last year, “We do so much for these sort of forgotten people. They live in paradise, but they have a very, very hard life.”

Fiji Water may be well advised to spread a bit of its wealth around locally. During the 2000 coup, a small posse of villagers wielding spearguns and dynamite seized on the chaos to take over the bottling plant and threaten to burn it down. “The land is sacred and central to our continued existence and identity,” a village spokesman told the Fiji Times, adding that “no Fijian should live off the breadcrumbs of past colonial injustices.” Two years later, the company created the Vatukaloko Trust Fund, a charity targeting several villages surrounding its plant. It won’t say how much it has given to the trust, but court proceedings indicate that it has agreed to donate .15 percent of its Fijian operation’s net revenues; a company official testified that the total was about $100,000 in 2007. (For perspective, the trade journal Brandweek put Fiji Water’s marketing budget at $10 million in 2008; it recently dropped $250,000 to become a founding partner of the new Salt Lake City soccer stadium.)

Perhaps mindful of the unpleasantness of 2000, today Fiji Water executives refer constantly to the company’s role in Fiji’s economic life. “Our export revenue is paying for the expansion of water access at a pace that Fiji’s government has never achieved,” the company told the BBC in 2008. “If we did…cease to exist,” sustainability VP Mooney told U.S. News & World Report the same year, “a big chunk of the economy would be gone, the schools that we built would go away, and the water access projects would go away.”

What Mooney didn’t say is that though Fiji Water may fill a void in the impoverished nation, it also reaps a priceless benefit: tax-free status, granted when the company was founded in 1995. The rationale at the time, according to the company: Bottled water was a risky business with uncertain chances of success. In 2003, David Gilmour said that his ambition for Fiji Water was “to become the biggest taxpayer in the country.” Yet the tax break, originally scheduled to expire in 2008, remains in effect, and neither the company nor the government will say whether or when it might end. And when Fiji has tried to wring a bit of extra revenue from the company, the response has been less than cooperative. Last year, when the government attempted to impose a new tax on water bottlers, Fiji Water called it “draconian” (a term it’s never used for the regime’s human rights violations) and temporarily shut down its plant in protest.

While Lynda Resnick has called for “very public conduct” by private companies, she seems to appreciate that, as she wrote in her book, “transparency is a lot easier to talk about than it is to realize.” The closely held company won’t disclose basic data about its business (such as total charity expenditures), and it’s gone to some length to shelter assets in secretive tax havens: The Fijian operation, according to court documents filed last year, is owned by an entity in Luxembourg, while its American trademarks are registered to an address in the Cayman Islands.

At the moment, Fiji’s government certainly seems in no mood to confront Fiji Water—quite the contrary. “Learning from the lessons of products, we must brand ourselves,” Fiji’s ambassador in Washington told a news site for diplomats in 2006, adding that he was working with the Resnicks to try to increase Fiji Water’s US sales. A Fiji Water bottle sits at the top of the embassy’s home page, and the government has even created a Fiji Water postage-stamp series—the $3 stamp features children clutching the trademark bottles.

Fiji Water, for its part, has trademarked the word “FIJI” (in capital letters) in numerous countries. (Some rejected the application, but not the United States.) It has also gone after rival Fijian bottlers daring to use their country’s name for marketing. “It would have cost too much money for us to fight in court,” says Mohammed Altaaf, the owner of Aqua Pacific water, which ended up taking the word “Fiji” out of its name. “It’s just like branding a water America Water and denying anyone else the right to use the name ‘America.’”

When such practices are criticized, Fiji Water’s response is simple: “They don’t have a ton of options for economic development,” Mooney told U.S. News & World Report, “but bottled water is one of them. When someone buys a bottle of Fiji, they’re buying prosperity for the country.” Without Fiji Water, he said, “Fiji is kind of screwed.”


Khashoggi Loan Leads to 20 Year Prison Sentence for Thai Bank President

Portrait of a Jackal as an old man: Adnan Khashoggi was recruited by the CIA in the mid-sixties – AC

Former bank exec to serve 20 more years

BANGKOK, Mar 11, 2009 (UPI via COMTEX) — A court in Thailand added 20 years to the prison sentence of a former Bangkok Bank of Commerce president Wednesday for an embezzlement conviction.

Former bank President Krirkkiat Jalichandra was convicted in September on corruption charges, including a charge that he had lent money to a colleague to buy bank shares without asking for the bank board’s approval, The Bangkok Post reported.

He was sentenced, then, to 20 years in prison.

Wednesday’s court action also included 20-year prison sentences handed out to four other defendants, including the bank’s former senior executive Ekachai Athikomnantha and former financial management division chief Wanchai Thammanitiwat.

The recent conviction involves a loan made in secret to a Saudi Arabian arms dealer, Adnan Khashoggi, in a deal that lost the bank $43 million, the Post reported.

Khashoggi Suspected of Financing 9/11

" ... El-Assir is suspected of arming Hezbollah and associations with al-Qaida and has been trading weapons for many years, especially in the Middle East and Africa. El-Assir has allegedly close connections with the man suspected of financing the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Adnan Khashoggi, a close friend of Osama bin Laden. ... "

Poland’s shipyards, the Kuwaiti prince and the international arms dealer

Poland’s ministry of treasury ignored an offer from a member of Kuwait’s ruling family, Mubarak al Jaber al Sabah, to buy Polish shipyards via the mediation of an international weapon dealer.

The Kuwaiti prince attempted to invest in the shipyards a year ago. The potential investor was to be SPF Communication Team Fortis Bank, behind which was Prince Mubarak al Jaber al Sabah, the oldest son of the former emir of Kuwait. A mediator in the transaction, however, was to be an international weapon dealer Abdul Rahman el-Assir from Lebanon, who was conducting the prince’s business.

The ministry of treasury confirmed that it received the offer form Kuwait, but ignored it, even though it was positively evaluated. “Kuwait wanted to modernise its fleet by renovating old and buying new ships,” explained one of the high officials of the ministry in Rzeczpospolita today. “It would mean large commissions for the shipyards”.

Still, the Polish officials refused to negotiate with the controversial mediator el-Assir. “We do not conduct negotiations with mediators. The more so if they have very controversial connections and make suspicious deals,” a representative of the ministry explained.

El-Assir is suspected of arming Hezbollah and associations with al-Qaida and has been trading weapons for many years, especially in the Middle East and Africa. El-Assir has allegedly close connections with the man suspected of financing the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Adnan Khashoggi, a close friend of Osama bin Laden.

Poland‘s shipyards are currently in danger of bankruptcy as the EU ponders the viability of new privatisation plans submitted by the government. (jm)

The Path to 9/11 (Part 11): Adnan Khashoggi & the 1999 Trial Run in Moscow

By Alex Constantine
(Originally, Adnan Khashoggi Linked to 9/11 Terrorists, Part 21)

Two years before the towers in Manhattan crumbled under the weight of global political corruption, a spate of bombings in Russia left relatives and
victims, CNN reported on September 10, 1999, "searching for answers."

At least 90 bodies, including seven children, were dragged from the wreckage of a bombed-out apartment building in Moscow in early September 1999. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, in a televised speech, suspected terrorism; if so, he said, "we are facing a cunning, impudent, insidious and bloodthirsty opponent."1

CNN reported: "Russian President Boris Yeltsin declared a day of mourning on Monday for the victims of Russia's last three explosions and bombings - the Moscow blast, the bombing of a shopping center near the Kremlin and the September fourth car bomb that demolished another apartment building in Buinaksk, in the southern Russian region of Dagestan"

By the third week of September, the death toll rose to over 200. Chechen
forces were behind the bombings, proclaimed Yeltsin, a belief shared by Yuri
Luzkhov, the mayor of Moscow. Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo oversaw
the investigation and announced that the Russian government "will consider
itself within its rights to use all resources at its disposal to rebuff the

And none of this added up. The harried Russian proles were quick to accept
the governemnt's explanation that Chechens were responsible for the blasts
in Moscow and the Caucasus. But the Asia Times editorialized, "it is highly
unlikely." And no one stood to benefit by the ourbreak of bombing but but,
well, Yeltsin

In a statement of denial, Chechen leader Shamil Basayev stated, "We had
nothing to do with the explosion in Moscow. We never kill civilians. This is
not our style."

Provisions anticipating the Patriot Act were proposed. The Duma considered
declaring a state of emergency. Until the bombings, the public had
steadfastly opposed such measures, but even Yegor Stroyev, speaker of the
Federation Council, the upper hall of parliament, had to admit that he'd
firmly opposed emergency measures in the past but after the second Moscow explosion, well, there was an obvious "need to consolidate the legal base for combating the rampage of terrorism and crime."3

Still, there were the usual skeptics. Viktor Ilyukhin, a Communist leader,
dismissed the bombings as provocateur actions: "Political hysteria is being
fanned artificially, including by way of explosions to cancel parliamentary
and presidential elections through a state of emergency."4

Day by day, the true, sordid details emerged in Versiya, Novaya Gazeta and
UK's Independent to erode Yeltsin's credibility. It developed that there was
more to the bomb plot than the government had revealed that its true
origins lay not in the Russian satellites but in a meeting of conspirators
held at the flat of Adnan Khashoggi

"It is clear that apartment explosions in Moscow would not have happened if
somebody in the Russian political elite did not want them," Novaya Gazeta
opined on January 24, 2000. "One by one, pieces of puzzle were put together.

But there were a few details that were lacking. They began to clear in
January, when Zhirinovsky and Chubais finally broke up. And at the same
time, some of the participants started to tell their version of events. In
the Versiya newspaper, there was an article about the meeting of [Alexander]
Voloshin with [Shamil] Basayev in France." Basayev was the radical Muslim
leader who planned the violence on Dagestan. "This did not happen in Paris,
as some of the newspapers reported later, but on the villa of Adnan
Khashoggi, Arabic millionaire, on the Mediterranean."

French intelligence agents monitored the meeting and details surfaced in
the public print. Khashoggi denied that he had attended the meeting. But Its
main participants - Anton Surikov, "formerly" of Army special forces, and
Aleksandr Voloshin, Yeltsin's Chief of Staff - offered no comment. When
reporters asked Surikov, he claimed that he hadn't travelled abroad in
years, especially not to France. This did not quite square with the public
record, however, Just a few months before, he was in Washington, D.C. to
meet with Yuri Maslukov, Russia's deputy prime minister, and Michel
Camdessus, managing director of the IMF. Surikov had also flown to France on a couple of occasions - once in December 1994, and again in the summer of 1999. He had departed on June 23 aboard an Aeroflot bound for Paris, in fact, and returned from Nice on July 21, nearly a month later.5

A book on the Russian spy agency, Spetzsnaz GRU, written by former
intelligence agents, reports that when the rebels entered from Chechnya, the
government's forces were "commanded not to enter into battle with them and not to hinder the movement of the rebels."6

The 1999 bombing campaign punctuated an uneasy period of calm. From August 1996 through August 1999, Chechnya had been relatively still. "Hostilities resumed following a bold incursion from Chechnya into neighboring Dagestan by an 'international' force of Wahhabis," John Dunlop at the Hoover Institute reports, "whose titular leaders were the legendary Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev and the shadowy Arab commander Khattab. In September of 1999, there occurred the notorious terror bombings of large apartment complexes in Moscow, Volgodonsk and Buinaksk which served to infuriate the Russian populace in a way similar to the American public's reaction to the events of 11 September in this country. On 23 September, Moscow once again commenced the bombing of Chechnya, and the second Russo-Chechen war of the past decade was on."7

Alexander Voloshin, who attended the meeting at Khashoggi's villa, is a
singular political figure in Russia, outspoken in his support of the United
States, in temperament comparable to an American Cold Warrior, Al Haig or
Donald Rumsfeld. On October 23, 2003, the Guardian reported that Vladimir
Putin's chief of staff was at the center of "a furious row" between Moscow
and Kiev "after he reportedly suggested Russia might bomb Ukraine if it did
not back down in a diplomatic tiff over a small island between the two
former Soviet states. Alexander Voloshin, the head of the president's
administration, made the remarks while he was briefing Ukrainian journalists
at the Kremlin. The row is over 100 metres of sand."8

In the end, however, Voloshin was forced out of government not for his ties
to the meeting at Khashoggi's villa, or to terrorists, but to Big Oil:

Putin's powerful chief of staff resigns
Voloshin's resignation over arrest of top oil tycoon widens political
Pakistan Daily Times
November 1, 2004

MOSCOW: Moscow press reported Wednesday that Kremlin's powerful chief of staff had resigned in protest of the arrest of a top oil tycoon in a
widening political scandal on the eve of Russian parliamentary elections.
The Vedomosti business daily said that President Vladimir Putin had accepted Alexander Voloshin's resignation on Monday night after meeting for several hours with top Kremlin officials.

Newspaper reports said that Voloshin had handed in his resignation on
Saturday only hours after Russia's richest man, Yukos chief Mikhail
Khodorkovsky, was hauled in by secret service men at gunpoint in a Siberian
airport and flown to Moscow for questioning.

Voloshin, 47, is seen as one of the last figures in the Kremlin to have hung
on from the era of Putin's predecessor Boris Yeltsin and a leader of an
administration clan known as "the Family" that battled the hawkish
"siloviki" camp of former secret service agents that recently emerged in
Putin's court. He was seen as a strong backer of big business and an
instrumental Kremlin aide who managed to skilfully mediate between the
various administration factions and parliament lawmakers on key economic
reform issues.

His potential resignation had been rumoured in Moscow for months as the
Family ‹ which supported big businesses including Yukos ‹ was being squeezed out by the "siloviki" clan.

Western investors said that Voloshin's resignation ‹ if officially confirmed ‹ would mark an escalation of political instability on the eve of December 7 parliamentary elections.

"Assuming Voloshin's departure is confirmed today, this will only underline
the seriousness of the political crisis resulting from Putin's decision to
deal with the political problem of Khodorkovsky using KGB methods," the
United Financial Group wrote in a research note. The investment house noted that Voloshin "seems to have made himself indispensable to Putin as a discreet but effective administrator with a good grasp of the reform policy
agenda and adept at arbitrating between competing interests." Besides
heading Putin's administration, Voloshin for the past four years has also
served as chairman of the board of the United Energy System electricity
monopoly that has been struggling to undertake reforms for the past four

But the United Financial Group predicted that Putin would probably try to
seek a balance within his administration and was unlikely to give the post
to any of the top members of the secret service Kremlin factions.
Voloshin became deputy head of Yeltsin's administration in 1998 and became chief of staff the following year. He was attributed with drafting economic portions of Yeltsin's speeches. Putin kept Voloshin on his post when he took the presidency following Yeltsin's abrupt resignation on December 31, 1999.9


1) Jill Dougherty, "At least 90 dead in Moscow apartment blast," CNN report,
September 10, 1999.

2) STRATFOR.COM, "Who gains from the Moscow apartment bombings?" Asia Times,
September 14, 1999.

3) Ibid.

4) Dougherty.

5) Boris Kagarlitsky, 'We Donít Talk To Terrorists. But We Help Them?'
Novaya Gazeta, [translation by Olga Kryazheva, research intern, Center for
Defense Information, Washington DC], January 24, 2000.

6) John B. Dunlop, 'The Second Russo-Chechen War Two Years On," Presentation
at U.S. and World Affairs Seminar, Hoover Institution, October 17, 2001.

7) Ibid.

8) Nick Paton Walsh, "Russian official condemned for joke about bombing
Ukraine," Guardian, October 23, 2003.


Al-Kassar, Adnan Khashoggi, Princess Caroline, Barclays Bank, Marc Rich, Pan Am 103, etc., etc.

Monzer Al-Kassar, the “Prince of Marbella”

“Like Al-Kassar, Khashoggi owns a magnificent residence in Marbella, where a branch of Barclay’s Bank is a frequent site of dubious dealings.”

Story published in 1993

Monzer Al-Kassar, the Syrian drug trafficker accused of complicity in the terrorist bombing of a Pan Am Boeing jet over Lockerbie (Scotland) and in the hijacking of the Achille Lauro ocean liner was recently released from a Spanish jail. His release coincides with the capping of the career of Baltasar Garzon, the judge who had Al-Kassar arrested last year and who has now been named head of Spain’s war on drugs. Meanwhile, Al-Kassar’s fate has attracted the attention of justice officials in Geneva who are currently conducting several investigations into the laundering of drug money. Al-Kassar’s release required a string of luck. First he managed to get his former partner and main accuser, Abu Merced, to deny the original allegations. Merced no longer says it was Al-Kassar who gave him the Sig Sauer pistol used in the 1984 Madrid shooting of Joseph Elias Awad, a Mossad agent left paralyzed by the incident. A second “lucky” development involved Ahmed Al Assadi, the Palestinian terrorist spending time in Italy’s Vercelli prison for his role in the Achille Lauro hijacking, who has also changed his story and now refuses to go to Spain to formally identify Al-Kassar as the person who supplied weapons to the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) organization headed by Abu Abbas. It was PLF terrorists who hijacked the Achille Lauro on 7 October 1985, held 600 passengers hostage and killed a US citizen with Kalashnikovs reportedly supplied by Al-Kassar who, for that matter, shares a joint bank account with Abu Abbas at the Bilbao-Vizcay Bank (no. 4135). Meanwhile, another Al-Kassar accuser, Ismail Jalid, died after falling from the fifth floor of a building in Marbella, Spain, on 28 September 1992. the autopsy reported that he was in an alcoholic coma at the time. Finally, Al-Kassar managed to come up with the two billion pesetas (US $15 million) required for his release on bail pending trial. Al-Kassar faces eventual extradition to Argentina on charges of committing perjury when obtaining Argentinean nationality. Meanwhile, the investigation by the American newsweekly Time into Al-Kassar’s role in placing a bomb-laden suitcase on Pan Am flight 103 on 21 December 1988 (resulting in 270 deaths) has not led to an indictment. Al-Kassar was thus free to return to the marble mansion in Marbella that he has owned for the past 17 years. As soon as Al-Kassar was arrested in Madrid on 3 June 1992, a Swiss prosecutor in Geneva, Laurent Kasper Ansermet, launched his own investigation and turned up some disturbing evidence. According to Ansermet, Al-Kassar is linked to organized crime via various bank accounts – some $5 million of assets have now been frozen. Al-Kassar is apparently part of a shady network which is being very closely studied, even though no indictments have been issued as yet. The network list includes the name of Joseph Saba, a Lebanese boss currently incarcerated in France and cited in the 1985 “Paccots affair” involving the largest heroin factory ever uncovered in Switzerland. Saba was also linked to the “Lebanese Connection” and to the adventures of the Magharian brothers, which resulted in the 1989 downfall of Swiss Minister of Justice and Police Elizabeth Kopp. Also on the list is Adnan Khashoggi, the famous Saudi weapons merchant who was arrested and extradited from Switzerland in 1989 only to be acquitted by a New York court. Like Al-Kassar, Khashoggi owns a magnificent residence in Marbella, where a branch of Barclay’s Bank is a frequent site of dubious dealings. This web of contacts also includes Albert Shammah, a Frenchman who has been based in Geneva since 1977 and who heads a firm named Mazalcor. Italian justice officials initially suspected Shammah of involvement in a lire-laundering scheme on behalf of Turkish drug traffickers, but the case was later dismissed. Finally, there is a Swiss connection in the form of the Cultrera-Meninno scandal, which only leads back to Marbella, a beach resort for the “jet set” now emerging as the hub for every mafia connection in Spain. Felice Cultrera and Gianni Meninno are under investigation in Geneva for fraud and money laundering. They are also under investigation in Marbella by Judge Blanca Esther Diez, who has uncovered a group of attorneys and judges protecting them. Cultrera and Meninno, who are currently at large, set up corporate fronts in Gibraltar and then made a fortune by selling property that did not belong to them. Using forged documents, and protected by the Santapaola family of the Italian mafia, they sold the Marbella casino to Italian financier Gioachino del Din, as well as hotels and other real estate on the Costa del Sol. When Spanish police seized Cultrera’s address book, they found not only the names of Al-Kassar and Khashoggi, but also that of Philippe Junot, ex-husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco. Junot’s former lawyer, the Argentinean Alberto Mondino, has now become one of Al-Kassar’s attorneys. Also in the address book is the name of Marc Rich, a wealthy Hispanic-American businessman living in Switzerland and sought by the US Internal Revenue Service for tax evasion. Rich, too, has a villa in Marbella. Prosecutor Ansermet would like to know whether he can confiscate the frozen funds belonging to Al-Kassar in Switzerland, but neither Spanish judge Garzon, nor his colleague Carlos Bueren, has ever responded to Ansermet’s legal query as to whether the Syrian’s money is the fruit of drug trafficking. Ansermet would also like to coordinate his investigations into Cultrera and Meninno with the Spanish judge handling that affair, but has yet to receive a response from Spain. This silence may point to problems with the Spanish investigation, or to a lack of confidence in Genevan investigators. In which case the Swiss will have to go it alone (OGD correspondent in Switzerland).
© The Geopolitical Drug Dispatch n° 23, September 1993


The House hearings on Iran-contra culminated in 1987 with a report that deftly mentioned Richard Secord’s plan to construct an enterprise of his own in the bulk manufacture of “opium alkaloids.”1


This curious detail floated by without comment, eventually drowned in a flood of perjury and hot air.

The committee didn’t bother to follow up on that one. Better late than never to ask: “Opium alkaloids … ah, as in the base compound for the production of heroin?” It’s doubtful we’ll ever know the answer. And the explanation could be innocent, to be completely fair – Secord may have invented a cure for peptic ulcers or sexual impotence … but then heroin would appear the likeliest explanation … given the cost of global conquest these days …

Even Adnan Khashoggi has financed wars with drug profits, the gist of a report written in 1991 at the Pentagon – declassified in July 2004 by the National Security Archives in Washington – of 104 “more important Colombian narco-terrorists contracted by the Colombian narcotic cartels for security, transportation, distribution, collection and enforcement of narcotics operations in both the U.S. and Colombia.”

Pablo Escobar is on the list. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is also on it.

Uribe, according to the document, is a “Colombian politician and senator dedicated to collaboration with the Medellin cartel at high government levels.” He was “linked to a business involved in narcotics activities in the U.S. His father was murdered in Colombia for his connection with the narcotic traffickers.” He has “worked for the Medellin cartel,” according to the DoD report, and “is a close personal friend of Pablo Escobar Gaviria…. He has participated in Escobar’s political campaign to win the position of assistant parliamentarian to Jorge [Ortega]…”

Adam Isaacson, a scholar at the Center for International Policy (CIP) in Washington, cast doubt on the Pentagon’s intelligence. After all, the CIP scholar explained, Adnan Khashoggi’s name was on it – so the list must be in error…

But the National Security Archives responded that the document as “accurate and easily verifiable. It is evident that a significant amount of time and energy went into compiling this report.”

Remember, the word used by the Pentagon to describe the traffickers listed in the report, including Khashoggi, was “narco-terrorist.” So Richard Perle, assistant secretary of defense under Bush, a business partner of Khashoggi’s at TriReme Corp., was in business with a narco-terrorist, according to the Pentagon’s own records.

President Uribe also denied the allegations regarding himself – not so easy to explain away, however, was the 1984 seizure of his father’s helicopter by Colombian police on narcotics charges, or his brother’s telephone number, stored in the memory bank of a cell phone belonging to Escobar.2

Ignoring the Pentagon’s own intelligence on the narco-presidenté, President Bush paid Uribe a call in August 2003. Anti-war activist-reporter Jim Lobe reported: “The administration of President George W. Bush on Monday rallied behind Colombian President Alvaro Uribe in the face of allegations contained in a 13-year-old Pentagon intelligence report that he was a close personal friend’ of drug lord Pablo Escobar and had worked for his Medellin drug cartel.”

“We completely disavow these allegations about President Uribe,” said State Department spokesman Adam Ereli. “We have no credible information that substantiates or corroborates these allegations that appeared in an unevaluated 1991 report, linking President Uribe to the narcotics business or trafficking.”

Isaacson said, “It’s something the left has been trying to pin on him for awhile, and this gives them new ammunition.” However, he acknowledged, “in the big picture, almost everybody in Colombia’s ruling class was mixed up in drugs until [former U.S. President] Ronald Reagan declared war on drugs in the mid-1980s.”3

Narcotics have fuelled the flames of revolution and regime change, political assassinations and bomb plots, the “war on drugs” notwithstanding.

Another drug runner in this underground empire was Henry Asher, founder of DataBase, the ChoicePoint appendage. In a report by the Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement, Asher admitted to smuggling drugs in 1982. Police developed “corroborating information” that “during 1981 and 1982, Asher piloted five to seven plane loads of cocaine from Colombia to the United States.”

Asher admitted that he had shown “a lack of judgment,” according to the report. The remorseful millionaire cooperated with the FBI and agreed to be a federal “informant.”

He was freed and went on to set up a “Total Information Awareness” surveillance operation …4

Yet another drug pilot on contra supply missions was Frank Moss who, according to the Kerry Report, “has been under investigation as an alleged drug trafficker since 1979. Moss has been investigated, although never convicted, for narcotics offenses – by ten different law enforcement agencies.

In addition to flying contra supply missions through SETCO, Moss formed his own company in 1985, Hondu Carib, which also flew supplies to the contra death squads, including weapons and ammunition purchased from R.M. Equipment, an arms company controlled by Ronald Martin and James McCoy.

The FDN’s arrangement with Moss and Hondu Carib was pursuant to a commercial agreement between the FDN’s chief supply officer, Mario Calero, and Moss, under which Calero was to receive an ownership interest in Moss’ company. The Subcommittee received documentation that one Moss plane, a DC-4, N90201, was used to move Contra goods from the United States to Honduras. On the basis of information alleging that the plane was being used for drug smuggling, the Customs Service obtained a court order to place a concealed transponder on the plane.

“A second DC-4 controlled by Moss was chased off the west coast of Florida by the Customs Service while it was dumping what appeared to be a load of drugs, according to law enforcement personnel. When the plane landed at Port Charlotte no drugs were found on board, but the plane’s registration was not in order and its last known owners were drug traffickers. Law enforcement personnel also found an address book aboard the plane, containing among other references the telephone numbers of some Contra officials and the Virginia telephone number of Robert Owen, Oliver North’s courier. A law enforcement inspection of the plane revealed the presence of significant marijuana residue. DEA seized the aircraft on March 16, 1987.”5

Cable network opinion-shapers Ann Coulter and David Corn may insist that the CIA only “looked the other way” when its assets have been caught moving narcotics to finance assassinations, foreign coups, etc., but Khashoggi, Armitage and Asher weren’t the only drug runners in the “family.”

William Casey, CIA director under Reagan, created several large off-the-shelf’ networks to finance illicit covert operations. The first, dependent on opium profits, supported the Afghan Mujhaddin, with the CIA running funds through Pakistan’s ISI and BCCI. The second channel, to support the Nicaraguan contra war, ran through BCCI, too. This channel also began with drug proceeds and ended in hot pockets of the Cold War. The same organizational chart – of CIA proxy armies funded by drug proceeds – was evident in KLA operations in Bosnia, complete with raping, pillaging, bomb-tossing al Qaeda radicals.6

As a result, these networks, according to Peter Dale Scott, “have all aligned the US on the same side as powerful local drug traffickers. Partly this has been from realpolitik – in recognition of the local power realities represented by the drug traffic. Partly it has been from the need to escape domestic political restraints: the traffickers have supplied additional financial resources needed because of US budgetary limitations, and they have also provided assets not bound (as the U.S. is) by the rules of war.”

The impact of all this trafficking in drugs, of course, is devastating. “These facts,” Scott writes, “have led to enduring intelligence networks involving both oil and drugs, or more specifically both petrodollars and narcodollars. These networks, particularly in the Middle East, have become so important that they affect, not just the conduct of US foreign policy, but the health and behavior of the US government, US banks and corporations, and indeed the whole of US society.”7


1) Jefferson Morley, “Iran-Contra’s Unasked Questions, or the Case of the $400,000 Hamburger,” Los Angeles Times, November 29, 1987.

2) Jim Lobe, “Bush Rallies Behind Colombian President, Despite Drug
Allegations,” August 3, 2004.

3) Ibid.

4) Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange, June, 2003.

5) “Selections from the Senate Committee Report on Drugs, Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy,” chaired by Senator John F. Kerry.

6) See: Peter Dale Scott, Drugs, Oil, and War; John Cooley, Unholy Wars.

7) Peter Dale Scott, “Afghanistan, Colombia, Vietnam: The Deep Politics of Drugs and Oil,”