MIDDLE EAST: WikiLeaks embassy cables has cargo angle
The WikiLeaks embassy cables scandal has also hit the air cargo industry with some emanating from the US Consulate General in Dubai indicating that Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) Airport, while attempting to reinvent itself as a cargo transit point for the RAK Free Zone, is struggling to distance itself from its reputation as a transport […]
December 1, 2010
The WikiLeaks embassy cables scandal has also hit the air cargo industry with some emanating from the US Consulate General in Dubai indicating that Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) Airport, while attempting to reinvent itself as a cargo transit point for the RAK Free Zone, is struggling to distance itself from its reputation as a transport facilitator for clients such as accused international arms trafficker Viktor Bout, who used the RAK airport as a base of operations. Some of Bout’s Wing Air Services aircraft, including an IL-76 are grounded and effectively abandoned at the airport, according to the confidential cables carried in a Guardian newspaper report. Former RAK Airport CEO Michelle Soliman conveyed to US officials in the Middle East continuing concerns about the airport’s reputation and client base, however, and is seeking to identify “more desirable” clients as the airport increases its operations. The US officials are said to have asked Soliman – the sixth CEO to quit the airport since 2006 – if she knew of any links between the Russian maintenance facility at RAK airport, identified as the Shahed/Aircess facility, and the Sharjahbased Aircess company that served as the headquarters for Victor Bout’s network until its designation by the United Nations in November 2005. Soliman said that as far as she knew, the facility was run by the company Mach Avia Services, but that Mach Avia’s GM, Hussein Obeid is also the general manager of a company called Shahed, which according to Obeid’s business card provides “Air Services”. Soliman noted that Mach Avia was originally registered as the agent for the Victor Bout linked Wing Air IL-76 when it arrived at RAK Airport in March 2004, but later advised the airport that the plane belonged to Wing Air Services. Abousaeda Mustafa, a Russian, is said to have informed RAK Airport that the Wing Air IL-76 aircraft had been sold on 14 January 2009 by Libyan Arab Air Cargo to ILEX or ELEX Ventures Limited Company (NFI). Soliman said that RAK Airport could not confirm the validity or authenticity of the documents presented by Mustafa, and that consequently the airport submitted them to the RAK Courts.