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FTR #653 Touching Bases with Daniel Hopsicker

[1]MP3: 30-Minute Seg­ment [2]
REALAUDIO [3] NB: This RealAu­dio stream con­tains both FTRs 653 and 654 in sequence. Each is a 30 minute broad­cast.

Intro­duc­tion: Revis­it­ing inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Daniel Hop­sick­er [4], the pro­gram high­lights more of the inter­locked scan­dals and inves­ti­ga­tions that over­lap the milieu of the Flori­da flight schools through which many of the 9/11 hijack­ers infil­trat­ed. In the years since the 9/11 attacks, Daniel has uncov­ered evi­den­tiary trib­u­taries link­ing the flight school milieu to ele­ments of the Amer­i­can and for­eign intel­li­gence agen­cies, orga­nized crime syn­di­cates in the Unit­ed States, Europe and the Mid­dle East, as well as the fas­cist Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, par­ent orga­ni­za­tion of al-Qae­da and Hamas, among oth­er orga­ni­za­tions. In this pro­gram, Daniel sets forth a tan­gled web link­ing an attempt at sting­ing Venezue­lan strong­man Hugo Chavez to a plane reg­is­tered to a CIA con­trac­tor, as well as an Argen­tine milieu linked to ter­ror bomb­ing and Latin Amer­i­can fas­cism [5]. Among the names that crops up in this com­plex inves­ti­ga­tion is Alfre­do Yabran [6], an inti­mate of for­mer Argen­tine pres­i­dent Car­los Men­em. Like Men­em and Yabran asso­ciate Monz­er al-Kas­sar [7], Yabran was a native of the same, small Syr­i­an town. Al-Kassar–recently con­vict­ed in the Unit­ed States–has been deeply involved in ter­ror­ist sup­port activ­i­ties, arms traf­fick­ing and drug traf­fick­ing, includ­ing procur­ing East Bloc arms for the Con­tras in Nicaragua on behalf of Oliv­er North and the Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion. Like Al-Kas­sar, Yabran was impli­cat­ed in the 1992 bomb­ing of the Israeli Embassy in Argenti­na, as well as the 1994 bomb­ing of the AMIA cul­tur­al center–the lat­ter event linked to the 1993 attack on the World Trade Cen­ter, the Okla­homa City bomb­ing of 1995, as well as the 9/11 attacks. When his pow­er­ful con­nec­tions around the world could no longer shield Yabran from the con­se­quences of his actions, he was found shot to death, an alleged sui­cide.

Pro­gram High­lights Include: Review of Yabran’s con­nec­tions to for­mer U.S. Ambas­sador to Argenti­na Ter­rence Tod­man; review of Yabran’s links to Wences­lao Bunge of the famous (infa­mous?) Bunge [8] fam­i­ly of Argenti­na, one of whose busi­ness enter­pris­es fig­ures in some of the finan­cial maneu­ver­ing that took place in con­nec­tion with the assas­si­na­tion of Pres­i­dent Kennedy [9]; review of Yabran’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with Al-Kas­sar’s many crim­i­nal activ­i­ties.

1. Yabran fig­ures into a recent scan­dal involv­ing bribery, sup­pos­ed­ly involv­ing Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Among the ele­ments in this oper­a­tion are: ele­ments of the gov­ern­ments of the Unit­ed States, Argenti­na and Venezuela; the milieu of Jack Abramoff; cocaine smug­gling; covert oper­a­tions in Iraq; covert oper­a­tions in Colom­bia; pri­vate con­trac­tors ; pub­lic scan­dals; the AMIA bomb­ing in Argenti­na in 1994 and evi­den­tiary trib­u­taries lead­ing the direc­tion of the 9/11 attacks!

“At least two of the four defen­dants con­vict­ed of work­ing as ille­gal for­eign agents in Flori­da for Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Hugo Chavez in the Suit­case-Gate Scan­dal had ties to an inter­na­tion­al crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tion which was oper­at­ing suc­cess­ful­ly in Venezuela, and with seem­ing offi­cial impuni­ty, long before Chavez him­self came to pow­er, The Mad­Cow­Morn­ingNews has learned.

Both the recent­ly-con­vict­ed Franklin Duran, and Car­los Kauff­mann, who pled guilty before the tri­al, took part in a $7 bil­lion bank scan­dal dur­ing the mid-1990’s that involved insid­ers loot­ing Venezue­lan banks, and led more than 200 Venezue­lan bankers to flee Cara­cas for exile in Mia­mi.

Duran and Kauff­man began their mete­oric rise to com­mand­ing for­tunes, by their mid-30’s, of $100 mil­lion in Kauffmann’s case, and a stag­ger­ing $800 mil­lion in Duran’s, in the bank­ing scan­dal.

Also loot­ed, iron­i­cal­ly, was the Venezue­lan government’s response to the loot­ing: the gov­ern­ment insti­tu­tion to over­see banks and ensure they weren’t loot­ed again.

When a U.S. jury in Mia­mi recent­ly con­vict­ed Venezue­lan busi­ness­man Franklin Duran in the Suit­case-Gate tri­al, the ver­dict raised more ques­tions than it answered.

The scan­dal, which soon became well-known through­out Latin Amer­i­ca, began last year with the dis­cov­ery of a mys­te­ri­ous suit­case filled with $800,000 in cash at an air­port in Buenos Aires.

The $800,000, as well as $4.5 mil­lion in cash in a sec­ond suit­case which was­n’t dis­cov­ered, accord­ing to tes­ti­mo­ny in the tri­al, was a bribe–or, more char­i­ta­bly, a token of his esteem– from Venezuela’s Pres­i­dent Hugo Chavez to Nestor Kirch­n­er and wife Cristi­na, the for­mer and cur­rent Pres­i­dents of Argenti­na, three days in advance of a state vis­it by Chavez last year.

Mia­mi “busi­ness­man” Gui­do Antoni­ni Wil­son, here­after known as “Gui­do the Bag­man,” said it was his suit­case. And then began the cov­er-up attempt that end­ed when four Venezue­lan men were even­tu­al­ly con­vict­ed of attempt­ing to secure Guido’s silence about the source of the loot.

From the start, observers saw the pur­pose of the pros­e­cu­tion as being to embar­rass and point a fin­ger at cor­rup­tion in the gov­ern­ment of Venezuela’s cur­rent Pres­i­dent (and Bush Admin­is­tra­tion bete noire) Hugo Chavez.

But while Chavez’s “Boli­var­i­an rev­o­lu­tion” was being sin­gled out by Bush Admin­is­tra­tion pros­e­cu­tors as the source of the cor­rup­tion, the men act­ing on Chavez’s behalf have con­nec­tions which have so far been ignored to scan­dals which occurred under past Venezue­lan Pres­i­dents as well.

In sto­ries today and over the next two days we will report the results of a two-month long inves­ti­ga­tion into the facts behind the Suit­case-Gate Scan­dal, and offer a par­tial recon­struc­tion of what was, for those involved, “a bad day in Buenos Aires.”

Evi­dence unearthed to date points to a thor­ough-going cov­er-up. Among the items being con­cealed:

Details repeat­ed­ly left out or omit­ted, in both media accounts and in the tri­al itself, which would have iden­ti­fied not just the indi­vid­u­als charged in the case, but also impli­cat­ed a larg­er crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tion with cor­rupt ties to pre­vi­ous Venezue­lan Pres­i­dents for at least the past two decades.

Among the cru­cial details being con­cealed is the role played by the inter­na­tion­al crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tion of Argen­tine “busi­ness­man” Alfre­do Yabrán, wide­ly report­ed to have inter­na­tion­al Mafia con­nec­tions as well as extreme­ly close ties to the Argen­tine mil­i­tary jun­tas respon­si­ble for atroc­i­ties dur­ing Argentina’s “dirty war” in the 1970’s and 80’s.

Yabrán lat­er became the Argen­tine king­mak­er behind dis­graced for­mer Pres­i­dent Car­los Men­em. He was at one time so pow­er­ful in Argenti­na that his pic­ture had nev­er appeared in a news­pa­per.

When a pho­to of him was final­ly pub­lished, he had the jour­nal­ist who took the pho­to­graph mur­dered: shot and then burned to death in his car.

Also hid­den from pub­lic view dur­ing the tri­al was the iden­ti­ty of the own­er of the Amer­i­can-reg­is­tered (N5113S) top-of-the-line lux­u­ry Cita­tion X jet car­ry­ing the cash-filled suit­case flight to Buenos Aires.

As we report­ed in our last sto­ry, the jet car­ried the same reg­is­tra­tion, or” N” num­ber, as that of a plane fly­ing for Air-Scan, a CIA avi­a­tion con­trac­tor in Iraq.

In tomorrow’s fol­low-up sto­ry, The Mad­Cow­Morn­ingNews will pub­lish anoth­er exclu­sive: the plane’s offi­cial FAA reg­is­tra­tion, which can be traced to a for­mer major client of dis­graced Repub­li­can lob­by­ist Jack Abramoff.

The plane was owned, the reg­is­tra­tion records indi­cate, by a woman who first struck it rich as a 800-num­ber sex-lines porn mogul, then as an Inter­net “porn princess,” and final­ly as major­i­ty own­er of one of the world’s most lucra­tive online gam­bling sites.

Today she is an Amer­i­can liv­ing in exile in Gibral­tar, and one of the world’s wealth­i­est women.

Her pic­ture has nev­er appeared in a news­pa­per, either.

Anoth­er appar­ent­ly piv­otal play­er unmen­tioned at the tri­al is Alex del Nogal, who fled Argenti­na the same day his asso­ciate Gui­do Antoni­ni Wil­son was caught smug­gling a cash-stuffed suit­case into Buenos Aires.

One month lat­er, Del Nogal was arrest­ed in Italy after an inter­na­tion­al man­hunt. He was charged, and lat­er con­vict­ed, of inter­na­tion­al nar­cotics traf­fick­ing.

Amaz­ing but true: this par­tic­u­lar “Gui­do asso­ciate” had been serv­ing 20 years in Venezue­lan prison for mur­der­ing a busi­ness rival by shoot­ing him in the head and then drop­ping him from a plane into the Caribbean… until being par­doned by Hugo Chavez in 2001, and appoint­ed to the Venezue­lan secret police.

It had all the ele­ments of a first class spy thriller: An impres­sive stash of con­tra­band cash, wing­ing its way to Argenti­na in the mid­dle of the night, on a Cess­na Cita­tion X lux­u­ry busi­ness jet, the fastest civil­ian air­plane in his­to­ry.

And there was a strong whiff of drug and arms traf­fick­ing, made more plau­si­ble by the fact that the Cita­tion is faster than any drug inter­dic­tion planes of the DEA, or, for that mat­ter, of almost any oth­er coun­try in the world.

Suit­case-Gate had real world con­se­quences. Venezuela began stag­ing war games with Russ­ian forces. Argenti­na and Bolivia kicked out their U.S. Ambas­sadors. Venezuela spent bil­lions of petrodol­lars on Russ­ian weapons.

And Hugo Chavez “reached out,” as they say on the Soprano’s, to Iran, cul­ti­vat­ing warm bilat­er­al rela­tions.

Not to be out-done, the U.S. Navy reestab­lished its Fourth Fleet, which had been dis­es­tab­lished way back in 1950, to over­see U.S. naval activ­i­ties in Latin Amer­i­can and Caribbean waters.

And West­ern offi­cials began express­ing fears that the Iran­ian-backed ter­ror­ist group Hezbol­lah is using Venezuela as a base for oper­a­tions.

What was going on? Was all this over a lousy $800 grand?

Did Venezue­lan strong­man Hugo Chavez real­ly spend $30 bil­lion dol­lars to win influ­ence in South Amer­i­ca? Was Chavez trash-talk­ing Uncle Sam while send­ing mon­ey and weapons to FARC guer­ril­las in Colom­bia? What’s the truth about the charge that Venezuela is doing busi­ness with Hezbol­lah?

Clear­ly the cit­i­zen­ry of all three countries—the U.S., Venezuela, and Argenti­na— deserve to know more.”

“Suit­case-Gate Decod­ed” by Daniel Hop­sick­er; Mad­cow Morn­ing News; 11/24/08. [5]

2. Yabran fig­ures promi­nent­ly in a tan­gle of scan­dal, ter­ror and fas­cism brack­et­ing suc­ces­sive Argen­tine gov­ern­ments and over­lap­ping the worlds of inter­na­tion­al drug and arms traf­fick­ing and intel­li­gence. This con­tate­na­tion was high­light­ed in FTR #109.

“One of the most impor­tant and least pub­li­cized play­ers in the tan­gled world of weapons and drug traf­fick­ing, ter­ror­ism and espi­onage is Monz­er Al-Kas­sar. A key play­er in the Iran-Con­tra Scan­dal, Al-Kas­sar imports 20 % of the hero­in that comes to the Unit­ed States (accord­ing to the DEA) and has appar­ent­ly fig­ured promi­nent­ly in numer­ous ter­ror­ist inci­dents. This pro­gram sets forth alle­ga­tions of pos­si­ble involve­ment by Al-Kas­sar in two ter­ror bomb­ings in Argenti­na, as well as his con­nec­tions to the late Alfre­do Yabran, a Mafia-like wheel­er deal­er who (like Al-Kas­sar) had strong con­nec­tions to the gov­ern­ment of Argenti­na. Argen­tine pres­i­dent Car­los Men­em, Yabran and Al-Kas­sar are all from the same town in Syr­ia. In addi­tion, the pro­gram con­tains infor­ma­tion about inter­na­tion­al con­nec­tions to the AMIA bomb­ing (one of the bomb­ings Al-Kas­sar was alleged­ly involved with), the mys­te­ri­ous “sui­cide” of Yabran, Yabran’s con­nec­tions to for­mer U.S. Ambas­sador Ter­rence Tod­man, who assist­ed with Yaban’s finan­cial machi­na­tions and also inter­ced­ed with the U.S. Drug Enforce­ment Admin­is­tra­tion on Yabran’s behalf. The con­clu­sion of the pro­gram deals with Yabran asso­ciate Wences­lao Bunge, a Har­vard-edu­cat­ed lawyer who is appar­ent­ly part of the Bunge fam­i­ly that has been piv­otal­ly involved with Bunge and Born. One of the world’s largest com­modi­ties bro­kers, Bunge & Born fig­ured promi­nent­ly in an intri­cate stock mar­ket manip­u­la­tion that was appar­ent­ly con­nect­ed to the assas­si­na­tion of Pres­i­dent Kennedy.”

Pro­gram Descrip­tion for FTR #109; Record­ed on 9/2/1998. [10]