Saturday, July 21, 2012

Slovenian Arms Dealer Convicted as fall guy in larger network!

Slovenian Arms Dealer Convicted and Jailed but SHORT Sentence!!!

Overview: A joint investigation conducted by DCIS and Homeland Security Investigations disclosed that Ruslan Gilchenko and his Slovenia based company, MG-CZ Inc., sought to purchase and export M134 mounted sport utility vehicles to Turkmenistan. he M134 “Minigun,” made popular through television and ilm, is a six barreled electrically driven machine gun capable of iring the 7.62 NATO round at a rate of 3,000 rounds per minute. The M134 “Minigun” is employed on a number of vehicles and aircraft in the U.S. military’s arsenal and units cost over one million dollars each. 

Result: On February 4, 2011, Gilchenko was sentenced in the District of Arizona to serve 18 months of incarceration, followed by three years  of supervised release for violations of 18 USC 371, Conspiracy and 22 USC 2778, Arms Export  Control Act

History is long into the transit countries for weapons and paperwork, banking and containers. It is impossible for such operations to be carried out without the collaboration of state players, and for many enforcement agencies to turn a blind eye. Moreover, it begs the question of the freight forwarding companies involved and high level political players. Taking a step back, lets put some of this into perspective, to connect dots, so to speak!

He knew what he was talking about - and the connection to Georgia needs to be made.

"I sat down to lunch with a young bureaucrat, Vakhtang Maisaia, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and an American journalist named Jeffrey Silverman. It was a Sunday afternoon, and we were the only ones in the restaurant. In front of us was an enormous spread of barbecued pork and khinkali accompanied by Georgian wine and Borjomi mineral water. 
“Who’s going to eat all this?” I asked. 
“We are!” Vakhtang was thirty-one years old, but his air of avuncular warmth and his mouthful of gold teeth made him seem older. 
“Anyway,” he added, “it doesn’t look nice to have a small amount of food on the table.”
We began to eat. There was no elegant way to tackle the khinkali, and Vakhtang discouraged my efforts in this direction. 
“You have to eat it with your hands. That is the way. Don’t worry if the juice runs down your face. And try this mineral water. Borjomi is very famous. It contains many minerals and is very good for your health.”
Jeffrey laughed scornfully.
“Every place you go to has a different kind of Borjomi mineral water. They all claim to be the original. Just look into who owns them all and you’ll have a whole new perspective on it.”
Jeffrey was a tough southerner married to an Armenian from Georgia. Now in his fifties, he had previously worked for a long time for a tobacco company in the US and, as if in reaction to this experience, now lived in Tbilisi where he spent his time seeking out tales of corruption – especially the sort that involves American corporations. His articles on corporate cover-ups, large NGO funds slipping into personal pockets, arms deals and unexplained murders made him a well-known figure in the city, cursed and adored in equal measure. 
It was March 14th, 2004. Early that morning President Saakashvili had been barred from entering the province of Ajaria by the troops of its Russian-supported strongman Aslan Abashidze. A military build-up was beginning on both sides, and my lunch companions began to receive a barrage of mobile phone calls. While we talked about Georgia’s political situation they ducked out periodically for urgent exchanges of the latest news. 
“The day I got my job in the Ministry,” said Vakhtang, “my boss said to me, ‘We will pay you $20 per month. You must earn this money. You have to be at your desk every day and fulfil your duties. Beyond this, you may carry out your own business in any way you wish. I will not interfere.’ He was explaining the ground rules of corruption to me. Corruption is systematic and entirely necessary – for how can you support a family on $20 a month?” 
Vakhtang was a man of serious intent, exasperated with this reality, who wished the country could be brought to a state of “normality” and who had chosen a line of work in which he could do his bit to move things in this direction. He had a strong sense of mission and, in the wake of the revolution, renewed hope.
“This region is still very dangerous. The effects of the break-up of the Soviet Union are still being felt. There are more than forty conflicts over ethnicity or territory that are already violent or may become so; most of these groups are asserting their claims more and more strongly. Meanwhile, Russia still wields undue power in the country. It cuts off our gas supply when it wants to apply pressure. It has provided generous supplies of weapons to the country’s breakaway leaders in order to keep Georgia weak. It’s still not impossible that it could walk in and occupy us again. Now Saakashvili is in power it is at last time to put an end to our fragile situation. We have to quickly reunify the country and forge strong international alliances.”
Of such alliances, America, of course, is the most important. And, as it happens, America is exceedingly interested in Georgia right now. At a point when its continued access to Middle Eastern oil is so unpredictable, the extensive deposits in the Caspian Sea have assumed unprecedented importance, and the US is not leaving its supply lines in the region in any doubt. It has fought long and hard to create an oil corridor from the Caspian that will avoid Russian and Iranian territory and pass through countries that are smaller, easier to control, and friendlier. The most visible result, the soon-to-be-completed Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, was one of the most common subjects of conversation and news reporting in Georgia while I was there, and helps to explain why this poor, provincial place is so full of foreign businesspeople, NGOs and diplomats. It gives Georgia significant geopolitical importance at this point in time, making it clear that its future will be determined at least in part by the struggles of the Great Powers, and holding out the possibility that on this single point of foreign interest might be hung a future of international connections, investment, and prosperity.

More food kept coming. Jeffrey was on the phone to some diplomat. 

“Yes I know exactly how they got those arms… 
“Of course we can meet… I can tell you when they got them and from whom…
“Tomorrow morning?”

For Vakhtang, the ascendancy of the US in the region was probably a good thing. 
“We are a small country on the doorstep of a giant. Our future will always be insecure if we do not have American protection.” 

The US is delivering its protection across the region, making it clear that it will not leave its investments exposed to the Caucasian elements. American military bases have recently appeared in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, and are likely to do so in Tajikistan and Azerbaijan. Kazakhstan is setting up a Caspian naval base under US supervision, and US troops have been sent to Georgia to provide training and equipment to its armed forces. All this makes it much less likely that Russia would ever launch a hostile operation against Georgia. 

But this is only part of the attraction of the American presence. For Vakhtang – and for Mikhail Saakashvili’s government – the imagined “normality” to which Georgia must return is, at this time of neoliberal consensus, a thoroughly corporate one, and American interest is crucial for bringing it about. Georgia, of course, is one of those places where you see corporations at their most rapacious, and many Georgians may not like what they are doing there. The upheaval caused by the building of the pipeline through villages and agricultural land, for instance, will hardly be assuaged by the NGOs employed by BP to calm the social storms in their wake. But the twentieth century’s utopias have destroyed the country to the point where there is no room anymore for fine debate, new visions or private misgivings. All the choices for Georgia’s future amount to just one choice, which is the same one choice enjoyed by everyone else: to usher in the tumult of the global market. The indications are that Saakashvili’s government will do so with an almost unmatched level of fundamentalist passion.

Jeffrey finished his phone call and looked at me. 

“Stick around,” he said. “You may see a war.”

He was impatient with Vakhtang’s pro-American sentiments. He did not believe that American interests could ever be made to serve Georgian ones. 

“The US invokes ‘terrorism’ as an excuse for its military influence in this part of the world. This is exactly the same strategy that Russia has pursued. They both want to keep talking about Chechen fighters in Georgia, to treat the country as a ‘failed state,’ so they can exert their influence on its affairs. But their interest is not terrorists, but energy. The real reason the US troops came here was to train the Georgian army to guard their pipeline. Do you think the US could walk in to a successful democracy like Latvia or Estonia and tell the army what to do? No. It’s very convenient for them right now that the country is unstable and they can set things up the way they want them.” 

The table was awash with pink napkins drenched in khinkali juice wiped from greasy chins. Jeffrey appealed hotly,

“I seriously think it would be better if they put a wall around this country for fifty years and didn’t let anyone in or out. I really believe that would solve Georgia’s problems more quickly.” 

But the phone calls were becoming only more insistent and lunch was disbanded. Vakhtang had to return to the Ministry. Jeffrey went to check his facts ready for his exchange of intelligence the next morning.

After I left the country, the stand-off between Saakashvili and Abashidze ended – without a shot being fired. Abashidze fled to Moscow and Saakashvili entered Ajaria to a euphoric reception. The first obstacle to his reunification of the country had been honourably cleared, and his prestige was sky-high. Vakhtang was proud and excited – doubly so, since he had been appointed Counsellor to the Georgian Diplomatic Mission to NATO, and was going to Brussels for three years.

Jeffrey began to write me depressed emails wondering if the Saakashvili administration would not turn out to be more power-hungry and corrupt even than what had gone before. But then his propensity to hang out in the most dangerous Caucasian recesses got him into more trouble than just the usual beating. While trying to work out what was really happening where the official maps read “Here Be Terrorists” he found himself arrested in Azerbaijan under an old warrant he did not know about; his passport was confiscated and his attention became more focussed on gathering money from well-wishers to pay to the Azerbaijani police. 

Meanwhile, the nearly-complete Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, built by French, American and Indian contractors for the BP-led consortium, buried under concrete and watched at all times by guards, [Bechtel] and electronic sensors, is as secure as human beings know how to build."
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