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FTR #728 Interview with Daniel Hopsicker: Tricky Treats

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Introduction: For many years, we’ve visited with heroic investigative journalist Daniel Hopsicker. Longtime investigator of the abuses of the intelligence community, Hopsicker has pursued the assassination of President Kennedy and the profound involvement of the CIA and related agencies in the illegal narcotics traffic.

In particular, Hopsicker followed up his work on Barry and the Boys (about career CIA officer and Iran-Contra drug smuggler par excellence Barry Seal) by examining how Mohammed Atta and other 9/11 hijackers infiltrated the United States through some of the intelligence community’s controlled drug networks.

Welcome to Terrorland

Owned by Wally Hilliard, Huffman Aviation and a number of overlapping, shadowy airlines appear to have been deeply involved in narcotics trafficking, and operating with apparent impunity. (Atta enrolled for flight training at Huffman Aviation.)

Exemplifying the world of “Elite Deviants” that Hopsicker has investigated is Michael Brassington. A pilot for one of Hilliard’s aviation ventures, Brassington appears to be “working both sides of the street.”

Giving testimony in connection with a case in which a plane he was piloting skidded off a runway in New Jersey, Brassington’s privileged status appears to have successfully excluded information concerning the Joint Terrorism Task Force, among other things.

Program Highlights Include: Summation of some of Brassington’s other aeronautical undertakings; discussion of the fundamental compromise of the judicial system, with regard to its ability to prosecute drug runners; review of the career of Barry Seal, CIA officer and drug smuggler; discussion of the assassination of President Kennedy–an event that overlaps numerous people and institutions involved with the South Florida aviation milieu Hopsicker is investigating; discussion of some of the old OSS and organized crime connections of Wally Hilliard’s sponsors.

1. Exemplifying the world of “Elite Deviants” that Hopsicker has investigated is Michael Brassington. A pilot for one of Huffman Aviation kingpin Wally Hilliard’s aviation ventures, Brassington appears to be “working both sides of the street.”

Giving testimony in connection with a case in which a plane he was piloting skidded off a runway in New Jersey, Brassington’s privileged status appears to have successfully excluded information concerning the Joint Terrorism Task Force, among other things.

” . . . Since the discovery that he was the co-pilot on 39 weekly drug flights to South America and back on a Learjet belonging to the owner of the Florida flight school attended by Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi, the terrorist pilots who crashed airliners into the two World Trade Center Towers on Sept 11, Brassington’s exploits have been covered in this space . . . .”

It turns out that Brassington’s activities are one of many tips of the South Florida iceberg, and that Brassington, Hilliard and others have intertwining resumes going back decades.

In Miscellaneous Archive Show M43, we looked at the role of the intelligence community (CIA in particular) and organized crime in the S & L scandal of the 1980’s. One of the operatives we studied in that program–Farhad Azima–partnered with Wally Hilliard. Azima was also active in the operations of Edwin Wilson and company.

Noteworthy as well is the fact that Brassington’s “mishap” on the runway did not appear to interfere in any way with his operation of Platinum–a charter jet company with a celebrity clientele list.

It’s hard to imagine a cover-up in a case where someone has been charged with a 27-count Federal indictment.

But that’s what’s happening in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, where the trial of controversial Guyanese pilot Michael Brassington completed its third week of testimony last Friday, in what can be viewed as a case study about just how much of the truth can—and cannot—be spoken in America today.

It’s as if “Son of Sam” serial killer David Berkowitz were on trial for double-parking his car while committing his string of violent homicides… but wasn’t being charged with the murders.

We’re not suggesting that “the boys” at Platinum Jet share anything in common with the Son of Sam. Still, take a look at them. What sort of work would you recruit them for?

The news the jurors won’t get to hear includes:

Just three days before the scheduled start of Brassington’s trial, his attorney filed a pre-trial motion asking U.S. District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh to exclude testimony mentioning terrorism or the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

During the investigation into the crash of the Challenger CL-600 luxury jet flown by Brassington’s Platinum Jet Management, the motion revealed, the FAA’s lead investigator had an Agent from the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) “assigned” to be with him when he interviewed witnesses.

Michael Salnick of West Palm Beach, Brassington’s attorney, requested that this be concealed from the jury.

Of course, this is not the first time Brassington’s name has been mentioned in connection with covert activities, drug smuggling, terrorism, and matter of national security. More on this shortly.

But first, let’s re-visit the scene of the (latest) crime.

“Its always the ‘little people’ that get hurt.”

It started with a Bombardier ChallengerCL-600 jet running off a runway and then through an airport fence before hurtling, during morning rush hour, across a busy 6-lane highway,clipping the tops off two cars stopped at a red light,then finally embedding itself into the side of a warehouse.

“The last thing I saw was the wing coming toward me,” Rohan Foster, a 36-year-old father of four, said as he sat in a wheelchair at a hospital in Teaneck, N.J., his broken nose fitted with an oxygen tube.

He was sitting at a stoplight, Foster said, when his passenger yelled “Look out! Look out! A plane is coming!”

A 10-ton luxury jet had shot off a runway right in front of them.

Frozen with fear, the two men carpooling to nearby jobs in a metal finishing plant watched in horror as the out-of-control jet skidded off the runway, barreled through the airport fence at 100 MPH, and hurtled toward them across 6-lane Route 46 in New Jersey.

At the hospital, Foster’s father, Lloyd, said, “They ducked. If not, their heads would be gone. The plane took the top of the car off.”

A moment later, the twin-engine Challenger CL-600 smashed into a warehouse- its wings snapping off like twigs- and burst into flames.

“One passenger in the car remains in a coma,” reported a local New Jersey newspaper the next day, “while lawyers wait in the wings.”

“Mum’s the word ’bout Wally Hilliard”

Platinum was a “rogue” charter jet company that catered to the ultra-rich and A-List celebrities, everyone from rapper Jay-Z to football legend Joe Montana; from Bon Jovi to Pavarotti to Celine Dion.

The day before the plane crashed, in fact, Jay-Z and R&B singer Beyonce, who were apparently an item at the time, were aboard the plane as it flew from Las Vegas to Teterboro.

A fact not likely to be emphasized is that both former Presidents George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton were also Platinum charter customers.

Likely to be left out entirely is the fact that–even after the crash!– Brassington continued flying illegal charters, as the personal pilot of the wildly-corrupt (even by Caribbean standards) Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Mike Misick, aboard a Gulfstream II luxury jet owned by a former Clinton White House aide, Jeffrey Watson, who was once called Clintons’ “go-to guy” in Miami.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott B. McBride presented a carefully-sanitized version of Brassington’s identity, activities, and motives to jurors to explain why he (allegedly) routinely violating FAA safety rules, and then lied about it to Federal officials.

Brassington’s status as a long-time employee of terror flight school owner Wallace J. Hilliard will almost certainly go unmentioned.

Evidence will not be presented to show how Brassington’s charter jet company was his “cover” for a decade-long stint flying drug and money-laundering flights on luxury jets into and out of the U.S. for a drug trafficking operation which has been led— since at least the mid-1980’s—by a corrupt element of America’s political elite which was first exposed in the Iran Contra Scandal.

Yet that fact is crucial to understanding why—and how—Brassington was able to thumb his nose to federal authorities for so long.

“A bit of a sticky wicket, that.”

Also not being addressed is the curious timing of the indictment.

The plane crash which is the centerpiece of the prosecution’s case occurred in February of 2005. Yet Brassington wasn’t charged until three years later…two short weeks after the Bush Administration left office.

It is highly unlikely that prosecutors learned anything about the Teterboro crash in 2009 that they didn’t already know by the end of 2005.

So the question becomes: Why was the Bush Administration protecting from prosecution a foreign national pilot who had flown charter flights into the U.S. in 2000 carrying heroin?

As Asst. U.S. Atty McBride is no doubt aware, he is treading through a mine field.

This explains his misleading opening statement to the jury:

“This is a trial about a company that intentionally jeopardized human lives to save money on jet fuel, culminating in the 2005 crash of one of its jets at Teterboro Airport,” McBride told jurors.

“You will hear about a shockingly reckless game of Russian roulette on the runway … with oblivious passengers acting as test dummies to increase [the company’s] bottom line,” the federal prosecutor said at the start of the trial.

“They did it because they were greedy.”

Well, no, not exactly… The world is filled with greedy people. Some of them no doubt run charter aircraft companies.

Yet the federal prosecutor would be hard-pressed to cite any other air charter company which has displayed anything remotely like the utter contempt for the rule of law shown by “the boys” at Platinum Jet Management.

Meet Farhad Azima from Iran–and Iran Contra

So if they didn’t do it because—or just because—they were greedy…what then?

They did it because they could. They were protected.

Among “The Friends of Wally Hilliard,” there are other cases offering an exact parallel.

Wally Hilliard’s Iran Contra connections begin, of course, with Adnan Khashoggi and his henchman Ramy El-Batrawi.

But there is another former Iran Contra operative, and business partner of Hilliard’s, whose history of being considered above the law is germane here.

Farhad Azima has an illustrious, or infamous, CIA pedigree. He and Hilliard were business partners in a company called SPATIALIGHT, INC, which had something to do with HD-TV chips. In any event, it no longer does, because, like literally dozens of companies associated with this operation, it has gone bankrupt, its stock is now worth 3/10,oooth of a cent per share.

Azima, an Iranian whose family was close to the Shah, owns a cargo airline in Miami and Kansas City, Global International Air, which was part of Oliver North’s logistical network, shipping arms—including 23 tons of TOW missiles to Iran—to the Ayatollah, as well as other Iran Contra swag left behind by El-Batrawi’s cargo airline.

Azima’s relationship with the CIA goes back to the 1970’s. He supplied air and logistical support to EATSCO (Egyptian American Transport and Services Corporation) a company owned by former CIA agents Thomas Clines, Theodore Shackley, and Richard Secord, which was prominently involved in the activities of former CIA agent Edwin Wilson.

Drugs, financial fraud, the CIA, and “seeming impunity”

Azima’s company was even cited for having chartered a Boeing 707 for the PLO, who used it to ship a load of weapons to the Sandinistas. There were, presumably, red faces all around. But then… who knows?

What does Friend-of-Wally-Hilliard-Azima has in common with Friend-of-Wally-Hilliard-Brassington?

Both had “Get Out of Jail Free” cards.

The story was broken by ace reporter Pete Brewton in the Houston Post.

During the Savings & Loan Crisis, a failed Kansas City bank gave millions of dollars in loans to Farhad Azima. The IRS asked the Justice Department to probe Azima’s role in the bank’s failure.

But, according to former federal prosecutor Lloyd Monroe, the investigation of Azima’s role in the collapse of Indian Springs S & L was thwarted because of his alleged ties to the CIA.

Monroe said the CIA told the FBI that Azima was “off limits” because he had “CIA connections.”

“U.S. authorities probing the collapse of a small Kansas bank in the mid-1980s had been told by the Federal Bureau Of Investigation to lay off a key figure because he “had a get-out-of-jail-free card” from the CIA.”

“I was told that Azima had a get-out-of-jail-free card,” an FBI source in the investigation told The Houston Post in a copyrighted story.

For his pains, Brewton should have won a Pulitzer Prize. Instead, like Gary Webb, he was run out of journalism. Today he teaches at a small college in Texas.

“A grave threat to national security.”

Brassington’s trial in Federal Court is a ring-side seat to the spectacle of hearing eyewitnesses testify under oath about an elite group of people who have been running amok for decades.

And its always the “little people” who pay the price…

Like former U.S. Customs Agent James Sanders, who had a life-changing encounter with Brassington on the evening of April 6, 2004, at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport.

On a typically balmy night, with a light breeze coming in off the Atlantic Ocean, the inbound traffic at the US Customs station at the General Aviation Terminal, bustling during daytime, was light.

There was nothing to alert rookie Customs Agent Sanders to what was about to occur.

“It was a Tuesday, the slowest day of the week,” Sanders remembered, “when Mike Brassington came in. He went through immigration first. And the immigration inspector had ‘top-stamped’ his Customs Declaration, which meant he needed to be ‘secondary-ed,’ meaning given a close inspection.”

A drug smuggling pilot for the owner of a 9/11 flight school… with clout.

“I was confused. Even the tail number of the Gulfstream he flew in on, N60S, had a record in the system. Yet Brassington was waving a letter from a Customs official in Washington in my face, to convince me to expedite his entry.”

“So I called the ICE Agent in Miami who was listed as the ‘point of contact” in Brassington’s file, which means he was basically the lead agent tracking his movements,” stated former U.S. Customs Agent James Sanders in an interview for a new documentary, “The New American Druglords.”

“His name was Norm Bright. And Norm Bright said I was to treat him, Brassington, as a grave threat to national security. He told me that I needed to check him (BRASSINGTON) search him, and search all his passengers. And that’s what I did.”

“I didn’t think of him as a terrorist suspect,” said Sanders. “I just thought he was really into drugs, and I needed to check him really close.

Brassington complained about his treatment to Jason Ahearn, a top Customs official in Washington.

And for his diligence, Sanders was fired.

The entire episode is covered in “The New American Drug Lords.)

Since the discovery that he was the co-pilot on 39 weekly drug flights to South America and back on a Learjet belonging to the owner of the Florida flight school attended by Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi, the terrorist pilots who crashed airliners into the two World Trade Center Towers on Sept 11, Brassington’s exploits have been covered in this space (see box for previous stories).

And in just the past year, his name has figured prominently in government investigations in three different countries: the U.S., the Turks & Caicos, and his native Guyana.

“Teterboro Crash Trial Coverup” by Daniel Hopsicker; MadCowMorningNews; 11/02/2010.

2. Noteworthy is the fact that Brassington wasn’t indicted until after the Bush administration left office, a hiatus of three years.

. . . . Also not being addressed is the curious timing of the indictment.

The plane crash which is the centerpiece of the prosecution’s case occurred in February of 2005. Yet Brassington wasn’t charged until three years later…two short weeks after the Bush Administration left office.

It is highly unlikely that prosecutors learned anything about the Teterboro crash in 2009 that they didn’t already know by the end of 2005.

So the question becomes: Why was the Bush Administration protecting from prosecution a foreign national pilot who had flown charter flights into the U.S. in 2000 carrying heroin? . . .

Idem.

3. In the interview, Daniel notes the operations of “The Company” at the Venice Airport. Using a nickname commonly associated with the CIA, the organization appears to have been an intelligence front, doing many of the same things as CIA. (The organization is discussed in AFA #26.)

Discussion

5 comments for “FTR #728 Interview with Daniel Hopsicker: Tricky Treats”

  1. I love this article and the work of Daniel Hopsicker. I have one big multifold question: in that regard, are “The Company” the real perpetrators or orchestrators of 9/11? Were Al-Quaeda members only secondary stooges in the plot? Or worse, have been Al-Quaeda members designated and used as scapegoats for the attack?

    I think I begin to understand why there is so much theories over the internet concerning 9/11. Controlled demolition, nano-thermites, US army missiles, scalar technology, particule beams, mini-nukes, and the list goes. While it is possible that some of those elements were at play in the coup, it is clear that somebody is
    trying to get us away from the hijackers…and the rest of the story.

    Posted by Claude | November 27, 2010, 1:08 pm
  2. […] FTR #728 […]

    Posted by Daniel Hopsicker and the New American Druglords: Let’s meet some of the nice people who were involved in 9/11 | lys-dor.com | September 5, 2011, 8:17 pm
  3. In related news:

    Posted on Wednesday, 09.28.11

    South Florida
    Top South Florida ICE official pleads not guilty of Internet child-porn charges

    Authorities Tuesday arrested South Florida chief of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on charges of trafficking images of child pornography over the Internet.

    BY JAY WEAVER
    jweaver@MiamiHerald.com

    The South Florida head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who spent decades busting criminals, pleaded not guilty to an indictment in federal court Wednesday that accuses him of child-porn offenses on the Internet., including transporting and receiving “visual depictions of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct,” according to the Justice Department.

    Anthony V. Mangione, 50, of Parkland, was charged with transportation, receipt and and possession of child pornography. If convicted, Mangione could face up to 20 years in prison, according to authorities. Each of the transportation and receipt charges carry minimum-mandatory sentences of five years.

    Mangione, who worked as a federal agent for nearly three decades, was arrested Tuesday by Broward sheriff’s deputies and FBI agents on charges of receiving and possessing digital images of child pornography on his computer. They arrested him outside a Publix supermarket in Coral Springs.

    As special agent in charge of ICE’s South Florida office, Mangione often praised the agency’s efforts to fight child pornography in both the cyber and real worlds.

    Mangione had planned to retire this summer. He served his entire federal career with ICE and its predecessor, the U.S. Customs Service.

    When word leaked out about the investigation in April, federal officials privately expressed shock about the allegations.

    Mangione grew up in Rhode Island, graduated from the University of Maine and started his career as a clerk typist at Customs 27 years ago.

    He began his South Florida Customs career hunting down dope smugglers.

    He was later transferred to the Washington office. Mangione’s biggest case, during a tour of duty in Customs’ headquarters, came in the mid-1990s. As the head of financial investigations, he supervised a team of Customs agents in Los Angeles that dismantled a Colombian-Mexican drug money-laundering network run by cartels and bankers.

    Mangione tapped that experience to develop more complex investigations in his new Customs post: head of the Fort Lauderdale office, in 2001. Six years later, he was promoted to the top ICE job in command of all of South Florida.

    He managed a department stretching from Fort Pierce to Key West that investigates both immigration and customs cases, a hybrid mission resulting from the creation of the Department of Homeland Security after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

    Note that he was head of the Fort Lauderdale customs office from 2001 to 2007. That’s troubling on its own given the high potential for blackmail and the incredible volume of illicit trafficking that could flow through that region.

    And then there’s the stuff Hopsicker dug up down there….

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 26, 2011, 12:10 am
  4. In old articles on Azima scandal, I found this:

    ——
    Names of individuals and companies linked to the enterprise surface regularly at several failed lending institutions. Among the most familiar of these are Frank Castro, Farhad Azima, Adnan Khashoggi, Global Interna- tional Airways, Southern Air Transport, and the Egyptian- American Transport and Services Corp.

    One of these figures is Frank Castro, a Cuban exile recruited by the C.I.A. to overthrow the Castro Gov- emment. The Postreported that he was part of a drug smuggling ring that pur- chased Miami’s Sunshine State Bank.

    Castro was arrested in 1983 by the Drug Enforce- ment Agency for smuggling 425,000 tons of marijuana into the United States.

    The drug charges against Castro were dropped in June 1984, after he began training Contras at a camp near Naples, Fla.

    http://www.romeroinstitute.org/docs/Christic%20scan%20archives%201/Convergence/Fall%201990.pdf
    ——–

    “began training Contras at a camp near Naples, Fla.”

    Posted by adam | August 23, 2016, 8:29 am
  5. The AP has an interesting piece on Farhad Azima, a figure who shows up in everything from Iran Contra to Wally Hilliard’s 9/11-connected flight school, that has some interesting echos to the recent hacking of Qatar’s news service that created a diplomatic crisis and subsequent email hack of Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the US. The piece discusses Azima’s history of working with the CIA and how his apparent untouchable status is now in question with US investigators looking into allegations Azima bribed the government of Georgia while he was mediating the sale of a Tblisi hotel to three Iranian investors. The hotel was owned by the UAE sheikhdom of Ras al-Khaimah and now that sheikhdom is suing Azima for allegedly secretly trying to profit from the deal by arranging for a 10 percent state for himself.

    Here’s where we get the echos of the current bout of Middle Eastern government hacks: Last year, Azima’s emails were hacked and leaked on the internet and Azima is suing Ras al-Khaimah for arranging for the hack. And in those hacked emails we find discussion of Denx LLC, a business partnership that Azima appears to have owned along with two former CIA officers, Gary Berntsen and Scott Modell. And what were they discussing? A plot to overthrow the Kuwaiti monarchy on behalf of a disgruntled royal family member who wanted to install “new, bolder, more energetic leadership” by triggering mass protests.

    So it’s going to be interesting to see how that bribery investigation goes given Azima’s apparent ongoing relationship with the CIA (or at least former CIA agents who are in the government-overthrow business) :

    The Associated Press

    ‘Worth killing over’: How a plane mogul dodged US scrutiny

    By Jon Gambrell, Jack Gillum and Jeff Horwitz
    June 21, 2017 at 2:22 AM

    WASHINGTON — When a Kansas strip-mall bank with possible mob ties folded in the mid-1980s, federal authorities investigated whether a shareholder, Iranian-born aviation magnate Farhad Azima, should face criminal charges.

    The probe hit a dead end. Azima, a U.S. citizen, essentially had a get-out-of-jail-free card because of secretive work he had performed for the U.S. government, a former federal prosecutor involved in the case said. Azima, a gunrunner later tied to the CIA, was never prosecuted.

    If he’s enjoyed a loose, informal immunity for years, it is now being tested as authorities in the U.S. and abroad probe Azima as part of a global corruption case.

    Investigators are examining whether Azima, now 75, paid a kickback to a former United Arab Emirates official to reap the profits from a hotel sale in Tbilisi, Georgia. U.S. law enforcement began looking into the deal because Iranians involved were later blacklisted by the Treasury Department, accused of helping Iran avoid sanctions over its nuclear program

    More recently, Azima was involved in a plan envisioning mass protests in Kuwait forcing out its government, apparently on behalf of a disgruntled member of the ruling family.

    An Associated Press examination into his past, drawing upon interviews, court filings and a recently obtained trove of his hacked emails, reveals a man whose web of international business interests helped him make millions from federal contracts. A former comptroller for one of his firms also described his company’s work with the CIA.

    Through a spokesman, Azima declined to answer written questions from the AP or to be interviewed. He acknowledged his secretive work to his local newspaper last year, while sidestepping questions about his ties to the CIA.

    “I’ve never been employed by the CIA,” he told The Kansas City Star, though he acknowledged he may have been indirectly contracted. “I’ve done classified work. . It’s not working for the KGB or the enemy. I’m proud of it.”

    Jeffrey Fegley, the former comptroller of Global Airways, described the airline as a “seat-of-your-pants operation” run by brave pilots who flew cargo into hotspots worldwide.

    “I was simply the bookkeeper, the guy who filled up the briefcases with $100,000 worth of small bills so you could bribe the ground crew to get your cargo unloaded in a foreign land,” Fegley told the AP. “Other than that,” he said dryly, “it was just business as usual.”

    Asked who the airline’s main clients were, Fegley said a “reputable agency.”

    Asked again, he was more direct: “CIA.

    These ventures continued as federal investigators in the 1980s began looking into the collapse of a small bank in Kansas City, Kansas, part of a nationwide investigation into financial institutions during the savings and loan crisis. The collapse drew questions because a lawyer suspected of Mafia connections was among its directors.

    Azima was a director, too, and owed the bank hundreds of thousands of dollars for outstanding loans to his airline.

    But the investigation of Azima was stymied by higher-ups, who offered no clear reason why.

    “It became apparent that we were not able to pursue prosecution of Azima,” Lloyd Monroe, a retired prosecutor with the Justice Department’s organized-crime task force in Kansas City, told the AP. “It was a source of real tension.”

    Now Azima is under scrutiny again by both Emirati and U.S. authorities over a planned hotel deal in Tbilisi in 2011.

    When the hotel’s owner — the UAE sheikhdom of Ras al-Khaimah — was looking to sell, Azima stepped in to mediate a deal for three would-be Iranian buyers. Ras al-Khaimah, like Dubai, is one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, a staunch U.S. ally on the Arabian Peninsula.

    Now Ras al-Khaimah accuses him of improperly trying to profit from the deal by secretly arranging a 10-percent stake in the hotel for himself with the Iranians. Azima denies the allegations, saying Ras al-Khaimah knew details of the hotel deal.

    Meanwhile, investigators this year considered whether Azima’s activities in Georgia violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it illegal to bribe foreign governments. Discussions about Azima focused partly on the hotel deal and numerous accounts he has at a Midwest bank, according to a person familiar with the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity because the conversations were not to be made public.

    Azima also filed his own lawsuit against Ras al-Khaimah in federal court in Washington, accusing it of taking advantage of, or orchestrating, the hack of his emails.

    The email cache, which was leaked on the internet last year, brought to light other Azima ventures.

    One was a business partnership, Denx LLC, that he appears to have owned along with two former CIA officers, Gary Berntsen and Scott Modell. Their names appear in the leaked documents along with the amounts of their initial capital contributions.

    The firm devised a scheme, apparently on behalf of a Kuwaiti ruling family member, to install “new, bolder, more energetic leadership” in the Gulf nation.

    “The stakes are very, very high ($30+ billion) and are easily worth killing over,” it reads.

    It was unclear whether Denx’s plans were ever put into action. Both Modell and Berntsen told the AP that they knew nothing of the Kuwait plan, though an email address identified as Berntsen’s in other correspondence sent Azima the PowerPoint slide deck outlining it.

    “We wrote proposals up and we didn’t execute any of this,” said Bernsten, who told the AP that he was in charge of the overall Denx venture, which is now defunct. He said that Modell and another participant in Denx dropped out shortly after its creation. He also said that he would not have taken part in an effort to undermine a U.S. ally.

    ———-

    “‘Worth killing over’: How a plane mogul dodged US scrutiny” by Jon Gambrell, Jack Gillum and Jeff Horwitz; The Associated Press; 06/21/2017

    “If he’s enjoyed a loose, informal immunity for years, it is now being tested as authorities in the U.S. and abroad probe Azima as part of a global corruption case.”

    The guy certainly knows how to stay busy. And note that Azima’s present day activities don’t just include shady hotel deals and planned government overthrows. There’s also the arms deals, as star Wall Street Journal report Jay Solomon recently reported on recently participated in:

    The Washington Post

    Reporter Jay Solomon fired by Wall Street Journal over report of business dealings with source

    By Ben Terris
    June 21, 2017 at 6:49 PM

    At 3:08 pm on Wednesday, the Washington bureau of the Wall Street Journal received a cryptic email from their chief, Paul Beckett.

    “Short-Notice staff Meeting at 3:15,” read the subject. The team of 40 was told to gather at their usual spot. “We won’t need chairs,” he added. “It will be short.”

    Soon enough, Beckett delivered to the jittery group the news many had half-anticipated: Ace national security reporter Jay Solomon, whose desk had earlier that day been cleared off, had been fired. But as for the reason, Beckett said they’d have to read a forthcoming report from the Associated Press.

    Minutes later, that story hit the bureau like a bombshell: Solomon had been fired, the AP reported, after “evidence emerged of his involvement in prospective commercial deals — including one involving arms sales to foreign governments — with an international businessman who was one of his key sources.”

    According to the report, Solomon had been offered a 10 percent stake in a new company by an Iranian-born aviation magnate named Farhad Azima. Solomon told the AP he never “entered into any business dealings” with his source and never intended to. The Journal wouldn’t confirm or deny this part of the report but apparently saw enough to let him go.

    “We are dismayed by the actions and poor judgment of Jay Solomon,” the Journal said in a statement. “The allegations raised by this reporting are serious. While our own investigation continues, we have concluded that Mr. Solomon violated his ethical obligations as a reporter, as well as our standards. He has not been forthcoming with us about his actions or his reporting practices and he has forfeited our trust. Mr. Solomon is no longer employed by The Wall Street Journal.”

    Solomon is no slouch. His work covering national security and foreign affairs had been submitted by the paper for Pulitzer consideration, according to former and current Journal employees. He’s the author of a book about Iran and is widely considered among the staff to be a favorite of Editor in Chief Gerard Baker, who would often praise him in editors’ meetings.

    Solomon’s two decades at the Journal included stints in Asia and Africa. While in Washington, he had become a well-sourced fixture on the foreign policy social scene. He’s known to have a close working relationship with Yousef al-Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the United States.

    He had drawn criticism, though, from some colleagues and government officials who perceived his work to show a bias against the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran. In his 2016 book, “The Iran Wars,” Solomon wrote that the deal “rather than calming the world’s most combustible region, risks inflaming it.”

    No one, however, saw him as a potential business partner with his sources. That is, until the Associated Press, in the course of reporting another story, came across emails and text messages between Solomon and Azima that Azima’s lawyers said were stolen by hackers. Over the past three decades, Azima has been tied to the Iran-contra affair, dealt weapons to Persian Gulf and Balkan nations, and worked his ample connections in Washington.

    Hours before the Solomon story broke, the AP reported that Azima, 75, is under investigation on suspicions that he bribed a former UAE official in order to reap profits from a hotel sale in Tbilisi, Georgia. It was in the process of reporting this story that reporters came across his correspondence with Solomon.

    In April 2015, the AP reported Wednesday, Azima wrote to Solomon about a possible $725 million contract with the United Arab Emirates, in which he asked the reporter to bring the proposal to a UAE government representative he was lunching with the following day.

    “We all wish best of luck to Jay on his first defense deal,” Azima wrote to Solomon and others in the email.

    And the exchanges went both ways. In one particularly suspect instance from October 2014, Solomon texted Azima: “Our business opportunities are so promising.”

    On Wednesday, Solomon expressed regrets for his actions while at the same time insisting that things weren’t quite as bad as they may look.

    “I clearly made mistakes in my reporting and entered into a world I didn’t understand.” Solomon told the AP on Wednesday. “I never entered into any business with Farhad Azima, nor did I ever intend to. But I understand why the emails and the conversations I had with Mr. Azima may look like I was involved in some seriously troubling activities. I apologize to my bosses and colleagues at the Journal, who were nothing but great to me.”

    ———-

    “Reporter Jay Solomon fired by Wall Street Journal over report of business dealings with source” by Ben Terris; The Washington Post; 06/21/2017

    “According to the report, Solomon had been offered a 10 percent stake in a new company by an Iranian-born aviation magnate named Farhad Azima. Solomon told the AP he never “entered into any business dealings” with his source and never intended to. The Journal wouldn’t confirm or deny this part of the report but apparently saw enough to let him go.”

    Uh oh. Yeah, that sounds like a conflict of interest. And note one of Solomon’s key journalistic interests that could be extra conflicted by getting into business with a American-Iranian global shady operator with CIA ties: Solomon is known for his reporting on Iran and his opposition to the US/Iran nuclear arms deal with Iran:


    Solomon is no slouch. His work covering national security and foreign affairs had been submitted by the paper for Pulitzer consideration, according to former and current Journal employees. He’s the author of a book about Iran and is widely considered among the staff to be a favorite of Editor in Chief Gerard Baker, who would often praise him in editors’ meetings.

    Solomon’s two decades at the Journal included stints in Asia and Africa. While in Washington, he had become a well-sourced fixture on the foreign policy social scene. He’s known to have a close working relationship with Yousef al-Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the United States.

    He had drawn criticism, though, from some colleagues and government officials who perceived his work to show a bias against the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran. In his 2016 book, “The Iran Wars,” Solomon wrote that the deal “rather than calming the world’s most combustible region, risks inflaming it.”

    And guess which of Azima’s companies Solomon was offered that 10 percent stake in to help negotiate arms deals: Denx LLC:

    Associated Press

    Wall Street Journal fires correspondent over ethics conflict

    By JEFF HORWITZ, JON GAMBRELL and JACK GILLUM
    06/21/2017

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday fired its highly regarded chief foreign affairs correspondent after evidence emerged of his involvement in prospective commercial deals — including one involving arms sales to foreign governments — with an international businessman who was one of his key sources.

    The reporter, Jay Solomon, was offered a 10 percent stake in a fledgling company, Denx LLC, by Farhad Azima, an Iranian-born aviation magnate who has ferried weapons for the CIA. It was not clear whether Solomon ever received money or formally accepted a stake in the company.

    “We are dismayed by the actions and poor judgment of Jay Solomon,” Wall Street Journal spokesman Steve Severinghaus wrote in a statement to The Associated Press. “While our own investigation continues, we have concluded that Mr. Solomon violated his ethical obligations as a reporter, as well as our standards.”

    Azima was the subject of an AP investigative article published Tuesday. During the course of its investigation, the AP obtained emails and text messages between Azima and Solomon, as well as an operating agreement for Denx dated March 2015, which listed an apparent stake for Solomon.

    As part of its reporting, the AP had asked the Journal about the documents appearing to link Solomon and Azima. The relationship was uncovered in interviews and in internal documents that Azima’s lawyer said were stolen by hackers.

    “I clearly made mistakes in my reporting and entered into a world I didn’t understand.” Solomon told the AP on Wednesday. “I never entered into any business with Farhad Azima, nor did I ever intend to. But I understand why the emails and the conversations I had with Mr. Azima may look like I was involved in some seriously troubling activities. I apologize to my bosses and colleagues at the Journal, who were nothing but great to me.”

    Two other Denx partners — ex-CIA employees Gary Bernsten and Scott Modell — told the AP that Solomon was involved in discussing proposed deals with Azima at the same time he continued to cultivate the businessman as a source for his stories for the Journal. Bernsten and Modell said Solomon withdrew from the venture shortly after business efforts began and that the venture never added up to much. They provided no evidence as to when Solomon withdrew.

    The emails and texts reviewed by the AP — tens of thousands of pages covering more than eight years — included more than 18 months of communications involving the apparent business effort. Some messages described a need for Solomon’s Social Security number to file the company’s taxes, but there was no evidence Solomon provided it.

    Denx was shuttered last year, according to Florida business registration records.

    In an April 2015 email, Azima wrote to Solomon about a proposal for a $725 million air-operations, surveillance and reconnaissance support contract with the United Arab Emirates that would allow planes to spy on activity inside nearby Iran. Solomon was supposed to ferry the proposal to UAE government representatives at a lunch the following day, the email said.

    “We all wish best of luck to Jay on his first defense sale,” Azima wrote to Solomon, Bernsten and Modell.

    Under the proposed UAE deal, Azima’s firms were to manage specially equipped surveillance planes to monitor activity in Iran, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

    In October 2014, Solomon wrote to Azima in a text message: “Our business opportunities are so promising.”

    In another message that same month, Solomon asked Azima whether he had told a mutual friend about their business plans.

    “Hell no!” Azima replied.

    The emails show Solomon’s relationship with Azima began professionally, as the reporter cultivated the businessman as a source of information about Iranian money in a Georgian hotel deal and other matters. A review of Solomon’s published work over the past four years indicated Azima never appeared by name in the newspaper.

    The hacked materials also demonstrate that Azima cultivated close relationships with fellow Western and American journalists, including those at the AP, and frequently communicated with them by phone, text and email. None appeared to involve the same level of personal involvement or referenced potential business deals.

    Veteran journalists at prominent outlets such as the Journal have contacts, expertise and influence that can be valuable in the business world, said Kelly McBride, a vice president for the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism education center based in St. Petersburg, Florida. But seeking to exploit those assets while a journalist would betray readers’ trust in a reporter’s impartiality.

    Over decades, Azima has glided among different worlds, flying weapons to the Balkans, selling spy gear to Persian Gulf nations, dealing with a small Midwest bank and navigating Washington’s power circles. In an April 2016 memo, a public relations firm he worked with, Prime Strategies, suggested Solomon could be called upon to “write a feature story about Farhad” to help combat negative coverage.

    In May 2015, Bernsten — using an email under the alias “The Vicar” — told Azima of a plan to help a dissident member of the Kuwaiti royal family instigate public protests over corruption with the goal of bringing down the nation’s government. Though the Kuwaiti plan involved Denx, Solomon was not included in the emails and said he knew nothing about it. It does not appear the plans were ever executed, as 87-year-old Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah remains in power.

    ———-

    “Wall Street Journal fires correspondent over ethics conflict” by JEFF HORWITZ, JON GAMBRELL and JACK GILLUM; Associated Press; 06/21/2017

    “In May 2015, Bernsten — using an email under the alias “The Vicar” — told Azima of a plan to help a dissident member of the Kuwaiti royal family instigate public protests over corruption with the goal of bringing down the nation’s government. Though the Kuwaiti plan involved Denx, Solomon was not included in the emails and said he knew nothing about it. It does not appear the plans were ever executed, as 87-year-old Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah remains in power.”

    Well, at least in Solomon’s defense he apparently wasn’t involved with the Kuwaiti revolution plot. But we can’t say the some about the plan to turn Azima’s firms into the UAE’s flying spy service:


    In an April 2015 email, Azima wrote to Solomon about a proposal for a $725 million air-operations, surveillance and reconnaissance support contract with the United Arab Emirates that would allow planes to spy on activity inside nearby Iran. Solomon was supposed to ferry the proposal to UAE government representatives at a lunch the following day, the email said.

    “We all wish best of luck to Jay on his first defense sale,” Azima wrote to Solomon, Bernsten and Modell.

    Under the proposed UAE deal, Azima’s firms were to manage specially equipped surveillance planes to monitor activity in Iran, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

    In October 2014, Solomon wrote to Azima in a text message: “Our business opportunities are so promising.”

    So we have a long-time Iranian-American CIA associate offering a star Wall Street Journal reporter, who specializes on Iranian affairs, a 10 percent stake in a business that includes two other ex-CIA agent business partners. And this business offered services like fomenting revolutions and/or major military contracting. It’s kind of a reporter’s dream story. With one notable exception of course.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 21, 2017, 8:34 pm

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