Blaz Zgaga - Arms Smuggling Trilogy in the name of the state
Arms smugglingTrilogy: In the Name of the State Matej Šurc, Blaž Zgaga (Slovenia) GIJC 2011, Kiev, 13 October 2011
TeamMatej Šurc, Blaž Zgaga (Slovenia)European Fund for Investigative JournalismSaša Leković (Croatia), Esad Hečimović (Bosnia and Herzegovina)ScoopLukas Hässig (Switzerland)Beata Biel (Poland)Vlad Lavrov (Ukraine)
Context – Why to investigate this topic? Wars in former Yugoslavia with more than 130.000 deaths in 1990s. Arms smuggling is „mother of all scandals“ in Slovenia. Elites who came to power during that period are still ruling in new countries. Rampant corruption, organized crime, no economic progress for two decades, generations lost. Historical investigation of wrongdoings of people who are still in power in the region.
First steps Planning phase in 2007. Preliminary investigations in 2008. First plan was to base on public sources and interviews with people involved.
Breakthrough: 6000+ declassified documents Freedom of information act SUCCESS – more than 6000 declassified official documents. Police and secret intelligence service depeches, port authority documents, shipping documents, logistic companies files, parliamentary inquiry documentation. New problem: how to analyse so big quantity of documents and make journalistic stories?
Step 1 – Analyse public sources Analyses of public sources - We read all articles, books and memoirs. We made a database of all usable quotes of people involved for every book. We read dozens of article on this topic, found many false information.
Step 2: Making databases We made four databases of 6000 documents (in Excel). A) YPA armament list and Crest prices estimates B) Road transports /border police C) Road transports /logistic company D) Sea transports /port authorities Hundreds of events, people, trucks, dozens of ships. Vehicle registration plates.
Step 3: Organizing investigation We organize documents with assistance of insiders. We prepared 13 packages of documents, with written questions for main sources (few hundreds of documents). Sources returned all packages consecutively and answered to our questions in few months. In the meantime we investigated and made additional interviews in Slovenia and abroad. A boost for our investigation was success at European Fund for Investigative Journalism, which co-financed our investigation.
Step 4: Additional sources We found and analyzed many additional sources. Declassified court file of important criminal case against arms dealers, including two ministers. Debit-credit notes of main middleman company at Hungarian bank. Eavesdropping manuscripts made by civil secret service. Secret report on arms smuggling. Many other public sources. (Investigative Dashboard) Dozens of interviews with other insiders.
Step 5: Finding partners in ex- Yugoslavia Going cross-border. We knew that Saša Leković/Croatia is well informed about topic and established contact. With his assistance we found additional investigative journalists in ex-Yugoslavia. Their cooperation was co-financed by Scoop. Additionally we established useful and working contacts with journalists from at least four other European countries. We contacted many more colleagues abroad.
Step 6: Production Writing started in September 2010 and last until April 2011. We finished 41 different chapters/investigations, each on average 10 pages long. Altogether a text consists of around one million signs. Another problem: How to publish it?
TRILOGY Solution was a TRILOGY. Story telling as a journalistic reportage. Many dramatizations of events. Some parts are like a crime or spy novel, but it is all real as book is non-fiction. Well documented. The first book with 380 footnotes, the second with more than 700.
In the Name of the State Trilogy consists of following books:1) Sell – Focused on selling of the YPA assets from Slovenia to Croatia and BiH.2) Resell – Buying arms and ammunition abroad and selling with profits to Yugoslav battlefields.3) Cover-up – Concealing illicit activities in Slovenia for last two decades. Major domestic scandals from other viewpoint.
Book ONE: Sell Introduction into trilogy and 11 chapters on 350 pages. First cooperation between Slovene and Croatian politicians in 1990. First arms transports to Croatia in the same year. Capturing YPA ammunition dumps and selling 1000s of tons to Croatia, money ended in Swiss banks. With documents obtained from Croatia in cross-border cooperation we proved cash for weapons payments. (Josip Vukina case) Slovenia provided also strategic moves of Croatian forces through own territory and trained Croatian and Bosnian forces at secret bases.
Strategic movements of Croatian forces through Slovenia /1991
Slovenia trained Croatian and Bosnian para-military forcesIn July 1991 Croatian extreme rigth wing Neo-Ustasa forces (HOS) were trained and equiped at secret location. More than 100 soldiersIn summer 1992 more than 500 Bosnian soldiers trained and equipped.
Other important findingsMoney gathered at account of Cranex company at Lloyds bank in Zürich.Three sources confirmed that four installments of 40 million dollars has been exchanged into golden bars in Swiss bank. Impossible to check due to banking secrecy.Prime ministers of both countries (Lojze Peterle and Franjo Gregurić) involved in talks about prices of arms.Main Slovene players: Minister of Defense Janez Janša and Minister of Interior Igor Bavčar.
Book TWO: Re-sell16 chapters on 480 pages.First THREE chapters: How they get a hard currency to buy weapons abroad?Next FOUR: Biographies of main arms dealers.FIVE chapters reveals European countries involved.TWO tell about unsuccessful shipments.Last TWO show detailed transports in Autumn 1992.
Getting moneyExchanging Yugoslav dinars. Failure in Poland.Success in Croatia /Promdei bank. Assassinations.Assistance of Albanian mafia at Yugoslav black markets (more than 7 million DEM).Trucks of cash to BiH after dinar was removed from circulation in Slovenia and Croatia.Help of Italian mafia /Mala del Brenta.Germany provided 46,6 million DEM of loans to Slovenia for arms purchases. Proxy company in Münich - Unimercat.
Main dealersMain company:Scorpion International Services S. A.Headquarters in Vienna, registered in Panama, bank account in Budapest, Central-European International bank.Main player: Konstantin DafermosImportant middlemen: Nikolaj Oman, Nikša Župa, Vladimir Zagorec (one of them dead, two in prison today)
Bulgarian line and state company KintexFirst ship from Burgas arrived on 20 June 1991. War in Yugoslavia begun a week later.Shipment was of strategic importance for Slovene forces to defend from YPA. AA, AT and infantry weapons. 193 tons, worth 7,8 million DEM or 4,3 million USDSeller was Kintex, Sofia, middlemen was Stalleker GmbH in Vienna.Many ships arrived from both Bulgarian ports in 1991 and 1992.
Polish connection in the hand of WSI Polish Military information service WSI controlled Cenrex company. Operative was Ltc.Col Jerzy Dembowski (Wirakozca) Many ships with weapons from Gdynia. Worth more than 9 million USD, probably more than 19 million USD. Important source: „Raport o WSI“/Polish Ministry of Defense.
Ukrainean shipments and Odesa mafiaGlobal Technologies International S. A. (Dmitri Strešinski) sold many arms to Slovenia and Croatia.Ship „Sabine“ with arms for Slovenia arrived from Mikolaiv on 1 April 1992.Ship „Island“ from Mikolaiv started major shipments of eight ships with 12.000 tons for Croatia in October 1992.GTI earned at least 7 million USD, other accounts of Odesa mafia received 33,5 million USD„Jadran Express“ captured in 1994. All acquitted at Turin trial.
All traces leads to KremlinWeapons and ammunition was mostly Soviet/Russian.Many supplies in ammunition dumps after cold war in Central Europe.52 SA-16 Igla with 400 missiles, 50 AT-4 Fagot with 500 missiles and 20 AT-7 Metis with 200 missiles were sold to Slovenia for 33,3 million USD in 1991 and 1992.Attempt to sell Anteys SA-8 Gecko in January 1992.Dafermoss Scorpion International Services is exclusive representative of Rosoboronexport today.His partner in Scorpion Navigation S.A. was Vladimir I. Rjašencev, senior KGB official.Leader of Russian Liberal democratic party Vladimir Žirinovski and Aleksej Vedenkin claimed a payment of 9 million USD from Slovene Minister of Defense Janez Janša in February 1994.Many sources confirmed: there were Russians behind.
Transit to Croatia and BiH Between October 1991 and February 1992 at least eleven ships with weapons in transit. Three ships with 3500 tons of weapons from Constanta, Romunia. Arms and ammunition forwarded quickly to the battlefields. Other ships from Bulgaria, Poland, Ukraine, Lebanon, Argentina...