General News of Monday, 11 December 2006

Source: Public Agenda

Ghana-registered Plane Cited in Arms Trafficking Scandal

From the website of Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), comes the deeply disturbing report of a Ghana-registered plane being used by the most shadowy international arms traffickers the African continent has been ever plagued with.

A Ghanaian registered Boeing 707, suspected of being involved with Russian-Israeli mafiosi facilitator Viktor Bout's worldwide arms trafficking and smuggling network of charter flights, was recently spotted off-loading 40 tons of ammunition at Mogadishu Airport in Somalia.

The ammunition was for the Islamic radical forces of the Union of Islamic Courts, a fundamentalist group that has captured control of much of Somalia and threatens the independence of Somaliland and the territorial integrity of surrounding countries.

The Boeing707, registered in Ghana with registry number 9G-GAL, marked with "SACHA" on the fuselage, used the call sign 9QCTA. The plane landed in Mogadishu at 0700 GMT on November 13, 2006. The plane reportedly made previous stops with arms and ammunition at Mogadishu. Bout often re-registers and re-paints his aircraft as a way of covering his activities.

Then on Nov. 17, 2006, the same website reported on the presence of an aircraft linked to Viktor Bout's international weapons smuggling network at Mogadishu airport. WMR reported that the "Boeing-707, registered in Ghana with registry number 9G-GAL, marked with "SACHA" on the fuselage, used the call sign 9QCTA. The plane landed in Mogadishu at 0700 GMT on November 13, 2006. The plane reportedly made previous stops with arms and ammunition at Mogadishu." Which country will be the plane's next stop? Perhaps, Ghana, where it is registered.

The involvement of the Bout/Russian-Israeli mafia in Somalia is reminiscent of its logistics support for the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda prior to the 9/11 attacks. Bout was also named by the UN as a prime arms embargo buster in the brutal civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia. The same Bout network is contracted to provide logistics support for U.S. occupation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Various intelligence services have reported that "Al Qaeda" fighters have entered Somali areas controlled by the Union of Islamic Courts.

WMR has recently learned the aircraft, which is actually registered "9G-OAL," is owned by Johnson's Air of Ghana. Johnson's Air appears to have been founded around 1995 by Kansas City-based Farhad Azima (and may now be operated by Farzin (also spelled Farsin) Azima, Farhad's brother). Azima is well known for his connections to highly placed (and "well-oiled") American friends in Houston and Washington, DC and first became known for his role in the Iran Contra scandal of the 1980's.

One of Azima's Boeing 707s was used to ship 23 tons of arms and ammunition to Iran in return for the release of U.S. hostages in Lebanon. The plane was leased to Race Aviation, owned by Farzin Azima. Farhad Azima served on the board of Kansas City's Indian Springs State Bank, which, along with its directors, were sued by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation after the bank collapsed in 1984 after making insider loans and engaging in deposit fraud.

Global also had a contract with the Egyptian American Transport and Services Corporation (EATSCO) to ship U.S. arms to Egypt. EATSCO was a CIA front company connected to CIA officers Thomas Clines, Edwin Wilson, and Ted Shackley and Egyptian intelligence officer Hussein Salem.

Farhad Azima, an Iranian expatriate, is chairman and CEO of the Aviation Leasing Group of Companies (ALG), which owns and operates some 50 aircraft, including those operated by Buffalo Airways of Waco, Texas. In 1976, Azima founded Global International Airways (the same year that James Bath became the sole U.S. agent for Salem Bin Laden, the older brother of Osama Bin Laden, and who was heavily involved in procuring airline service companies in and around Houston).

Azima also acquired a controlling interest of Capital Air, which maintained a large aircraft overhaul operation in Smyrna, Tennessee. In 1983, following the crash of a Global International press plane in Brazil that was accompanying President Reagan on a trip to that country, Global International had its operations suspended by the FAA for safety reasons - ironic since Azima's company now provides training to the FAA. Azima has friends in both the GOP and Democratic Party - including former DNC Chair Don Fowler and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson.

Azima's worldwide aircraft empire includes training for the FAA, other airlines, and the Navy's E-6 program. Azima's companies have clients in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, Canada, the former Soviet Central Asian states, and the United States. On March 19, 2005, a Johnson's Air Boeing 707 (9G-LIL) crashed into Lake Victoria on approach to Entebbe International Airport in Uganda.

Johnson's Air bases a number of its aircraft at Sharjah International Airport, the same location where Viktor Bout's various airline companies base their operations. On Nov. 22, 2005, a Johnson's Air DC-8 (9G-PEL) at Sharjah was spotted with its cockpit windows blown out and covered with cardboard. Buckets were noticed under the engines collecting leaking engine oil. Both are signs that the plane was fired upon in a war zone. Other Johnson's Air planes have been spotted in Maastricht, Netherlands; Ostend, Belgium; Dubai, UAE; Accra, Ghana; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Colombo, Sri Lanka; Budapest Ferihegy; Recife, Brazil; and Nottingham-East Midlands, England.