Tag Archives: mercenaries

Balkans Scrapbook – remembering the Yugoslav Civil War through news cuttings, photographs and documentaries (plus Bolivian adventurers, Hungarian fascists, Irish bouncers, British spy cops…)

See http://davecinzano.wordpress.com for more info

I’ve long been interested in the Balkans and the break up of the former Yugoslavia, so it’s good to see Balkan Scrapbook, a blog pulling together newspaper clippings, pictures and documentary film on what went down in the early 1990s.

It’s not been up long, but there’s already some interesting content, with new stuff being uploaded all the time. The focus at the moment seems to be on foreign fighters taking part in the conflict, and the death of journalist Paul Jenks near Osijek in east Slavonia, Croatia. Jenks was investigating the earlier death of Swiss reporter Chritian Würtenberg, who himself had joined the International Platoon (PIV) fighting with the Croatian HOS militia whilst looking into links between it and a pan-European fascist network. John Sweeney (he of shouting-at-Scientologists fame) was a colleague and a friend, and he returned to Osijek nearly three years after Jenks’ death to try and uncover what had happened – which made for a riveting documentary film, Dying For The Truth, which opened the Travels With My Camera strand on Channel 4.

The whole torrid tale brought together damaged ex-servicemen in search of excitement, wannabe warriors, and some seriously scary political soldiers – not least Eduardo Rózsa-Flores, a Bolivian-born Hungarian-Spanish Catholic fascist (try saying that in a hurry) who came to lead the PIV. Flores had turned up in Croatia ostensibly to work as a journalist, but soon set up the PIV under the patronage of Branimir Glavaš, a regional powerbroker subsequently convicted of war crimes.

After the deaths of Würtenberg and Jenks, and a third PIV volunteer, Anthony Mann Grant – all blamed on Serbs, but with many unanswered questions hanging in the air – Flores did a runner to Zagreb, before melting away from the Balkans. Ultimately he was involved in a right-wing secessionist movement in Bolivia, and he was shot dead by security forces there in 2009, alongside fellow mercenaries Mario Tadic, a Croatian, and Előd Tóásó, variously described as a Romanian and a Hungarian, plus Irishman Michael Dwyer.

Dwyer had been a security thug working at Shell’s Corrib gas pipeline project in County Mayo, where Integrated Risk Management Services had accrued a reputation for violence against environmental protesters, before he was apparently recruited for the Bolivian adventure by other IRMS goons with a background in Magyar autonomist politics. As if to demonstrate how the world is getting smaller, the Metropolitan Police’s “vancop” agent provocateur PC Mark Kennedy, AKA Mark ‘Flash’ Stone, had previously infiltrated the anti-Corrib activist groups, which were of great interest to Irish and British police as well as business interests and private security groups.

But I digress – if you’re interested in the former Yugoslavia and all that happened there in recent history, then keep an eye on Balkan Scrapbook.

Edited 9 September 2012 to reflect move of blog.

When Craig met Tim

When on my second day in my new office I received a friendly phone call from Lt.-Col Tim Spicer saying he wished to come and see me, it rang no alarm bells with me. The defence industry is full of newly retired military personnel, and we provide military training to governments all around the world. I should confess that I didn’t yet on 6 January 1998 mentally attach the word “mercenary” to Sandline, and I did not connect Sandline with Executive Outcomes during that initial telephone conversation with Spicer.

As Spicer briefly explained it, Sandline were involved in providing security to expatriate companies in Sierra Leone and training to forces loyal to the legitimate government of Sierra Leone. Spicer asked if he could come to see me and brief me on what his company was doing, and I readily agreed. I felt I could do with all the briefing I could get.

The next day I mentioned Spicer’s call to John Everard, my predecessor as Deputy Head, who was engaged in a week’s handover with me. John asked if I was sure I wanted to meet Spicer. He said that as our policy was to avoid further military conflict in Sierra Leone, he had thought it best to avoid direct contact with Spicer, and to have only telephone contact with him.

It had not occurred to me that there could be a problem, and I was a bit taken aback by what John had said. But it would be difficult now for me to cancel the appointment I had agreed.

I thought it through, and decided that I really couldn’t see the moral difference between having a conversation on the telephone, as John Everard did, and having it face to face. Indeed you could sum someone up much better if you could see their body language rather than just hear their voice. I spoke to Tim Andrews, head of the section which included Sierra Leone, who told me that it was indeed very sensitive, but that Spicer had been chasing a contract to train forces loyal to President Kabbah. Tim agreed with my suggestion that we should see Spicer, as we needed to know what was happening. But Tim did mention he believed Sandline were connected to Executive Outcomes. That put me on my guard.

Perhaps I should have researched further. But I was in just my second
day in a big new job. I had 21 new countries to update myself on, involving thousands of pages of material to read through. I worked over a hundred hours that first week. I decided Spicer could wait until I met him. I didn’t particularly see him as a danger to me.

I underestimated Spicer. That was a bad error of judgement. 19 January, the day that Tim Spicer arrived, was extremely busy. We had ministerial briefings and parliamentary questions on Sierra Leone and a consular crisis in Nigeria. So when I was informed that Colonel Spicer was here to see me, it took me a few seconds to recall who he was.

As he was shown up, I asked Tim Andrews to come and sit in with me and take a note of the conversation. You would normally only do this for important visitors – otherwise you would just make a brief note yourself after the meeting – but given John Everard’s words of caution, I thought it was probably wise to have Tim Andrews present. Besides, he knew the subject much better than I yet did.

Tim Spicer was short for a soldier, but well built and exceedingly well manicured and coiffured. His conventional good looks were marred by a slight hooding of the eyes or squint. He wore the thin, inch apart pinstripes that seem to be universally favoured by the British military out of uniform. He smelt of expensive after-shave.

Spicer told us that Sandline now had a contract to provide training to the Kamajors, a militia force loyal to Sam Hinga Norman and currently prepared to fight for President Kabbah. He said that the aim was to prepare the Kamajors for a quick campaign, in support of the Nigerian-led ECOMOG forces, to retake Sierra Leone from the RUF and military junta. The contract covered training and “non-lethal” equipment. Spicer used the phrase “non-lethal” several times, and I took it as his intention to stress that he was not providing weapons and was therefore acting legally.

I told him that we did not favour a military solution and that any armed intervention by ECOMOG would require prior agreement from the UN Security Council; it was essential that any such military action be as quick and limited as possible. The laws of armed conflict and the human rights of civilians must be respected.

I asked Spicer, who was funding the Sandline contract, and why? He replied that he was not free to tell me who was funding it, but that it related to the securing of some mineral assets within the country. I asked him who Sandline were? I had heard that they were related to Executive Outcomes, whose reputation in Africa was not good. Were Sandline related to Executive Outcomes, and was Mr Tony Buckingham involved in Sandline?

Spicer replied that he did not have authority to discuss Sandline’s corporate structure or confidential business matters. He was here to brief me on the wider situation with regard to their strategy on Sierra Leone.

Spicer then said that he had intelligence that the junta may be attempting to acquire Eastern European weapons, shipped via Nigeria. I said that we could ask the Nigerian government to intercept any such weapons shipments under UN Security Council Resolution 1132. I asked Tim Andrews to show him the relevant passage.

Tim Andrews did not have a copy of the resolution on him, so he went back to his own office to get one. He took it down from where it was pinned, on the cork board behind the desk officer Linda St Cook’s desk. He returned to my room and read aloud the appropriate clause:

Decides that all States shall prevent the sale or supply to Sierra Leone, by their nationals or from their territories, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of petroleum and petroleum products and arms and related matériel of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment and spare parts for the aforementioned, whether or not originating in their territory;

Spicer responded to this by saying that he had understood that the UNSCR applied only to the RUF, and not to the government. I said that this was wrong, and that it was a geographic prohibition covering the whole country.

Spicer then asked whether the prohibition applied to ”dual-use” items, which could have either a military or a civilian application. He gave the example of night vision equipment, which he said could be used by the military or in mining. I said that such “dual-use” items would be subject to export control licensing by the Department of Trade and Industry, who would consult other departments including the FCO and MOD.

Spicer then asked if military items could be exported to a neighbouring country such as Guinea, and then on to Sierra Leone. I said no, they couldn’t.

While it was now obvious to me that Spicer was really considering the potential for himself to export arms to the government of Sierra Leone, I felt that Tim Andrews and I had made it plain that this was not allowed. The language of the Resolution which Tim Andrews read out to Spicer is admirably plain. I was surprised that a former British Army Lieutenant Colonel, who must by training have been familiar with UN Security Council Resolutions in conflict situations and how to interpret them, appeared to be quite so ignorant of the basic rules governing his operations in a theatre in which he was already involved. But I took it that this was because his existing contract covered only training and non-lethal equipment, as he had stated, and he was just making preliminary enquiries about the possibility of expanding this to include arms.

I am quite certain that, when Tim Andrews read Spicer the Security Council Resolution, he did not say anything like “Well, that’s awkward, because the contract we expect to sign does include the sale of weapons”.

It was not only to Tim Andrews and I that Spicer went out of his way to stress that his contract was for “non-lethal” equipment. My first day in the Department had been 5 January, but as is FCO practice I had a few days “handover” from my predecessor who was still doing the job for the first few days. On 5 January John Everard had sent a minute to Ann Grant to say that Spicer had told Everard that his contract would include medical and communications equipment “and nothing higher profile”.

It has been put to me, not least at the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, that I must have realised that a £10 million contract included arms. But in fact such contracts, not including arms, were an established feature of the region. In particular, the Nigerian-led ECOMOG forces which were occupying Liberia, and which we believed might be going on to invade Sierra Leone, received their supplies, training, transportation and logistic support from the United States government via a company called Pacific and Atlantic Engineering. Their role specifically excluded the provision of weapons. Their funding, totalling some US$40 million a year, included contributions from the German and Dutch governments.

I presumed that Spicer was indicating a prospective contract with Kabbah that would be similar in scope to the Pacific and Atlantic contract, and took that to be what he meant when he kept emphasising the term “non-lethal”. [Spicer gives a quite different account of this meeting. See Tim Spicer, 'An Unorthodox Soldier', pp198-200]

Nonetheless, I felt worried by my meeting with Spicer. He had refused to clarify Sandline’s ownership, and his repeated questioning on the possibility of sending arms to Sierra Leone led me to think that he was looking to add arms to training in the future. All in all, I had found him not straight. I therefore nipped three doors along the corridor to see Ann Grant, and told her that, having met Spicer, I was worried about his intentions and didn’t trust him, and that I proposed to tell the Department to break contact with him. Ann agreed with my proposal, and I went immediately to let Tim Andrews and Linda St Cook know of my decision.

Spicer later claimed that he informed the FCO at our meeting that he was exporting arms, and that the FCO (i.e. I) gave approval. But both Tim Andrews and I were to make formal, independent statements to Customs and Excise in which we both stated that Spicer had emphasised that he was exporting non-lethal equipment. We both also independently stated that, when Spicer raised questions over arms exports, Tim Andrews read him the Resolution to show that any arms exports would be illegal. John Everard had minuted that Spicer had told him that he was supplying medical and communications equipment “and nothing higher profile”.

Yet much of the media and most of the political establishment preferred to take the unsupported word of a mercenary – that he had told us about supplying arms – against all three of us.

Why would that be?

Well, the Conservative Party saw the “Arms to Africa affair” as their first real chance to hit the Blair government – still only seven months old – with a scandal. They desperately wanted Spicer to be telling the truth and the FCO to have connived at breaking the law, preferably with ministerial knowledge. Conservatives were comforted in this view by the fact that Tim Spicer was a public schoolboy and a former Lt Colonel of a Guards regiment. He was a gentleman, and socially very well connected, with friends in the royal family. Such people never tell lies, while John Everard, Tim Andrews and I were all irredeemably middle class.

This struck me forcibly when I was talking to a friend of mine, an officer in the Ministry of Defence. I told him that Spicer was not telling the truth when he said that I had approved of the shipment of arms. My friend (I believe it was Colonel Andrew Jocelyn, but it may have been another) winced and said “But he’s godfather to one of my children.” To many influential people in Britain, the idea that a senior Guards officer might lie was unthinkable – it struck at the root of their entire belief system.

Support for Spicer from Conservatives was predictable. But I had not realised that influence would be exerted on behalf of Spicer from 10 Downing Street. Our policy on Sierra Leone was to seek a solution by peaceful means. I am sure that was what Robin Cook favoured; I discussed it with him several times. But in No. 10 and in parts of the FCO, particularly the United Nations Department, they were starting to formulate the Blair doctrine of radical military interventionism that was to lead Tony Blair to launch more wars than any other British Prime Minister. [See John Kampfner; 'Blair’s Wars']

A fundamental part of this new Blair doctrine was to be the ultimate privatisation – the privatisation of killing. Mercenary troops were seen as having many advantages for quick aggressive campaigns in third world countries. Regular government forces had been configured to fight huge battles against other regular forces. Mercenaries were more flexible and less constrained by regulation.

If you consider what “less constrained” really means in terms of shooting up civilians, it is remarkable that this was viewed as an advantage. Still more remarkably, this policy of military intervention in the developing world had many adherents in DFID, where it was being promoted under the slogan that “Security is a precondition of development”.

The “Sandline” or “Arms to Africa” affair has been presented by its proponents as a noble attempt to restore democratic government to Sierra Leone, hampered by pettifogging bureaucrats. In fact, it was nothing of the kind, but a deeply squalid plot to corner the market in Sierra Leone’s blood diamonds.

pp19-25 of Craig Murray’s new book, The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known, the full text of which he has just posted on the internet. You may download a 226 page PDF of it here, or, indeed, here. (It’s only 1.1Mb big.)

It is a book which libel lawyers Schillings managed to persuade original publishers Mainstream to drop after flexing its muscles on behalf of client Tim Spicer, the freebooting mercenary boss. Murray insists the book is not libellous and has stood firm, offering both the free PDF and a privately printed physical version in defiance of the lawyerly intimidation.

I look forward to reading the whole thing.

Sugaring Spicer: the sensitive side of a professional gun

Tim Spicer <3 blue shirts and big shiny guns

Tim Spicer <3 blue shirts and big shiny guns

Former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray is being threatened by lawyers representing the globetrotting mercenary Tim Spicer.

The full text of the letter to Murray’s publishers Mainstream from Spicer’s solicitors Schillings (as taken from the PDF of the letter as hosted on Craig Murray’s blog) is as follows:

PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL
Mainstream Publishing Company (Edinburgh) Limited
7 Albany Street
Edinburgh
Scotland
EHl 3UG

BY POST AND FAX: 0131 556 8720

Our Ref: SMS/JXR/ww/A131/3

ON THE RECORD
NOT FOR PUBLICATION

08 July 2008

Dear Sirs

The Road to Samarkand – Craig Murray

We represent Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Spicer OBE, C.E.O. of Aegis Defence Services Limited (“Aegis”).

We are instructed to write to you with regard to ‘THE ROAD TO SAMARKAND- INTRIGUE, CORRUPTION AND DIRTY DIPLOMACY’ (“the Book”) written by Craig Murray and due to be published in September 2009 by you
(http://www.rbooks.co.uk/search results.aspx) to be sold in England and Wales by Random House Sales Department.

We have reason to believe that the Book may contain serious, untrue and damaging defamatory allegations about our client.

Please confirm by return whether the Book is due to be published in England and Wales in September 2008 and if so, the exact date. please also confirm whether the Book is due to be published in any other jurisdiction, setting out each jurisdiction, together with the publication date and publisher concerned in each case.

lmportantly, we require you to confirm by return whether or not the Book contains any reference to our client, and if so, we require you to set out in full each and every reference to our client in its entirety to give our client the opportunity to take legal advice and to respond to any allegations in good time prior to publication.

Any widespread publication of the Book containing defamatory allegations concerning our client would be deeply damaging to our client’s personal and professional reputations and would cause him profound distress and anxiety. We remind you that you would be responsible for that damage and any subsequent republication of the allegations. We also put you on notice that you will be liable for any special damage or loss suffered by our client as a result of the Book and we reserve all our client’s rights in this regard.

We note from your website http://www.mainstreampublishing.com/news_current.html that Mr Murray is due to speak about the Book at a ‘Mainstream author event at the Edinburgh lnternational Book Festival’ entitled ‘Lived Lives’ on 12th August 2008 at 4.30pm in the RBS Main Theatre, Edinburgh. We hereby put both you and Mr Murray on notice that all our client’s rights are reserved in relation to any defamatory comments or publications made by you or Mr Murray in relation to that event.

Please immediately take into your possession all drafts of the Book pre-publication, all notes, emails, correspondence, memos, images and oiher documents relevant to the publication of this Book, and preserve them safely pending the outcome of this dispute. They will need to be disclosed in due course if litigation has to be commenced. Also, you will need to disclose the financial arrangements for the sale and licence of the Book to other publications.

In the circumstances, we require that you confirm immediately that you agree to undertake on behalf of Mainstream Publishing Company (Edinburgh) Limited not to publish any libels regarding our client in any editions of the Book or at all.

We require the above undertaking by 4pm on Friday 11th July 2008, failing which we will have no option but to advise our client with regard to making applications to the High court for an injunction to restrain publication and/or for pre-action disclosure. You are on notice that we will seek to recover the costs of any necessary applications from you.

We await your response by return. In the meantime all our client’s rights are reserved, including the right to issue proceedings against you without further notice.

Yours faithfully

SCHILLINGS

cc. Craig Murray Esq.

Not bad, eh? Psychic libel lawyers who can predict what might be in an as-yet unpublished book!

Murray’s response to the threat is unequivocal:

Schillings are a firm of libel lawyers dedicated to prevent the truth from being known about some deeply unlovely people. They managed temporarily to close down this blog (and several others) to keep information quiet about the criminal record of Alisher Usmanov. Now they are attempting to block the publication of my new book in the interests of mercenary commander Tim Spicer, one of those who has made a fortune from the Iraq War. It is sad but perhaps predictable that private profits from the illegal Iraq war, in which hundreds of thousands of innocent people have died, are providing the funding to try to silence my book.

Libel law in the UK is a remarkable thing – Schillings can go for an injunction when I haven’t published anything about Spicer yet and they haven’t seen what I intend to publish. People might conclude that Spicer has something to hide. You will see that they also are attempting to censor not only the book, but what I say at the Edinburgh Book Festival on 12 August. I can assure you that they will find it impossible to affect what I say about Spicer at that event.

Nor will they prevent me from publishing the truth about Spicer, one way or another.

In a subsequent blog post, he adds:

Among the incidents I cover in my new book are the murder of Peter McBride, the Aegis Trophy Video, the Papua New Guinea coup, the Equatorial Guinea plot, Executive Outcomes’ muder of civilians in Angola and the Arms to Africa affair. I do hope that other bloggers will generate another Streisand effect through blogging on these subjects.

Lest we forget, Spicer – currently running extensive private military operations in Iraq and elsewhere with his company Aegis – has a history of working as a gun-for-hire in places like Papua New Guinea and Sierra Leone, and via connections at mercenary outfits like Executive Outcomes and Sandline has long been a colleague of fellow former Scots Guard the recently convicted coup plotter Simon Mann.

Definitely one to keep your eye on, this’un…

Fighting Mann earns 34 years

Dude goes down for more than the prosecuting authorities originally asked for!

The sentence is longer than expected. During the trial, José Olo Obano, Equatorial Guinea’s attorney general, urged the court to sentence Mann to 31 years, eight months and three days. The death penalty was not permitted under the terms of Mann’s extradition from Zimbabwe. It was suggested last month that Mann may be released before completing any sentence.

Others in the trial earned smaller sentences: Lebanese businessman Mohamed Salaam got 18 years, while four Equatorial Guineans (not considered worthy in the Western press of having their names published) have gone down for six years, another for one, with a sixth being acquitted.

Oh, and in addition to his thirty-four summers…

Mann was ordered to pay a fine and compensation to the Equatorial Guinea state totalling around $24m (£12.1m). Mangue said in the ruling that Mann failed to show “an attitude of regret”, despite his apology before the court.

Stroll on Scratcher and Smelly!

Fighting Mann drops Scratcher in the shit!

The British mercenary Simon Mann today told an Equatorial Guinea court that Mark Thatcher, the son of the former prime minister, was a committed member of the group that organised the attempted coup in the oil-rich west African state in 2004.

Giving his first detailed account of the planning for the coup, in a clear and confident voice he said Thatcher “was not just an investor, he came completely on board and became a part of the management team”. He said Thatcher had provided $350,000 (£178,000) in funding for the coup.

(Guardian)

And it gets better:

In further testimony, Mann claimed that Spain and South Africa, with the endorsement of President Thabo Mbeki, had supported the plot.

…From the Pentagon in Washington, and from the CIA and the big US oil companies, came tacit approval for regime change, according to Mann.

…The name of Lady Thatcher’s son [Mark Thatcher] cropped up when he was asked about planning meetings in South Africa. Both Mann and Thatcher lived there at the time. Thatcher, who now lives in a gated estate in southern Spain, accepted a plea bargain from the South African authorities in 2005 after he admitted helping to finance a helicopter that he suspected “might be used for mercenary activities.”

…Mann took Thatcher to the Chelsea home of Ely Calil, the Lebanese businessman who is alleged to be the main financier of the plot. He named the management board as Calil, himself, a London property developer, Thatcher and a Lebanese colleague of Calil who lives in Beirut.

…Mann said Calil had initially asked him, in May 2003, to assassinate President Obiang and launch a guerrilla war or a coup. “I said I would not do it, on ethical grounds, and also because it was a very stupid thing to do,” Mann said. He accepted he was doing the job for money – said to be $15m – but he claimed he was sympathetic to the story he was told that oil money was not reaching the people. “I believed it was right.”

Fighting Mann: a “mere instrument” or a total tool?

Well, the trial of Simon Mann over his involvement in the planned coup in Equatorial Guinea is off the blocks at last…

The judge opened with the reading of a police report setting out the well-rehearsed allegations: Mann had conspired with the London-based Lebanese businessman Ely Calil and the exiled politician Severo Motto to mount an armed coup with South African mercenaries that would not have ruled out killing the president. In return, Mann would have received £15m. There was a contract in evidence.

Then it was the turn of the attorney general, Jose Olo Obono, who outlined the prosecution case and read out the charges: crimes against the head of state, against the form of government and against the peace and independence of the republic.

He said Mann’s first lawyer, who was suspended from the case last week, was to be prosecuted for insulting Obiang. This was a reference to the fact that he had wanted to argue that Mann’s extradition from Zimbabwe in February this year was illegal.

Obono compared Mann with the terrorists who attacked New York, Madrid and London. They were, he said, “a threat to humanity that must be wiped out”.

The attorney general also claimed the main conspirators included Calil, Mark Thatcher, the British businessmen Greg Wales and David Tremain and Nigel Morgan, a former intelligence officer with the Irish Guards now living in South Africa. Calil had put in $2m (£1m).

Obono told the court for the first time that the Lebanese defendant, a Malabo resident called Mohammed Salam, had known about the plot but failed to tell the authorities.

The court was told the six local men were opposition members of Motto’s party who had been in touch with Motto by email. Each of the 70 mercenaries would have received £3,000. For the first two charges against Mann he asked for 14 years and eight months and two years and four months on the third.

The defence lawyers were about to present their opening speeches when the judge dropped another bombshell. He ordered a smartly dressed man who had been sitting with the diplomats to join the defendants.

He is a serving minister. Although evidence has yet to be adduced it is understood he knew of Calil’s investment in Equatorial Guinea as a precursor to the coup and failed to raise the alarm.

And so to Mann’s new lawyer, Jose Pablo Nvo, who in a short speech said his client was a “mere instrument” working for Calil and the coup could have gone ahead without him. It was, in effect, a guilty plea.

The hearing continues.

(From The Guardian)