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Falling to Earth: September 11th Flight School Operator Rudi Dekkers Arrested for Drug Trafficking

[1]COMMENT: For years, we’ve been covering Daniel Hopsicker’s heroic investigation into the “9/11 flight schools” in Southern Florida, Huffman Aviation, in particular.

In a major break in the case, Huffman Aviation chief Rudi Dekkers was arrested for drug trafficking in Houston.

It would be impossible to do justice to that lengthy, vital investigation but a number of key points need to be made:

“FINALLY! Ruki Dekkers Behind Bars for Drug Trafficking” by Daniel Hopsicker; Mad Cow Morning News; 12/14/2012 [20]

EXCERPT: The long run of Rudi Dekkers, 56, the Dutch national who first passed out bunks to Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi when they arrived in the United States to enroll at Huffman Aviation in Venice, Florida, ended last week when he was arrested for drug trafficking in Houston.

Before relating the details of ‘what went down in Houston,’ a little ‘back story’ on Dekkers, who is an historically important figure:
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, it was Rudi Dekkers’ running account of the character and personality of Mohamed Atta and the other terrorists which transfixed a nation and the world. He was everywhere on television.

Even though it seemed to many observers that he was making it up as he went along, Dekkers fixed an image of the hijackers that changed remarkably little in the years that followed.

Marwan was the jolly one. Atta was rude. Dekkers’ didn’t like him, he asserted, ever more emphatically. He just didn’t.

On the day after the attack, Dekkers denied to reporters that he’d ever talked to Atta or Al-Shehhi, There were dozens of foreign students at the school, he said, and he was a very busy man. But his memory shortly seemed to improve.

Later, the operations manager at the second Dekkers/Hilliard flight school (in Naples) told me someone she thought was an FBI agent had been coaching him behind the scenes. . . .

. . . Over the next decade I filed dozens of stories presenting evidence that Huffman Aviation in Venice Florida was like no other flight school in America; that while the terrorist hijackers were practicing “touch and go’s” on the runway outside, what owner Wally Hilliard and manager Rudi Dekkers were running looked very much like a continuing criminal enterprise. (On Sunday, a representative sampling of those stories will be re-published here.)

For example, three weeks after Atta showed up at Huffman Aviation, the flight school’s owner, Wally Hilliard, had his Learjet (N351WB) seized on a runway at Orlando Executive Airport. It carrying 43 lbs of heroin. In the drug business, that amount of heroin is what is known as “heavy weight.”

At the time of the bust, July of 2001, something like 80% of the world’s heroin came from Afganistan, where Atta is known to have spent time. Osama bin Laden still lived there. . . .

. . . . Dekkers first came to the attention of U.S. law enforcement in 1996, according to sources who worked with him at the Naples Airport. He was the subject of a multi-agency Federal task force, investigating allegations, and numerous sources said they were much more than mere allegations, that Dekkers was exporting state-of-the-art computer memory chips out of the U.S. illegally.

However, no charges were ever filed. In the case of someone who’s been the subject of a multiple agency task force, this is highly unusual. An executive who worked at Naples Airport, directly under Wally Hilliard, said, “You don’t get the FBI, US Customs, and the DEA, on your ass all at once for singing too loud in church.”

The suspicion among aviation observers in SW Florida was, and remains, that Dekkers was offered—and accepted—some kind of deal. Last week, in Houston, for an as-yet unknown reason Rudi Dekkers’ finally ran out of “get out of jail free” cards. . . .