Saturday, October 12, 2013

drug planes

DC-9 ‘Cocaine One’ kingpin’s secret conviction

It was the biggest drug seizure on an airplane in Mexican history. It led directly to the forced sale of Wachovia, then America's 4th largest bank. And it threatened to become America’s most notorious drug scandal since Iran Contra.
Yet when a leader of the drug smuggling organization responsible for the flight of the DC-9 airliner dubbed “Cocaine One” that was busted in the Yucatan carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine quietly pled guilty to unrelated drug charges two years ago in a Federal Court in Miami, his role in the massive drug move was kept secret from officials preparing his Pre-Sentence Report (PSI),  from journalists, and even from the Federal judge in the case.

An American-registered drug plane has been plying the airspace over Central and South America carrying cargoes of cocaine for a good long while (authorities admit they’ve been “investigating” it since 2011) without apparent incident, until recently, when a newspaper in Costa Rica reported that the President of Costa Rica had been seen using it to fly to Hugo Chavez’s funeral, as well as the recent wedding of the son of Peru's Vice-President in Lima.

Six years ago this week an American-registered luxury jet, a Gulfstream II—later dubbed “Cocaine 2”—crashed just before dawn in the middle of the jungle in Mexico’s Yucatan carrying four tons of cocaine. The event, and its aftermath, changed forever an official narrative of the war on drugs which has for years been pushing the notion that there is no significant American involvement in the global drug trade, and no American Drug Lords.  

A control tower employee in Ciudad del Carmen, the airport where the DSC-9 landed, causing something of a fuss, told authorities at a crucial juncture in what was an extremely tense situation, as the American-registered DC-9 carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine circled and requested permission to land, she was approached inside the airport terminal by an American she'd never seen before.

She described him as being 40 years old, with blond hair and a deep tan, and he was wearing a green polo shirt. The American, she said, hadn’t just wanted officials in the airport to let the plane land. He wanted the tower to certify the flight, meaning the DC-9 could then continue its journey, as a domestic flight, which would not need to clear Mexican Customs.

Said green polo shirt-wearing American remains unidentified. He just disappeared from narratives of the event… except for one respected journalist at Mexican newspaper Proceso, who wisely picked up on this detail, followed up, and then reported that among the contingent of drug traffickers awaiting the arrival of the plane on the ground with as much nonchalance as they could muster…the American had been in charge.

In every country in the world in which drugs are present, and illegal, control of the drug trade is the most important tool in perpetuating that country’s oligarchy, more important than a police force with a billion Billy clubs.

The guys chopping off heads in Mexico while wearing bandoliers strapped across their bare chests are barely into middle management.

When the Gulfstream's fuselage split into pieces on impact, spilling cocaine across an area the length of three football fields, a chain of events was set in motion that would prove that nothing could be further from the truth.  
Several hundred miles away, and more than a year earlier, in May 2006, the Gulfstream’s ‘sister ship,’ a DC-9 which became known as “Cocaine1" because it was painted to impersonate an official US Government plane, had been caught carrying more than 5.5 tons of cocaine.
The two planes shared too many identifying characteristics, including interlocking owners and a shared base in the sleepy retirement Mecca of St Petersburg FL  on Florida’s Gulf Coast, to be coincidence. 
The twin events represented the biggest sea change in the global drug trade since the death of Pablo Escobar in 1992, or the assassination of Barry Seal in 1986. Today, despite the intervening years, new details continue to emerge about the case. 

During the course of the investigation which followed it became clear that the money used to purchase both planes—the Gulfstream and the DC-9—was laundered and funnelled through Wachovia Bank, and more importantly, that it represented just a tiny sliver of the more than $380 billion of drug money that had been laundered during the past six years through what was then America’s 4th largest bank. 
Wachovia was fined a record $165 million. The sullied bank was forced to sell itself to Wells Fargo Bank in Salt Lake City.
At about three a.m. the normal quiet of the town of Tixkobob  (pop. 17000), located an hour outside of the Yucatan capital of Merida, was disturbed by the deafening noise of a low-flying twin-engine jet circling overhead, and the whine and buzzing of several military helicopters in pursuit. 
The noise went on for an incredible two hours until, out of fuel, the jet crashed three miles outside town on a plantation, Rancho San Francisco, identified by Mexican journalists as belonging to an American named Martin Wood.
Although remote, the crash site quickly drew a crowd. Slightly after dawn a Mexican Army unit from the Tenth Military Region deployed to the site, secured it, and then guarded it over the next 36 hours, repelling intrusions from other Mexican law enforcement agencies, as well as from the DEA, which flew six agents to the scene from Mexico City to reconnoiter, only to see them turned away from the site.

Days earlier, the Gulfstream jet had begun its journey at Fort Lauderdale’s notorious Executive Airport, flying southwest across the Gulf of Mexico to Cancun. There the pilot made arrangements with the airport’s general manager that they would be able to land without incident at the airport on their return from Colombia laden with cocaine. 
The next day, negotiations being successfully concluded, the Gulfstream  took off for Colombia. Nothing unusual was noticed. The plane was on a well-worn path. The airport in Cancun was the busiest drug port in Mexico.
After loading its cargo of cocaine the following day, the Gulfstream took off from the international airport just outside Medellin, in Rio Negro Colombia, bound once more for the exclusive Mexican Caribbean resort of Cancun, in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo.
Among the mysteries surrounding the flight, the one which looms largest is this: Why did authorities at the Cancun airport change their minds, renege on their promise, and refuse the plane permission to land? 
At a press conference a year earlier after the crash of the DC-9, Mexican Attorney General Daniel Cabeza de Vaca said officials from Federal security agencies in the Yucatan were known to be in collusion with drug traffickers. Curiously, with his next breath he mentioned Kamel Nacif, 69, a Lebanese businessman in Cancun who was in the news for alleged links to an international network of pedophiles.
In the drug trade, it is important to recall, the title “cartel du jour” is a designation which changes rapidly and without notice. Just ask the kingpins from the Medellin, or the Cali, cartels. 
It turns out that when the drug traffickers on the Gulfstream lost their "get out of jail free" card, a drug kingpin who the DEA has called the biggest drug trafficker since Pablo Escobar had just been captured.
On August 7, just over a month earlier, a joint operation between forces including Brazil, the US,  Argentina, Spain and Uruguay took down a drug kingpin who was recently profiled here. Before being caught, Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia, known as “Lollipop” (El Chupeta), had been successfully holed up for more than five years in Sao Paulo Brazil. 
Three weeks after his arrest,  two Brazilians bought the Gulfstream.

The Sins of the Son and -- The Smoking Airplane


Daniel Hopsicker and Michael C. Ruppert

Texas Governor and Republican Presidential contender George W. Bush and his brother Jeb, allegedly caught on videotape in 1985 picking up kilos of cocaine at a Florida airport in a DEA sting set up by Barry Seal

And a private turboprop King Air 200 supposedly caught on  tape in the sting with FAA ownership records leading directly to the CIA and some of the perpetrators of the most notorious (and never punished) major financial frauds of the '80s. 

Add to this mix the now irrefutable proof, some of it from the CIA itself, that then Vice President George H.W. Bush was a decision maker in illegal Contra support operations connected to the "unusual" acquisition of aircraft  and that his staff participated in key financial, operational and political decisions

All these events lead inexorably to one unanswered question: How did this one plane go from being controlled by Barry Seal, the biggest drug smuggler in American history, to becoming, according to state officials,  a favored airplane of Texas Governor George W. Bush?


Three months into an exhaustive investigation of persistent reports dating to 1995 that there exists an incriminating videotape of current Republican Presidential front-runner Bush caught in a hastily-aborted DEA cocaine sting, the central allegation remains unproven

But some startling details have been confirmed, amid a raft of new suspicions emerging from conflicting FAA records. Those records, along with other irrefutable documents, point to the existence of far more than mere happenstance or dark "conspiracy theorist speculations" in the matter of how George W. Bush came to be flying the friendly Texas skies in an airplane that was a crown jewel in the drug smuggling fleet of the notorious Barry Seal. Those documents reveal - beyond any doubt - that in the 1980s Barry Seal, with whom the CIA has consistently denied any relationship, piloted and controlled airplanes owned by the same Phoenix Arizona company, Greycas, which in a 1998 bankruptcy filing, was revealed to have been a subsidiary of the same company that owned the now defunct CIA proprietary airline Southern Air Transport.

The investigation started with a lead into the history of the aircraft (a 1982 Beechcraft King Air 200 with FAA registration number N6308F - Serial Number BB-1014).

According to a flurry of stories between Sept 15 and 17 in the Washington Post, Newsweek, and Knight Ridder newspapers, as many as six of the terrorists, including ringleader Mohammed Atta, received training at U.S. military facilities.

"U.S. military sources have given the FBI information that suggests five of the alleged hijackers of the planes used in Tuesday's terror attacks received training at secure U.S. military installations in the 1990’s," Newsweek reported. Newsweek also reported that three of the hijackers received training at the Pensacola Naval Station in Florida.

The “Magic Dutch Boys.” Rudi Dekkers and Arne Kruithof, two Dutch nationals, purchased the two flight schools that trained three of the four terrorist pilots to fly at the tiny Venice Airport, which has an extensive history of CIA involvement,.

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