Archive for February, 2011

Millionenbetrug bei Mistral Media AG? Ex-Vorstand unter Geldwäscherei-Verdacht

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Der Spiegel schreibt in seiner aktuellsten Ausgabe über gehörige Verwerfungen bei der Mistral Media AG aus Köln. Der gehört unter anderem die Hurricane Fernsehproduktion GmbH, die für Sat.1 Shows wie «Schillerstrasse» oder «Genial daneben» produzierte.

Nun. Die Mistral Media-Verantwortlichen haben Strafanzeige gegen ihren ehemaligen Geschäftsführer und Vorstand gestellt. Der Verdacht: Untreue und Betrug, dazu fordert die Mistral Media noch schlappe 31 Millionen Euro von ihm.

Die Mistral Media hatte bis vor kurzem auch einen Schweizer Treuhänder in ihren Reihen, der hier gehörig unter Druck steht. Dazu veröffentlichte ich in der «Aargauer Zeitung» im Oktober 2010 bereits eine ausführliche Recherche.

Vor diesem Hintergrund wundert es mich überhaupt nicht, wenn ich in einer aktuell abgeschlossenen Klageschrift der involvierten Parteien auch auf Firmen aus Steuerparadiesen treffe.

Wetten, dass in dieser Sache das letzte Wort noch nicht geschrieben ist?

GUARANTORS ASK ELN FOR CEASE-FIRE, HOSTAGE RELEASE; PLAN TO EXPAND GUARANTOR GROUP, WANT U.S. CONTACT

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

ID 06BOGOTA1145
SUBJECT GUARANTORS ASK ELN FOR CEASE-FIRE, HOSTAGE
DATE 2006-02-07 21:09:00
CLASSIFICATION CONFIDENTIAL
ORIGIN Embassy Bogota
TEXT C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 001145

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/03/2016
TAGS: PGOV PTER CO
SUBJECT: GUARANTORS ASK ELN FOR CEASE-FIRE, HOSTAGE
RELEASE; PLAN TO EXPAND GUARANTOR GROUP, WANT U.S. CONTACT

REF: BOGOTA 860

Classified By: Ambassador William B. Wood
Reason: 1.4 (b,d)

——-
Summary

——-

¶1. (C) GOC-ELN civil society guarantor Moritz Akerman said
the guarantors sent the ELN a proposal February 2 that would
require the guerrillas to “suspend definitively” all
kidnappings and release all hostages within 90 days. In
return, the proposal provides that the GOC would allow an ELN
negotiating team freedom of movement in Colombia and perhaps
overseas. Akerman said he had planned to visit Caracas to
present the proposal to ELN military commander Antonio
Garcia, but Garcia asked him not to do so because Venezuelan
President Chavez had asked Garcia to maintain a low profile
in Caracas and an Akerman visit would have attracted media
attention. According to Akerman, the ELN wants to move the
talks from Cuba for propaganda and financial reasons, as well
as to avoid pressure from the Cuban intelligence services.
The Cubans told the ELN that it should not conclude a deal
with the GOC without FARC approval, Akerman reported. The
agenda for the February 17-28 session in Havana remains
unclear, although the ELN might ask to travel to Norway,
SWITZERLAND, and Spain during this period. Akerman said the
Norwegians are considering financial support for the process
but want to be sure the ELN is “irreversibly” committed to
peace. Akerman said the guarantor group would add at least
four prominent Colombians to counter concerns it was too
leftist. He said the ELN wants to open a direct channel to
the U.S. End summary.

——————————————— ——-
GUARANTORS MAKE CEASE-FIRE AND HOSTAGE PROPOSAL TO ELN
——————————————— ——-

¶2. (C) GOC-ELN civil society guarantor Moritz Akerman told
D/Polcouns February 2 that the guarantors had delivered a
cease-fire and hostage proposal to the ELN and would discuss
it with ELN military commander Antonio Garcia beginning
February 9 in Havana. According to Akerman, the proposal
would require the ELN to announce a “definitive suspension”
of kidnappings and a commitment to release all ELN hostages
within 90 days. In return, the guarantors propose that the
GOC allow the ELN to form a “negotiating commission” of about
5 people, who would have the freedom to travel within
Colombia (and perhaps overseas) on peace process-related
issues. (Akerman was vague about whether the guarantors also
gave the proposal to the GOC.) Akerman said the ELN’s
reaction to the proposal would be a test of its sincerity.
Akerman would not be concerned if the ELN countered with its
own proposal, but would be disappointed if it rejected the
proposal out of hand. Akerman said his initial plan was to
travel to Caracas on February 2 and present the proposal to
Garcia personally, but Garcia told him not to do so because
Hugo Chavez wants Garcia to maintain a low profile in
Venezuela.

——————————————— —
ELN ANXIOUS TO MOVE TALKS FROM CUBA, WANT MONEY
——————————————— —

¶3. (C) Akerman said the ELN wants to move the talks out of
Cuba, in part for propaganda and financial reasons and in
part because the Cuban intelligence services are putting
pressure on the ELN not to conclude a deal with the GOC
without FARC approval. In Akerman’s view, the ELN is
interested in the publicity and money-raising possibilities
that being in a European country might offer. They want to
explore the possibility of altering the ELN’s EU designation
as a terrorist organization. Akerman said the ELN would be
satisfied with an EU statement at the appropriate time —
following a cease-fire and hostage release — that alluded to
“beginning the process of reexamining” the terrorist
designation rather than an outright reversal of the decision.
Akerman confided that Garcia had expelled Ramiro Vargas from
the ELN’s negotiating team because Garcia learned that Vargas
was informing the Cubans and the FARC of developments. The
Cubans told the ELN on more than one occasion it should not
reach an agreement with the GOC without FARC approval.

Akerman said Vargas’ removal had elevated Francisco Galan to
the second most important figure in the ELN team, a
development that Akerman regarded as positive.

¶4. (C) According to Akerman, the Norwegians recently told
the ELN they would consider financial support for the process
only if they were convinced the ELN was “irreversibly”
committed to peace, and the Norwegian Foreign Ministry’s
Acting Director General for Latin America, Herbeth Linder,
recently visited Colombia and met with the ELN. Linder and
Peace Commissioner Restrepo’s deputy Eduardo Herrera told
polcouns the same thing a few days earlier (reftel). Akerman
expects Norwegian officials to visit again in the near future
to further discuss ELN financial requests. Akerman said the
ELN has three principal financial needs: monthly payments for
up to 5,000 guerrillas (GOC estimates of ELN strength are
well below this figure); a fund for ELN political activities;
and subsidies for the ELN negotiating team’s travel and other
incidental expenses. In Akerman’s view, at some point the
ELN’s financial requirements have to be addressed. He noted
that demobilized paramilitaries have been assisted with
government stipends, but only in the context of their
demobilizations.

—————————————-
TALKS RESUME FEBRUARY 17, AGENDA UNCLEAR
—————————————-

¶5. (C) Akerman said the talks resume in Havana February 17
and are scheduled to last until February 28. The ELN has
been making some substantive proposals (e.g., on the roles of
the accompanying countries) but the GOC has not responded.
Akerman understands the GOC wants to secure a cease-fire
before moving forward on a substantive agenda. Akerman said
he expects the ELN to request permission to travel during the
February 17-28 session, to Norway to discuss financial
issues, to SWITZERLAND to address humanitarian and hostages
concerns, and to Spain to address political matters.

—————————————
COMPOSITION OF GUARANTOR GROUP CHANGING
—————————————

¶6. (C) Akerman said only four of the five guarantors would
travel to Havana February 9; guarantor Daniel Garcia-Pena has
dropped out of the group because he is running for political
office in the March congressional elections. (If Garcia-Pena
loses, Akerman said, he might return as a guarantor.) The
guarantors are expanding from the original five to at least
eight. Akerman reported that four prominent Colombians have
agreed to serve as guarantors but will not be incorporated
immediately: former foreign minister Maria Emma Mejia;
Director of El Colombiano newspaper Ana Mercedes Gomez;
Father HoracioOrango; and industrialist Ricardo Correa. All
have accepted the guarantors’ offer to join them (Father
Orango is awaiting approval from Church authorities, while
Maria Emma Mejia will travel to Havana February 9 as a
“friend” of the process). Akerman explained that there was a
sense the guarantor group was too leftist, hence the effort
to include other sectors of society. He said the ELN’s
Francisco Galan is pleased to see the expansion, despite a
private letter from guarantor Alejo Vargas to Antonio Garcia
warning against the “bourgeois” and “elitist” nature of the
newcomers. According to Akerman, the ELN would like to see
human rights activist Gloria Flores join the guarantors.
Akerman said Flores is known to be very close to the ELN.
For their part, the guarantors will not ask her to
participate unless one of the four newcomers backs out,
Akerman said.

—————————————–
ELN INTERESTED IN OPENING CHANNEL TO U.S.
—————————————–

¶7. (C) Akerman reported that the ELN wants to open a direct
channel to the U.S., perhaps by sending a letter to
Ambassador Wood. Antonio Garcia asked Akerman to help draft
the letter, he said. Akerman understands that the ELN would
suggest in the letter areas of possible cooperation with the
U.S. in the fight against narcotics trafficking. (Gabriel
Garcia Marquez, who has contact with the ELN, has sought a
meeting with the Ambassador.)
WOOD
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GOC-ELN EXPLORATORY TALKS MAKE STEADY PROGRESS, RESUME IN APRIL; ELN CALLS ON COLOMBIANS TO VOTE IN MARCH 12 ELECTIONS

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

ID 06BOGOTA1965
SUBJECT GOC-ELN EXPLORATORY TALKS MAKE STEADY PROGRESS,
DATE 2006-03-03 22:10:00
CLASSIFICATION CONFIDENTIAL
ORIGIN Embassy Bogota
TEXT C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 001965

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/03/2016
TAGS: PGOV PTER PREL PINR CO
SUBJECT: GOC-ELN EXPLORATORY TALKS MAKE STEADY PROGRESS,
RESUME IN APRIL; ELN CALLS ON COLOMBIANS TO VOTE IN MARCH
12 ELECTIONS

REF: BOGOTA 1145 AND PREVIOUS

Classified By: Ambassador William B. Wood
Reason: 1.4 (b,d)

——-
SUMMARY
——-

¶1. (C) The latest round of exploratory talks between the GOC
and ELN ended February 28 in Havana. The GOC-ELN joint
statement issued February 27 characterized the talks as
“satisfactory” and said they would resume in early April,
again in Havana. Other participants and observers told us
the talks made steady progress. Civil society guarantor
Moritz Akerman was optimistic, saying the talks moved forward
on defining modalities for the next session, including a
“working group” to handle the tough issues. He said the
guarantor group would expand shortly. A close observer from
the Catholic Church, who also attended the talks, was more
skeptical, saying neither party seemed to have a clear
strategy beyond seeking short term political advantage. The
GOC conceded “political” status to ELN negotiators, which
allows them to travel within Colombia and abroad and
insulates them from arrest while the talks continue. The ELN
negotiators plan to use this status to travel to Europe in
the near future. The GOC’s reluctance to concede the
political status almost led to the talks breaking down.
Akerman told us that ELN military commander Antonio Garcia
asked him to “tell the Americans to pay close attention” to
the talks. The guarantor also said Garcia regarded a
guarantor proposal to the ELN on kidnappings (reftel) as
positive but premature. On March 2, the ELN called on
Colombians to vote in the March 12 congressional elections
and said it would suspend military action for a few hours
before and after voting time. End summary.

——————————————— ——-
STATEMENT SAYS TALKS CONCLUDE IN SATISFACTORY MANNER
——————————————— ——-

¶2. (C) A GOC-ELN statement dated February 27 said the most
recent round of exploratory talks in Havana concluded in a
“satisfactory” manner. The statement said the parties met
their objectives, which were to define further their
proposals on the peace process in general and the agenda for
subsequent sessions. The statement thanked the Governments
of Cuba and Venezuela for their assistance, and the
Governments of accompanying countries” Spain, Norway, and
SWITZERLAND for their participation. The exploratory
phase of talks will resume in early April, again in Havana.
The statement did not mention the fact that the GOC agreed to
concede “political status” to two ELN negotiators (apparently
militarycommander Antonio Garcia and alias “Ramiro Vargas.”)
This status would allow the ELN negotiators to travel
without fear of arrest, according to press reports. Leading
daily El Tiempo reported March 1 that the ELN wanted to use
the status to visit Europe.

————————————
STEADT PROGRESS, BUT NO BREAKTHROUGH
————————————

¶3. (C) The talks made steady progress but did not result in
a breakthrough, according to participants and observers.
Civil society guarantor Moritz Akerman told D/Polcouns that
the agreement was “very good,” because it talks about a
“peace process” for the first time. Akerman said the parties
agreed to establish a working group-type mechanism (“mesa
alternativa”) for the next round of talks, which would enable
especially difficult issues to be thrashed out prior to
reaching the main negotiators. According to Akerman, the
guarantors would play a role in the “mesa alternativa.” He
also said the GOC and ELN agreed to a formal role in the
talks for the “accompanying countries” (who are to be called
“international observers”).

¶4. (C) Akerman said the guarantors group still intends to
expand (reftel). Three new guarantors will soon be
announced: former foreign minister Maria Emma Mejia, Father
Horacio Orango, and El Colombiano editor Ana Mercedes Gomez

(who still needs permission from her publisher employer). He
noted that the guarantors are exploring moving the talks to
Panama and are in touch with Panamanian interlocutors.

¶5. (C) Akerman said he was concerned the talks were headed
for trouble late on February 22, when Garcia called him on
the cell phone to say the GOC was refusing to concede the ELN
negotiators “political” status that would enable them to
travel. According to Akerman, Garcia said, “tell the
Americans that they should pay close attention to this
matter.” Akerman understood from this comment that Garcia
was suggesting the U.S. help persuade the GOC to grant
political status to the negotiators. (Akerman relayed this
information to us on February 24, by which time the GOC and
ELN had reached agreement.) Akerman also said Garcia told
him the guarantor proposal to the ELN on kidnappings was
positive but premature (reftel).

¶6. (C) Lead Catholic Church negotiator Father Dario
Echeverri, who was also in Havana for the talks, told
Polcouns he believes neither the ELN nor the GOC have a clear
strategy for the talks beyond seeking short-term political
advantages. He said the ELN wanted to move the talks to
Europe beginning March 28, and argued the GOC is correct to
insist on a “very big concession” from the ELN before it
agrees to such a move. According to Echeverri, the ELN wants
the GOC to release captured Valle del Cauca commander, alias
“El Viejo,” to join ELN spokesman Francisco Galan at the
House of Peace in Antioquia for further civil society
consultations. In Echeverri’s view, the House of Peace
initiative educates the ELN on the negative impression most
Colombians have of the guerrilla organization. Echeverri said
he was very impressed by a new ELN negotiator in Havana,
alias “Moises,” from Norte de Santander.

——————————————— ——–
ELN CALLS ON COLOMBIANS TO VOTE IN MARCH 12 ELECTIONS
——————————————— ——–

¶7. (C) On March 2, the ELN,s Garcia called on the Colombian
population to vote in the March 12 Congressional elections
and promised to suspend any military action that could
interfere with voting for a few hours before and after the
election. He made these statements in Cuba during a
teleconference with journalists in Medellin. Some Colombian
analysts see the ELN,s new attitude toward elections as an
indicator of the group,s willingness to move forward with
the peace process and as a sign of the ELN distancing itself
from the FARC. Others remain skeptical. Garcia denied the
ELN had any favored candidates or parties, but encouraged the
population to vote for candidates &committed to peace and
who are willing to support necessary changes8 in the
country.

——-
COMMENT
——-

¶8. (C) The fact that exploratory “talks about talks” will
continue is a good sign, but Embassy is inclined to accept
Echeverri’s account as more realistic. Foreign Minister
Barco told Polcouns that the GOC remains skeptical of ELN
intentions and does not want to get embroiled in a long,
complicated process with too many moving parts — something
the ELN has been partial to during past attempts at peace.
Both Echeverri and members of Peace Commissioner Restrepo’s
team report that ELN commander Garcia was very tough and
intransigent at the negotiating table. Garcia’s interest in
ensuring the U.S. was informed of what he viewed as GOC
stubbornness is an interesting sidebar but Embassy believes
we should take our cue from the GOC with respect to any
future involvement in the process.
WOOD

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SWISS: BEN ALI SON-IN-LAW WANTED RESIDENCY

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011
ID 08TUNIS299
SUBJECT SWISS: BEN ALI SON-IN-LAW WANTED RESIDENCY
DATE 2008-03-24 14:02:00
CLASSIFICATION SECRET//NOFORN
ORIGIN Embassy Tunis
TEXT S E C R E T TUNIS 000299 

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/MAG (HARRIS AND HOPKINS) AND INR (SWEET)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/23/2018
TAGS: PGOV KCOR KDEM PREL TS
SUBJECT: SWISS: BEN ALI SON-IN-LAW WANTED RESIDENCY

Classified By: Ambassador Robert F. Godec for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (S/NF) Summary. XXXXXXXXXXXX told the Ambassador on March 21 that President Ben Ali’s son-in-law Sakher Matri had requested a residency permit for Geneva, apparently to facilitate his business interests in Europe. Faessler said that the SWISS denied Matri’s request to send a signal about their frustration over a former employee’s ongoing sit-in outside the Chancery. Matri, who is married to Ben Ali’s daughter, quickly brought an end to the sit-in, with the MFA telling XXXXXXXXXXXX that Ben Ali was “sorry” for the inconvenience. End Summary.

¶2. (S/NF) On March 21, XXXXXXXXXXXX told the Ambassador that prominent Tunisian businessman and Presidential son-in-law Sakher Matri (bio data para 5) had recently requested a residency permit for Geneva. XXXXXXXXXXXX said that Geneva had declined Matri’s request after consulting with Bern, where Foreign Ministry officials sought to send a message to the GOT about their frustration with a disgruntled former employee protesting at the SWISS Embassy in Tunis. (Note: XXXXXXXXXXXX was reportedly fired in 2001 for refusing to translate an article published in an opposition newspaper, which he said “would be used to harm Tunisia’s reputation.” XXXXXXXXXXXX told the Ambassador XXXXXXXXXXXX was fired for being dishonest, but received all appropriate compensation. Following his dismissal, he began a sit-in outside the SWISS Embassy which had continued for over a year.) XXXXXXXXXXXX said that Matri’s lawyers had applied for the residency permit, apparently to facilitate his business interests, including with the rising number of Gulf nationals in Switzerland. XXXXXXXXXXXX told the Ambassador that there is some evidence that the Ben Ali family was moving more money into Switzerland, but perhaps less than into other European countries.

¶3. (C/NF) When Matri’s residency request was declined, he approached XXXXXXXXXXXX to obtain a visitor visa. While he initially asked for an appointment outside of business hours, Matri eventually came in person to apply for the visa on February 29. XXXXXXXXXXXX turned him down, on the grounds that XXXXXXXXXXXX’s presence impeded the Embassy’s ability to conduct normal business. XXXXXXXXXXXX said that when Matri left the Embassy, he placed several of XXXXXXXXXXXX’s protest signs in his trunk. Not a half hour later, Hatem Ben Salem, the MFA Secretary of State for European Affairs (deputy-Secretary

SIPDIS
equivalent) convoked XXXXXXXXXXXX. Ben Salem toldXXXXXXXXXXXX that President Ben Ali had called to say he was not aware of XXXXXXXXXXXX’s protest and was very sorry for any inconvenience. When XXXXXXXXXXXX returned to the Embassy, XXXXXXXXXXXX shouted at him, “You’ve won the battle, but not the war.” The following Monday, March 3, XXXXXXXXXXXX appeared briefly at the Embassy with some family members, but the police quickly removed him and he has not returned since.

¶4. (S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX told the Ambassador that he had attributed XXXXXXXXXXXX’s continued presence to GOT annoyance over SWISS criticism at the 2005 UN World Summit on the Information Society and meetings between the SWISS Foreign Minister and Tunisian opposition. He opined that the GOT had subsequently increased its pressure on the SWISS, through allowing XXXXXXXXXXXX’s protest and pressuring XXXXXXXXXXXX to abandon his residence, which sits practically in the middle of the Presidential Palace in Carthage (the palace walls have been built around it). Following Matri’s visit, Ben Salem told
XXXXXXXXXXXX that there was “no pressure” for him to move from his residence. XXXXXXXXXXXX told the Ambassador that he had once
complained about XXXXXXXXXXXX’s presence with Minister of Defense Kamel Morjane, who said he could not raise the issue with Ben
Ali, since you could never tell in what mood the President might be.

¶5. (C/NF) Comment. The SWISS experience with the GOT cold shoulder and the Matri-induced thaw in relations is not surprising. However, Matri’s interest in obtaining European residency is an interesting sign of Ben Ali family intentions. While Matri may have only been seeking to expand his business interests, many Ben Ali critics remain on the lookout for signs he and his family are planning their ultimate — and profitable — departure from Tunisia. End Comment.

¶6. (C/NF) Bio Data: Fahed Mohamed Sakher Matri (DPOB: Dec. 2, 1981, Tunis) is married to Ben Ali’s oldest daughter with second wife Leila Trabelsi, Nesrine. A prominent businessman, Matri is the owner of the formerly state-owned Ennaql (Transportation) company, which is the sole distributor of Volkswagen and Porsche in Tunisia. The company was rumored to be a wedding present for Matri, although it was reported that he paid over USD 10 million for the purchase. He is also the owner of Princess El Materi Holding, which includes Goulette Shipping Cruise. The company, which has significant holding in the health, tourism and agribusiness sectors, recently won a contract to expand the Port of Tunis into a cruise ship marina. In 2007, he was granted authorization to launch a Koranic radio station, Zitouna, which broadcasts moderate Islamic teachings. His father, Moncef El Materi, is a former army officer and a member of the Chamber of Advisors.
Please visit Embassy Tunis’ Classified Website at: http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/tunis/index.c fm
GODEC

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Uzbekistan: From A to Zeromax

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011
ID 10TASHKENT27
SUBJECT Uzbekistan: From A to Zeromax
DATE 2010-01-20 11:11:00
CLASSIFICATION CONFIDENTIAL
ORIGIN Embassy Tashkent
TEXT 244365 2010-01-20 11:23:00 10TASHKENT27 Embassy Tashkent CONFIDENTIAL 07TASHKENT2029|07TASHKENT237|08TASHKENT1072|08TASHKENT153|09TASHKENT921 VZCZCXRO2796
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SIPDIS
AMEMBASSY ASTANA PASS TO AMCONSUL ALMATY
AMEMBASSY ANKARA PASS TO AMCONSUL ADANA
AMEMBASSY BERLIN PASS TO AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF
AMEMBASSY BERLIN PASS TO AMCONSUL LEIPZIG
AMEMBASSY BELGRADE PASS TO AMEMBASSY PODGORICA
AMEMBASSY HELSINKI PASS TO AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG
AMEMBASSY ATHENS PASS TO AMCONSUL THESSALONIKI
AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PASS TO AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK
AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PASS TO AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/01/20
TAGS: ECON EPET UZ
SUBJECT: Uzbekistan: From A to Zeromax

REF: 07 TASHKENT 237; 07 TASHKENT 2029; 08 TASHKENT 153
08 TASHKENT 1072; 09 TASHKENT 921

CLASSIFIED BY: Berliner,Nicholas, PolEcon-Chief; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

¶1. (SBU) Summary. Zeromax Gmbh (Zeromax) is a privately- owned,  Swiss-registered company that operates in Uzbekistan through a  series of joint ventures and investments in the oil and gas,  mining, agriculture, textile, logistics and banking sectors. The  company keeps a tight lid on all financial and ownership  information. It is widely believed, however, that the company is  controlled by Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Uzbek President  Islam Karimov, and a small number of Uzbek business people. Through  its close government connections, Zeromax has positioned itself as  a key player in Uzbekistan’s highly lucrative natural resource  sector and continues to expand into other areas of the Uzbek  economy. End Summary.

CLOSE CONNECTIONS TO UZBEK STATE GAS AGENCY

¶2. (SBU) With proven natural gas reserves of 1.58 trillion cubic  meters, Uzbekistan is the third largest natural gas producer in the  former Soviet Union after Russia and Turkmenistan and one of the  top ten natural gas-producing countries in the world. Uzbekistan  also contains around 594 million barrels of proven oil reserves,  and there are 190 discovered oil and natural gas fields in the  country. The natural resource sector is strictly controlled by the  Government of Uzbekistan (GOU). The GOU, however, relies on foreign  firms to provide funds, equipment and expertise to help extract and  export its resources. Uzbekneftegaz, a state-controlled national  holding company, has responsibility for managing the sector,  including supervising tender offers and other proposals for oil and  gas concessions. (Note: Contract terms must be confirmed by the  Uzbek Cabinet of Ministers, which has ultimate authority for  granting licenses.)

¶3. (SBU) Leveraging its unofficial government ties though Karimova  and a small group of Uzbek powerbrokers, Zeromax has established  several lucrative joint ventures (JVs) with Uzbekneftegaz and  aligned itself with foreign investors who wish to tap into  Uzbekistan’s natural resource sector. The company began operations  in Uzbekistan in 1999, securing natural resource concessions from  the Uzbek state at highly advantageous terms. Now, Zeromax is  involved in almost every aspect of the Uzbek oil and gas business:  planning and engineering; exploration and production; construction  of pipelines and other oil and gas infrastructures; and refining  and retailing. By November 2007, Zeromax reportedly had invested  approximately USD 400 million in the rehabilitation of Uzbekistan’s  industrial infrastructure, making it (at the time) the country’s  largest private foreign investor as well as its largest private  sector employer. The same year it also sold a portion of its assets  in Uzbekistan to Russia’s Gazprom for a considerable profit.

¶4. (SBU) As of December 2009, Zeromax has at least eight  subsidiaries/JVs operating at various points along Uzbekistan’s oil  and gas supply chain. These entities include a fifty-fifty joint  venture with the Uzbek state (Neftgaz Sanoat Loyiha) devoted to  project engineering and a second Uzbek-Swiss JV (NefteGazMontaj)  that designs and constructs pipelines. Zeromax is working on  construction of the Uzbek portion of the new Turkmenistan-China  pipeline in consortium with the China Petroleum Pipeline Bureau  (CPP) and the China Petroleum Engineering & Construction  Corporation (CPECC). Zeromax is also the dominant player in the  retail gasoline industry, particularly high-grade octane, through  its wholly-owned subsidiary, UzGazOil. UzGazOil operates 80 retail  stations throughout Tashkent, Ferghana, and Karshi and controls  approximately 70 percent of the retail gasoline market in these  areas.

THE SWISS LINK

¶5. (SBU) Founded in 1999 under the name Zeromax LLC in Delaware,  USA, Zeromax re-domiciled as a Swiss entity in the ZUG Canton in  2005 (now Zeromax GmbH), presumably to take advantage of the  country’s tax and finance laws. Other observers note that this move  coincided with a downtown in U.S.- Uzbek relations following the  U.S.’s condemnation of events in Andijon in May 2005. At this time, Karimova was also subject to an arrest warrant in the U.S. for  refusing to obey a New Jersey court ruling granting her husband, an  American-Afghan citizen, shared custody of their children.

¶6. (SBU) Switzerland is now Uzbekistan’s second biggest trading  partner with export of natural gas comprising the largest part of  Uzbek-Swiss trade. Zeromax is a main Swiss recipient of Uzbek  currency receipts under a complicated gas export arrangement with a  wholly-owned Swiss subsidiary of Gazprom Germania Gmbh called ZMB  Schweiz, a natural gas trading company focused on the exploration,  production and sale of hydrocarbons. The details of the  arrangement remain unclear; it is known that Uzbekistan is the core  market for ZMB Schweiz’s gas purchase activities, and Zeromax is  the key supplier. 2008 natural gas deliveries from Uzbekistan to  ZMB Schweiz totaled 11.5 billion cubic meters, exceeding the  previous year’s figure by 26%. ZMB Schweiz’s 2008 Annual Report  notes that its plans to set new contractual arrangements for the  purchase of natural gas in 2009 with Zeromax. As a private company,  Zeromax is not required to make public detailed financial  information. Zeromax has disclosed that its operating revenues and  total assets (on a consolidated basis) have doubled each year since  2006, reaching approximately USD 3 billion in revenue and assets  for 2008, representative of about 10% of Uzbekistan’s 2008 gross  domestic product (USD 27.9 billion).

¶7. (SBU) Officially, Zeromax’s management team is headed by Miradil  S. Djalalov, an Uzbek national with close ties to the Karimov  family and Russian-Uzbek tycoon Alisher Usmonov. However, Zeromax  is widely rumored to be controlled by Gulnara Karimova and is  thought to account for a significant portion of the family’s  purported multimillion-dollar fortune. In September 2008, President  Karimov appointed his daughter Permanent Representative to the  United Nations in Geneva, which some observers have noted helps  position her to wield greater control over Zeromax. There are  reports that Karimova has recently taken on new duties as Uzbek  Ambassador to Spain, although she continues to reside in  Switzerland and remain accredited to the U.N. in Geneva.

ZEROMAX’S MINING EMPIRE EXPANDS

¶8. (SBU) Zeromax is active in the mining industry and does business  thorough JV Bentonite, an Uzbek-Swiss company that is 74%  Zeromax-owned with the remainder held by a subsidiary of  Uzbekneftegaz. The company extracts and processes bentonite, a clay  found predominately in the Navoi Region of Uzbekistan. Bentonite  may be used in more than 200 consumer products, such as paint,  textiles, soap, and cosmetics. Zeromax is also the general  contractor for Almalyk Mining and Metallurgy Combine OJSC’s (AGMK)  ore and mining processing plant project at the Khandiza field in  Kashkadarya. AGMK, a GOU-controlled entity, is the largest copper  producer and exporter in Uzbekistan. It intends to launch ore  mining and processing operations in Khandiza in the first half of  ¶2010. Zeromax began construction of the project in 2007.

¶9. (C) In 2006, Zeromax became a strategic partner of Oxus Gold  PLC, a company listed on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternate Investment Market, by acquiring 16% of the company’s share capital.  Oxus is a 50 percent joint venture partner with the GOU in  Amantaytau Gold Fields (AGF), a gold mining operation that is  developing concessions in Uzbekistan’s Tien Shan Gold Belt, which  boasts the world’s second largest gold reserves after South  Africa’s Witwatersrand Basin. Some observers assert Oxus Gold  aligned itself with Zeromax after becoming weary of dealing with  local corruption and cronyism and to settle a dubious tax charge of  USD 225 million, which was dropped by the GOU following the deal.  The marriage has reportedly been difficult from the beginning with  confidential Embassy sources stating that Oxus Gold executives  privately have expressed both professional and personal differences  with Zeromax management. Zeromax purchased its holdings at GBP  0.215 per share (about USD 0.35 at current exchange rates); with  Oxus Gold currently trading at about GBP 0.09 per share and  recording a 52-week high of GBP 0.15 per share, the Oxus Gold  investment represents a significant paper investment loss for  Zeromax.

AND THERE’S MORE – AGRICULTURE & TEXTILES & LOGISTICS

¶10. (SBU) Zeromax entered the agricultural sector in 2003 with the  opening of a food processing plant and storage and distribution  depot. The company has since expanded into cotton and wheat  cultivation and cattle-breeding. In 2005, Zeromax acquired  cultivation rights to more than 12,000 hectares of cotton-producing  land and 15,000 hectares for wheat and other crops in Uzbekistan’s  Tashkent, Dzhizak and Syr Darya regions. All agricultural  operations are consolidated under the subsidiary Muruvvat-  Agrosanoat, which employs 3,000 fulltime workers and 9,000 seasonal  workers.

¶11. (SBU) In 2005, Zeromax also entered into textile production and  manufacturing projects. Through its subsidiary Muruvvat-Teks,  Zeromax operates six sewing factories, a Tashkent shopping mall,  and a textile company in Khorezm region. To provide for efficient  transit for its goods, Zeromax established Temiryul-Khizmat, a  wholly-owned freight-forwarding subsidiary, in 2005. The company  specializes in providing complex freight-forwarding services of  valuable industrial equipment and other goods throughout the CIS.  Other Zeromax assets include ownership of 64% of the “UzCable”  factory, one of the larger cable producers in Central Asia; media  businesses; and tourism.

CURRENT U.S. CONNECTIONS

¶12. (C) Despite re-domiciling in Switzerland, Zeromax continues to  maintain close connections with certain members of the American  business community. A U.S. citizen businessman now resident in  Maryland was formerly President of and now serves as “Counselor”  to Zeromax and as a member of the board of Oxus Gold. Zeromax is a  major sponsor of the American-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce, which  recently hosted the U.S.-Uzbekistan Investment Summit 2009 on  October 8, 2009, in New York City. Elyor Ganiev, Deputy Prime  Minister and Minister for Foreign Economic Relations, Investment  and Trade and high-ranking figure, attended on behalf of the GOU.  Another U.S. businessman claims that Zeromax, as part of a  consortium with seven U.S. companies, will bid on Afghan transit  business opportunities related to the Northern Distribution Network  (NDN).

QUESTIONABLE BUSINESS PRACTICES

¶14. (SBU) There have been reports that the Uzbek state has used its power in support of Karimova’s private business interests, allowing  her to bully competitors and to channel additional assets into  personal entities such as Zeromax. In a lawsuit filed in federal  court in Houston in 2007, a Texas-based tea company that operated  in the Uzbek packaged tea market sued its insurer for failing to  pay out on extortion and kidnap coverage after Karimova allegedly  used her influence with the government to drive the company out of  the country, even arresting or threatening to arrest company  employees to force them to sign over assets.

¶15. (SBU) New Jersey-based Roz Trading Ltd. (ROZ), a company owned  by Karimova’s former in-laws – the Maqsudi family, brought a series  of claims against Zeromax for unlawful conspiracy and  misappropriation of its ownership interest in a joint venture in  the soft drink industry in Uzbekistan. According to ROZ, following  Karimova’s divorce from Mansur Maqsudi, the GOU, on behalf of  Karimova, seized ownership of Roz’s assets in Coca-Cola Bottlers of  Uzbekistan (CCBU) on the grounds that ROZ had failed to comply with  tax and anti-monopoly regulations. Through a series of “sham  proceedings,” the GOU sold Roz’s assets to Zeromax. Claims against  Zeromax in the U.S. were dismissed due to lack of jurisdiction. In  related arbitration initiated by ROZ at the International Arbitral  Centre of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, the arbitral  tribunal terminated the proceedings as to Zeromax Group, Inc. – the  dissolved former affiliate of Zeromax, and the only Zeromax entity  named as a defendant in the arbitration.     Comment

¶16. (C) Despite a lack of concrete data regarding its operations,  Zeromax is widely perceived to be a powerful and not necessarily  benign force in Uzbekistan’s economy. Its expansion from the oil  and gas industry and mining industry into other areas of the Uzbek  economy means most international companies seeking to operate in  Uzbekistan may find themselves engaging in business with  Zeromax-related entities. The Embassy’s message to those proposing  to enter into business arrangements with Zeromax or its affiliates  is to carry out full due diligence. We are not saying “don’t do  business with Zeromax” because such a stance may not be legally  justified or sustainable in practice. However, any business  arrangements should be entered into with open eyes, and the Embassy  is prepared to advise and try to assist any American company that  feels subjected to aggressive business tactics in Uzbekistan.

NORLAND

 

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XTAGS: XTAGECON, XTAGEPET, XTAGUZ 10TASHKENT27

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http://www.wikileaks.ch/cable/2010/01/10TASHKENT27.html

LIBYA’S SUCCESSION MUDDLED AS THE AL-QADHAFI CHILDREN CONDUCT INTERNECINE WARFARE

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

ID 09TRIPOLI208
SUBJECT LIBYA’S SUCCESSION MUDDLED AS THE AL-QADHAFI CHILDREN
DATE 2009-03-09 16:04:00
CLASSIFICATION CONFIDENTIAL
ORIGIN Embassy Tripoli
TEXT 2009-03-09 16:08:00 09TRIPOLI208 Embassy Tripoli CONFIDENTIAL 08TRIPOLI494| 08TRIPOLI564| 08TRIPOLI592| 08TRIPOLI679| 08TRIPOLI870| 09TRIPOLI134| 09TRIPOLI196| 09TRIPOLI198| 09TRIPOLI227 VZCZCXRO4734
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DE RUEHTRO #0208/01 0681608
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
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FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
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INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
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RHMFISS/CDR USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 5108 C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 TRIPOLI 000208

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/MAG, INR/NESA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 3/4/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL KCOR ECON MARR MASS PHUM PINR LY
SUBJECT: LIBYA’S SUCCESSION MUDDLED AS THE AL-QADHAFI CHILDREN CONDUCT INTERNECINE WARFARE

REF: A) 08 TRIPOLI 564, B) 08 TRIPOLI 592, C) TRIPOLI 198, D) 08 TRIPOLI 870, E) 08 TRIPOLI 679, F) 08 TRIPOLI 494, G) TRIPOLI 196, H) TRIPOLI 134, I) 08 TRIPOLI 227

CLASSIFIED BY: Gene A. Cretz, Ambassador, U.S. Embassy – Tripoli, U.S. Dept of State.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
¶1. (C) Summary: A series of events since last summer suggest that tension between various children of Muammar al-Qadhafi has increased, and that heir-apparent Saif al-Islam is arrayed against Muatassim, Aisha, Hannibal, Saadi and perhaps even his own mother. Much of the tension appears to stem from resentment of Saif al-Islam’s high-profile as the public face of the regime; however, deeper tension about contradictions between Saif al-Islam’s proposed political-economic reforms, which would hurt his siblings’ economic interests, and the old school manner by which he has tried to monopolize the most lucrative economic sectors, also play an important role. The arrest and intimidation of a number of Saif al-Islam allies since last summer, on the one hand, and moves to circumscribe Muatassim’s role in military equipment procurement, on the other, suggest that the current level of discord among al-Qadhafi’s children is acute. While internecine strife is nothing new for the famously fractious al-Qadhafi family, the recent escalation of tension comes during a particularly momentous period. Amid turmoil related to the 40th anniversary of the revolution, Muammar al-Qadhafi’s recent election as African Union chairman, proposed political-economic reforms and persistent rumors about al-Qadhafi’s health and the absence of a viable mechanism to orchestrate a succession, the sharp rivalry between the al-Qadhafi children could play an important, if not determinative role, in whether the family is able to hold on to power after the author of the revolution exits the political scene. End summary.

GREED AND BAD BEHAVIOR …

¶2. (C) As reported ref A, National Oil Corporation Chairman Shukhr Ghanem was approached by National Security Adviser Muatassim al-Qadhafi, son of Muammar al-Qadhafi, in late June 2008 with a request for USD 1.2 billion, reportedly to establish a military/security unit akin to that of his younger brother, Khamis, and to make unspecified security upgrades. In early July, Ghanem informed Muammar al-Qadhafi; however, he laughingly dismissed it. According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, Ghanem subsequently submitted a letter of resignation in mid-August, believing that Muatassim or his confederates would seek revenge against Ghanem and/or his family for having denied the request for funds. (Note: XXXXXXXXXXXX End note.)

¶3. (C) Ghanem’s attempt to resign roughly coincided with two other disturbances of al-Qadhafi family comity: the arrest of Hannibal al-Qadhafi, a son of Muammar al-Qadhafi, in Geneva in mid-July (ref B subsequent) and a visit to Rome by Saadi al-Qadhafi, a son of Muammar al-Qadhafi, against his father’s express wishes in early August. Hannibal and Saadi both have checkered histories of unseemly behavior and public scuffles with authorities in Europe and elsewhere. Although Muammar al-Qadhafi was reportedly fed a carefully vetted version of the events attendant to Hannibal’s arrest to help minimize the perception that Hannibal was to blame, the elder al-Qadhafi was reportedly vexed that Libya, for reasons of protecting the first family’s pride, had to engage in a bilateral spat with Switzerland at a time when it was trying to move ahead with negotiations for a framework agreement with the European Union.

With respect to Saadi’s trip, Muammar al-Qadhafi was reportedly livid that Libyan officials had permitted him to exit the country when it was known that he was not supposed to travel.
Al-Qadhafi was particularly upset that Abdullah Sanussi, a former director of military intelligence and senior regime figure who had played a role as minder of the more troublesome al-Qadhafi offspring, had not done a better job of keeping track of Saadi. (Note: Sanussi is related by marriage to al-Qadhafi and is a trusted figure. He is usually in physical proximity to the tent in which al-Qadhafi holds meetings with visiting foreign dignitaries and, according to members of al-Qadhafi’s protocol office, personally oversees al-Qadhafis’ close protection detail. End note.)

… PROMPT AN AL-QADHAFI FAMILY MEETING

¶4. (C) The upshot of Muatassim’s solicitation of funds, Hannibal’s arrest and Saadi’s jaunt was an al-Qadhafi family meeting in mid-August. Al-Qadhafi reportedly decided to reduce Sanussi’s role as a minder for the most troublesome children (he is still a key adviser to Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi) and to instead assign his daughter, Aisha al-Qadhafi, the task of monitoring the activities of ne’er-do-wells Saadi, Hannibal and Saif al-Arab. (Note: The latter is the least publicly know of al-Qadhafi’s children; he lives in Munich, where he pursues ill-defined business interests and spends much time partying. The German Ambassador has expressed concern to us that it is only a matter of time before there is an incident involving him. End note.)

At the meeting, Saadi reportedly criticized his father for having ignored him, and specifically cited the fact that his (Saadi’s) efforts to establish an Export Free Trade Zone near the western Libyan town of Zuwara had not enjoyed the kind of support that Muatassim’s activities as National Security Adviser or Saif al-Islam’s high-profile efforts under the Qadhafi Development Foundation and Libya Youth Forum. As reported ref C, Muammar al-Qadhafi subsequently made an unusual visit to Zuwara last September and significant work on the development project began within a few days of his visit. Although the Zuwara Free Trade Zone is an ambitious and expensive project, Muammar al-Qadhafi likely views it as a relatively small price to pay if it helps occupy the notoriously ill-behaved Saadi and lends a patina of useful engagement to his otherwise less than sterling reputation.

¶5. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXXX, have told us that Aisha played a strong role in urging a hardline Libyan position with respect to the Swiss-Libyan contretemps over Hannibal’s arrest. Separately, the Swiss Ambassador told us that Aisha’s less than accurate rendering to her father of the events surrounding Hannibal’s arrest and treatment by Swiss authorities helped stoke Muammar al-Qadhafi’s anger, limiting the extent to which Libyan and Swiss officials could maneuver to find an acceptable compromise. The Swiss have told us that in the most recent effort between the two sides to resolve the issue in Davos, Saif had approved an agreement that had the Swiss literally bending over backwards to assuage Libyan demands. After making a phone call (to either Aisha or the leader), Saif returned somewhat chastened after several minutes to rescind the aproval. The Swiss crisis, together with other points of intra-family tension, has reportedly brought Aisha, who enjoys closer relations with Hannibal than with her other brothers, together with Hannibal, Saadi and, to a lesser extent, Saif al-Arab. Muatassim reportedly agreed with the hardline approach vis a vis the Swiss and has been closer to Aisha’s end of the spectrum than to that of Saif al-Islam, who urged a more moderate approach. Muhammad al-Qadhafi (the eldest son, but by al-Qadhafis’ first wife) and Khamis al-Qadhafi (fifth son by al-Qadhafi’s second wife and the well-respected commander of a special forces unit that effectively serves as a regime protection unit) have remained neutral. Exacerbating family tensions is the fact that Saif al-Islam and his mother, Safia, have been on the outs since Saif al-Islam declined to accept as his bride the young woman his mother picked for him some two years ago. Safia al-Qadhafi expressed frustration XXXXXXXXXXXX that Saif al-Islam had not only spurned her choice, but had persisted in his hard-partying, womanizing ways, a source of concern in a socially conservative country like Libya.

INCREASED TENSION BETWEEN SAIF AL-ISLAM AND MUATASSIM

¶6. (C) Against that backdrop of tension, competition between Saif al-Islam, whom most still regard as the heir-apparent, and Muatassim, whose viability as a potential alternative successor has risen since his appointment as National Security Adviser, has increased since last fall. Several well-informed contacts with ties to family circles have reported that Saif al-Islam and Muatassim have not spoken in over three months. Saif reportedly bridled at the fact that Muatassim accompanied Muammar al-Qadhafi on the latter’s visit to Moscow, Minsk and Kiev last year (ref D), and played a key role in negotiating potential weapons contracts. Muatassim (who flew back early) and his older brother Muhammad greeted Muammar al-Qadhafi at the airport upon the latter’s return to Tripoli; Saif, who was in town, was pointedly absent. The Serbian Ambassador, citing conversations with National Security Council staff and members of al-Qadhafi’s entourage, recently told us that Muatassim had presented a number of proposed contracts for weapons, equipment and training to the Secretary of the Temporary Interim Defense Committee (MOD-equivalent), Abu Bakr Yunis shortly after his return from Moscow. Yunis rejected them, arguing that the terms Muatassim had negotiated were not favorable and that Libya did not need much of the equipment Muatassim had proposed buying. Muatassim interpreted Yunis’s response as an attempt to freeze him out of military procurement affairs; there was a heated meeting late last December between Muatassim and Yunis, at which there was sharp disagreement about who had the lead on military procurement. Muatassim reportedly argued that he alone should make such decisions. According to the Serbian Ambassador’s contacts, Muammar al-Qadhafi called a rump session of the Security Committee in December to mediate the conflict. It was reportedly decided that while Muatassim would have the clear lead in non-military security equipment procurement, Yunis and the MOD-equivalent would continue to play a role in military procurement. It was further determined that Khamis al-Qadhafi would play a larger role in military procurement, since his Khamis Regiment (the 32nd Brigade) had demonstrated some success in procurement. Muatassim, whom the Serbian Ambassador described as “a bloody man” and “not terribly bright”, reportedly believed that Saif al-Islam was behind some of the pushback against his having a clear lead on military procurement, worsening the tension between them.

¶7. (C) Saif al-Islam’s highly-publicized visit to the U.S. last November-December exacerbated tension with his siblings, particularly Muatassim, who viewed it as grandstanding. Saif al-Islam’s high-profile role as the public face of the regime to the West has been a mixed blessing for him. While it has bolstered his image (he is probably the most publicly-recognized figure in Libya other than Muammar al-Qadhafi), many Libyans view him as self-aggrandizing and too eager to please foreigners at the expense of Libyans’ interest. His role in the denouement of the Bulgarian nurses’ case, in which he acknowledged in media interviews that the nurses had been tortured and the investigation into their alleged injection of the AIDS virus into Libyan children bungled, badly damaged his reputation. The fact that his recent visit to the U.S. came not long after his August 2008 Youth Forum address – in which he strongly criticized the existing Jamahiriya system of governance, (disingenuously) said that most of his proposed reforms had already been achieved, and declared his intention to withdraw from political life to focus solely on civil society issues (ref E) – reportedly irritated his siblings. Senior GOL contacts have suggested to us that Muatassim’s desire to visit Washington this spring and his seemingly overweaning focus on having meetings with senior USG officials and signing a number of agreements are driven at least in part by a strong sense of competition with Saif al-Islam.

THE KNIVES COME OUT

¶8. (C) Recent events have fueled speculation that inter-sibling rivalries, and those of the more conservative regime elements they represent, have been increasing. In what was viewed as a warning to Saif al-Islam against pressing his reform agenda too hard, regime critic Dhaw al-Mansuri was severely beaten on the street early last summer by men variously described as members of the Revolutionary Committees or security elements. The Executive Director of the QDF-affiliated Human Rights Society of Libya, Muhammad Tarnesh, was detained in late April in connection with an editorial he had written criticizing the government’s poorly coordinated campaign of housing and infrastructure development that featured as its primary accomplishment the seemingly random destruction of large numbers of residences and businesses. Tarnesh told us the investigation was orchestrated by Prime Minister al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, who had taken umbrage at the column and who has been engaged in a quiet struggle with Saif al-Islam over the latter’s political-reform agenda. (Note: Al-Mahmoudi was appointed as a sop to conservative regime elements in 2006 after Shukhri Ghanem, former PM and a pro-reform protigi of Saif al-Islam, was sacked. End note.) More recently, the detention in early February of Juma’a Atiaga on charges that he was involved in a banned political organization and had a hand in the 1984 assassination of Libya’s former Ambassador to Rome, Ammar Daw, has been widely interpreted by informed observers here as a run against Saif al-Islam by conservative regime elements (ref G).

In interviews with al-Sharq al-Awsat at the time, Saif al-Islam decried the arrest as “ridiculous” and the QDF issued a statement calling for Atiaga’s release and criticizing GOL authorities for having arrested Atiaga while ignoring other cases involving allegations of human rights abuses that the QDF had brought to the attention of authorities. Reports suggest that National Security Adviser Muatassim al-Qadhafi orchestrated the arrest through the Prime Minister’s office in retaliation for Saif al-Islam’s recent encroachment on a business deal Muatassim was trying to broker.
¶9. (C) Perhaps most tellingly, Saif al-Islam’s longtime business partner and financial adviser, Abdulrahman Karfakh, left Tripoli under duress in January, ostensibly to study English in Australia. The shadowy Karfakh ran the National Engineering Supply and Services Company (NESSCO), a large holding company through which Saif al-Islam holds quiet partnerships in a number of foreign entities whose entry into the Libyan market he helped facilitate. Established as an oil field services companies in the late 1990’s, NESSCO now owns large stakes in over 20 major joint-venture projects and runs a profitable business in providing “facilitation” (usually visas and meetings with key GOL officials) for foreign companies seeking to enter the market. Together with Saif al-Islam’s quiet allotment of oil lifts from an offshore mooring point near the western Libyan area of al-Jurf, NESSCO represents his primary source of revenue and the principal means by which he finances his many activities. As reported ref H, we were told last May that Muatassim appeared to be moving to play a larger role in commercial contracts with foreign companies, a bailiwick that had largely been reserved to that point for Saif al-Islam. Karfakh was arrested last spring on corruption charges, supposedly at Muatassim’s behest, and was only released after an impassioned plea by Saif al-Islam to his father. Housing and Infrastructure Board Chairman Abuzeid Dorda told a contact of ours that Saif al-Islam had told Muammar al-Qadhafi that if he insisted on keeping Karfakh in prison, he might as well jail him (Saif al-Islam), too. In the latest evolution, Muatassim’s confederates approached Karfakh in late December early January and warned him against interfering in Muatassim’s business interests, threatening to kill him if he did not. Saif al-Islam reportedly assessed that he could no longer guarantee Karfakh’s safety or protect him from arrest, and arranged for him to quietly leave Tripoli for Australia for an indeterminate period to let things settle.
\
¶10. (C) The contretemps over Karfakh coincided with a sharp denial by Saif al-Islam of (incorrect) western media reports that he had paid USD one million to pop singer Mariah Carey for a four song set she sang at a New Year’s Eve bash on the Caribbean island of St. Bart’s. Saif al-Islam was in the UAE and Thailand for New Year’s. Saif’s “Oea” newspaper hotly denied that their boss had been the financier and corrections were printed in western media noting that Muatassim, not Saif al-Islam, was the organizer of the party in question. (Note: A well-informed contact, who helped bring Lionel Ritchie to Libya several years ago to sing at Aicha’s al-Qadhafi’s birthday party, recently confirmed that he had helped put Muatassim’s people in touch with Carey’s manager. End note.)

¶11. (C) Comment: While internecine strife is nothing new for the famously fractious al-Qadhafi family, the recent escalation of tension between Saif al-Islam and Muatassim, Aisha, Hannibal and Saadi, comes during a particularly momentous period in the Jamahiriya’s history. The 40th anniversary of the revolution on September 1, 2009, together with Muammar al-Qadhafi’s recent election as Chairman of the AU (ref H), proposed political-economic reforms, consideration of a constitution, and rumored elections, have contributed to a sense that Libya is in the midst of a period of particular political turbulence. The Executive Director of the QDF recently told the DCM that a draft constitution had been finished and submitted to the General People’s Committee (cabinet-equivalent) for approval, and that it could be submitted to the General People’s Congress for ratification sometime this year. The UN Resident Representative recently told the Ambassador that Saif al-Islam had established a super-committee under the auspices of the Economic and Development Board to draw up plans to implement wealth distribution and privatization/government restructuring advocated by Muammar al-Qadhafi last March (ref I). In addition to the fact that Saif al-Islam’s public calls for political-economic reforms are seemingly at odds with the old school manner in which he has attempted to monopolize the most lucrative sectors of the economy – a source of irritation for his siblings – the changes he has called for would directly and adversely impact their economic interests and those of other conservative regime elements who have few fungible skills other than political loyalty. Saif al-Islam’s recent announcement of a regional organization that would publicly identify specific individuals who perpetrate human rights abuses and target them for sanctions has been interpreted by some local observers as a manifestation of his frustration with the slow pace of reforms and as a threat to conservative regime elements, many of whom personally played a part in the most serious transgressions of  the late 1970’s and 1980’s.
¶12. (C) Comment (continued): Persistent rumors about Muammar al-Qadhafi’s declining health have lent particular urgency to questions about succession scenarios, throwing into stark relief the fact that, absent a constitution, there is no legal mechanism by which to orchestrate such an endeavor and seemingly increasing the stakes for the sibling rivalry. Adding to the current tension is the fact that some of al-Qadhafi’s children control military and security assets (Muatassim and Khamis – notably, Saif al-Islam does not). Harking back to the bloody feuds between members of the ruling Karamanli family during the Ottoman period, a well-informed contact recently noted that it is historically not a good thing when rival Libyan siblings have armed militias at their disposal. As Libya lurches forward with the effort to balance badly needed economic reform with the appearance of some political re-structuring – all against the backdrop of looming succession issues – the sharp rivalry between the al-Qadhafi children could play an important, if not determinative role, in whether the al-Qadhafi family is able to hold on to power after Muammar al-Qadhafi exits (one way or another) the political scene. End comment.
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SWITZERLAND & LIECHTENSTEIN: ASSESSING OUR BILATERAL RELATIONSHIPS

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011
ID
06BERN898
SUBJECT
SWITZERLAND & LIECHTENSTEIN: ASSESSING OUR \
DATE
2006-05-05 15:03:00
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TAGS: PREL ETRD SZ VE
SUBJECT: SWITZERLAND & LIECHTENSTEIN: ASSESSING OUR \
BILATERAL RELATIONSHIPS \
\
FROM AMBASSADOR PAMELA P. WILLEFORD \
\
1.(U) Introduction: As I prepare to leave Embassy Bern \after two and a half years, I would like to share some observations and insights I gained during my tenure here. I hope these thoughts will be helpful to those dealing with \Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and Europe in general. 

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Big Picture

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2.(SBU) Switzerland and Liechtenstein are niche players in the world and we must be creative in how we challenge them to contribute to our shared goals. Our three new agreements with Switzerland — covering political cooperation, trade and investment, and counterterrorism cooperation — are modest achievements in and of themselves, but must be filled with good content to be truly useful. We should not be afraid to ask our partners for assistance, mindful that there are constraints on how active these traditionally neutral countries can be. In anything we do, personal relationships will be key. We should not be fooled that the engineer-like Swiss are impervious to relationships – this is how we get things done. We encourage Washington to cultivate and use these relationships, just as we have done in Bern.

3.(SBU) A word on Davos. The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting is the premier event of its kind. The USG can use this platform to spread our message. Indeed, if we are early enough with our ideas, we can work with WEF organizers to fashion sessions and programs important to us. A high-level USG presence is noticed by the global community. We encourage Washington to begin thinking now about this coming January’s meeting.

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State of the Partnerships

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4.(SBU) Switzerland and Liechtenstein can be valuable partners for the United States, provided we are creative in identifying areas of cooperation that take into account their own limitations. Though neither is a member of the EU or NATO, each play a role larger than their size would suggest. Switzerland and Liechtenstein, as international financial centers, are important to the struggle against terrorist finance, money laundering, and narcotics assets. Economically, Switzerland is the world’s 16th largest economy, 12th largest aid donor, 6th largest direct investor in the United States, and “manager” of 40 percent of the world’s privately held savings. Switzerland is a participant in all relevant export control and non-proliferation regimes. In political affairs, Switzerland plays above its size in the United Nations. It has used its neutral status to our benefit along the Korean DMZ and as our protecting power in Iran and Cuba. As depository of the Geneva Conventions, Switzerland has recently played a key role in hosting a diplomatic conference passing the Third Additional Protocol to the Third Geneva Convention. Switzerland’s tentative steps toward peacekeeping in the Balkans, engagement in NATO’s Partnership for Peace, and even tiny presence with ISAF in Afghanistan, reflects a country reconsidering its role in global security – though with trepidation.

5.(SBU) Our greatest challenge has been prying more cooperation out of the often provincial and isolationist sectors of the societies. Bank secrecy laws entail that host country financial institutions are substantially self-policing – not an entirely comforting situation. Agricultural protectionism shattered Swiss efforts to pursue a free trade agreement with the United States. Both the federal structure of Switzerland and acute concerns about sovereignty mean that information sharing on terrorism, proliferation, and other crimes is less than optimal. The Swiss military is barred from participation in peace enforcement (as opposed to peacekeeping) activities. Media has been critical of the war in Iraq and the broader war on terrorism – particularly with respect to Guantanamo, renditions, and travel/visa restrictions. Bad feelings derived from the Holocaust Assets scandal still redounds against us.

6.(SBU) Facing these challenges, Embassy Bern has worked with sympathetic counterparts within the host governments to fashion ways of improving coordination and avoiding friction. Among the measures we have taken are several agreements designed to ease cooperation on political affairs, trade, and law enforcement. The Federal Council approved three this week, and should address the customs agreement this summer:

— Framework for Intensified Cooperation, to ease collaboration on multilateral democracy and security building. Thus far, this has reaped Swiss membership in, and million dollar donation to, the Foundation for the Future, as well as Swiss financial support for disarmament in Ukraine, election monitoring in Afghanistan, and the NATO/EAPC trust fund in Iraq.

— Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum (the Forum) for discussion and resolution of minor trade and investment disputes and discussion of common efforts to, for example, strengthen intellectual property rights. The Forum will complement other non-trade related economic discussions under the auspices of the Joint Economic Commission established in 2002.

— Operative Working Arrangement (OWA) to enable information sharing and possible joint investigations in terrorism cases.

— Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA), addressing offenses against customs laws that are prejudicial to the economic, fiscal, and commercial interests of both countries, due for finalization this summer.

7.(U) In addition to these agreements, the Embassy worked successfully with OBO and local Swiss officials to finalize a lease on a new chancery, which we should occupy in 2008.

———————————–

Regional Stability, Democracy & Aid

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8.(SBU) Switzerland’s traditional neutrality has, in the past, severely restricted its involvement in world affairs outside of the humanitarian and economic spheres. We have worked hard to bring the Swiss around toward fostering regional stability and democracy. In May 2005, the Federal Council (cabinet) voted to enhance our bilateral relationship. As a first gesture, they contributed $250 thousand to the NATO/PfP trust fund for Iraq, $350 thousand to dismantling conventional weapons in Ukraine, $300 thousand for election observation in Afghanistan (among the \largest OSCE donations), and added short-term training courses for Iraqi and Afghan security officials. The Swiss also made a significant commitment to fostering democracy in the broader Middle East and North Africa by joining the Forum for the Future and pledging $1 million to the Foundation for the Future.

9.(U) Progress on the diplomatic front was also impressive, as the Swiss fulfilled their obligation as depository state for the Geneva Conventions by hosting a diplomatic conference to approve the Third Additional Protocol, which in turn will allow the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement to recognize the Israeli Star-of-David emblem. Embassy (with \Mission Geneva) invested a great deal of effort in steeling the spines of our Swiss counterparts, efforts crucial to ensuring a successful diplomatic conference.

10.(SBU) For the future, we want the Swiss to maintain their 220-strong peacekeeping force deployed to Kosovo and Bosnia, to expand their small presence in Afghanistan, and to broaden their NATO-partnership activities outside of Europe. We want Swiss Army reform currently underway to succeed in transforming the Swiss military into a lighter, deployment-oriented force available for peace support operations. We also wish to maintain our defense procurement relationship with the Swiss military. We also hope to see the Swiss enlarge their broader security assistance to include police and border security assistance. Likewise, in the aftermath of the Kashmir earthquake and Indian Ocean Tsunami, we might encourage the Swiss to explore a potential PfP coordinating role for the use of military assets in humanitarian relief – an area that might appeal to the pacifist as well as internationalist sectors of the populace.

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Trade & Investment

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11.(U) A major outcome of the May 2005 Federal Council decision was the Swiss proposal to explore a free trade agreement with the United States. Unfortunately, needed agricultural tariff reforms were too large a pill for many Swiss to swallow. USTR’s fallback position was to initiate a bilateral Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum, mandated to address small, yet sensitive issues such as strengthening intellectual property rights cooperation, removing Non-Tariff Barriers to trade and investment, and beef and wine exports.

12.(U) Another potentially useful tool for the Mission is the U.S.-Swiss Joint Economic Commission (JEC), whose meetings in Washington, Bern, and at the World Economic Forum in Davos have served as fora for discussion and resolution of bilateral misunderstandings. Through the JEC, the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce, and intensive outreach efforts with Swiss and Liechtenstein media, the Mission has alleviated business concern about U.S. post-9/11 security measures such as passenger name recognition laws, food security, aviation cargo regulations, and the financial provisions of the Patriot Act. Working proactively, we averted a potential crisis on ZURICH Airport’s FAA certification. FCS’s intervention also turned back Swiss Health Office attempts to disadvantage U.S. pharmaceuticals.

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World Economic Forum

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13.(U) The WEF Annual Meeting in January is the premier international event of its kind. Our Embassy’s presence supports senior cabinet and congressional participation (six cabinet members and seven legislators last year; presidents and vice presidents in recent years). Our consultations with WEF organizers ensure that USG officials have a platform to our present policies. This year, for the first time, the Mission established a “Shared Logistics Platform” that provided airport and security liaison assistance, as well as logistical support in the run-up to and during the WEF on a cost-sharing basis. Washington remains an important partner for the Mission in WEF support, as we seek to regularize this practice and improve support for high-level USG WEF attendees.

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Counterterrorism & Law Enforcement

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14.(U) The FBI, Homeland Security, and the Drug Enforcement Administration are all represented at post, while other law enforcement agencies are represented by regional offices. We are working with Washington and the Swiss Government to grant the RSO law enforcement status as well.

15.(SBU) Cooperation with Swiss law enforcement agencies has improved “glacially” over recent years. We are hoping some changes will speed this process along. We have recently agreed on new language for an updated bilateral Operative Working Agreement (OWA) allowing joint investigations under certain narrow circumstances. Swiss Justice Minister Blocher will now present to Parliament. Direct cooperation with cantonal and municipal police is severely restricted. We are also hopeful that a new OWA will lead to greater information sharing between the Swiss and Embassy law enforcement representatives, including at the cantonal level.

16.(SBU) Given the absence of direct attacks in their territory, public complacency is a big problem. The level of risk is impossible to establish, absent the ability to investigate leads. High-profile terrorist suspects arrested here – primarily support-personnel for the Madrid and Riyadh bombings – have been provisionally freed for lack of hard evidence. One Salafist terrorist was deported to Spain, though only after a leak to the Spanish media revealed his presence in the country.

17.(SBU) On terrorist finance, the Swiss continue to freeze over $25 million in al Qaeda/Taliban assets. Switzerland holds about $130 million in Iraqi assets, whose turnover has been delayed by UN bureaucracy. Liechtenstein, for its part, is cooperating on the U.N. lists and is looking for ways to be helpful in USG efforts against North Korean assets. We will continue to press both countries to ensure that financial institutions exercise due diligence with their clients and for authorities vigorously to investigate suspicious transaction reports.

18.(SBU) Liechtenstein was a model of cooperation for the mission’s law enforcement agencies, offering legal assistance on important investigations of money laundering and child pornography. The principality continues to be in full compliance with the Financial Action Task Force requirements. It recently returned a high-profile Iraqi asset, Saddam’s former executive jet, to the new government there. Post ensured that media was aware of all these successes.

19.(SBU) One area where we have been effective in encouraging better coordination is in combating trafficking in persons (TIP). USG pressure, especially the downgrading of Switzerland in 2004 to “tier two,” has spurred the Swiss Federal Government to communicate better with cantons on ways to protect trafficking victims and to identify areas of prosecution. As the Swiss move to introduce new legislation and enlarge data collection, we will look for ways to encourage and support them.

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Non-proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

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20.(SBU) The Swiss are members of all relevant non-proliferation agreements and regimes and reliably report requests for controlled items. Traditionally, in the gray area of dual-use items, the Swiss have been less diligent. However, we have recently witnessed a greater openness on the part of export control officials to share information, due in large measure to Embassy outreach and Washington’s agreement to supply leads on investigations. Given the growing threat from Iran and North Korea, this is very important. Swiss officials have taken part in PSI exercises and are on-board for using existing law robustly against proliferators. The Mission hopes that a broadened OWA will also foster joint investigations in the area of non-proliferation connected with terrorism.

21.(SBU) The Swiss co-hosted with the USG two major conferences on WMD – one a workshop for 80 representatives of Eurasian countries on the bio-terrorism threat and another with 60 participants on supporting a US Department of Energy effort to eliminate plutonium-producing plants in Russia. Pledges on the latter project have been forthcoming. Follow-on conferences on both themes are expected in the coming 12 months. In addition, under Partnership for Peace, the Swiss sponsor annual international conferences on critical infrastructure protection – an effort for which we hope to recruit USG experts.

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Consular

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22.(U) This year, our Consular Section has taken on additional burdens in assisting neighboring consular \districts in Italy and France, where governments have failed to adopt machine-readable passports by the USG’s deadline. These efforts are in addition to the usual portfolio, which also includes close coordination with the Swiss Protecting Power in Tehran. Notwithstanding these challenges, Consular has achieved remarkable success in reducing visa applicant waiting times and improving customer service. Washington was helpful in providing us with a needed fourth consular officer.

23.(U) The Embassy also increased public outreach to clarify visa and passport regulations and procedures and provide a human face to the application process. Our Homeland Security, Foreign Commercial Service, Consular, and Public Affairs sections initiated and implemented a program of travel trade promotions and outreach to the press and the Swiss travel industry that has contributed to a significant improvement in the Swiss public perception of travel to the U.S. Other factors contributing to the improved perception are the implementation of a Swiss pilot program for biometric passports and a growing public appreciation for security measures. Positive public perception combined with favorable economic factors made the U.S. the leading long-haul destination for Swiss travelers. The annual number of Swiss travelers to the U.S. increased from 235 thousand in 2003 to 270 thousand in 2005, with an annual 300 thousand expected by 2007.

24.(U) Swiss students studying in the U.S. contribute approximately USD 60 million to the U.S. economy on an annual basis. To promote graduate studies in the U.S., the Commercial, Public Affairs and Consular sections joined forces to support the annual MBA Fair in ZURICH. In 2005, a total of 4,656 students enrolled in U.S. higher education programs, a 13 percent boost from the previous year.

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Public Diplomacy

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25.(U) On all the above substantive goals, official Swiss reluctance to engage more deeply with the United States stems largely from public suspicion of USG actions. Generally, the Swiss public is not energized about the terrorist threat; those who are tend to believe that association with America might only increase Switzerland’s exposure. Some Swiss do “get it,” however. Mission’s task is to work with these partners to spread the message that terrorism threatens us all and that spreading freedom and prosperity to the region is a long-term means to tackle the threat. The large majority who opposed the war in Iraq must be reminded that we share a common interest in a successful new Iraq. Those media outlets that have exaggerated USG faults have had their over-reaching exposed. We will seek ways to help those sympathetic to our goals get the word out.

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Post Security

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26.(SBU) As noted in the law enforcement section, it has been an uphill struggle to convince many Swiss authorities of the gravity of the current threat. For many years, the Canton of Bern refused our requests to operate a surveillance detection (SD) team. We have succeeded in reversing their decision and we should have an SD program in place shortly. As noted, we are working to have our diplomatic security agents recognized as law enforcement under our bilateral agreements. The coming years will offer a particular challenge as we relocate the Embassy to a new chancery.

—————————————-

Management: Relocation to a New Chancery

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27.(U) Among the most satisfying accomplishments of the past years has been the identification and securing of a new chancery. In 2005, we signed a lease for a more secure and centrally located Chancery building and executed a contract to sell the existing building. We are completing the permit process. Renovation on the new site should begin mid-2006, and we should be prepared to relocate in early FY 2008. Until that time, tremendous efforts will still be necessary to overcome challenges, both expected and unexpected. Washington’s continued support will be key.

———-

Final note

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28.(U) I would like to thank everyone in Washington and Bern for their wonderful support during my time here. I have had the privilege of working with tremendously talented people who are dedicated to serving their country. Representing my country as U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein has been one of the highlights of my life.

WILLEFORD

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TASHKENT TIDBITS OCTOBER 20, 2008

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011
ID 08TASHKENT1201
SUBJECT TASHKENT TIDBITS OCTOBER 20, 2008 \
DATE 2008-10-20 12:12:00
CLASSIFICATION CONFIDENTIAL
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TAGS: PREL PGOV ECON UZSUBJECT: TASHKENT TIDBITS OCTOBER 20, 2008

Classified By: POL-ECON Chief Nicholas Berliner for reasons 1.4 b and d.

UNDP and Uzbek Customs Launch New Web Site

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¶1. (C) The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Uzbekistan’s State Customs Committee have launched a new website (www.customsreform.uz), which will include updates on the latest changes in Customs regulation and discussions of the new Customs Code. An English-language version is in the works.

Non-Stop Service to Switzerland

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¶2. (C) Uzbekistan Airlines last week announced the expansion of its route network to include a new non-stop flight linking Tashkent and Geneva. At first glance this seems like an unusual choice since the airline already serves several major European hubs and Geneva is not a particularly large city; ZURICH is also a more of a gateway airport. We can’t even convince the Government of Uzbekistan to extend prison visit agreements with the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross. The main reason may be that the new Uzbek Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva happens to be President Karimov’s daughter, Gulnora Karimova, who would otherwise be subjected to time-consuming layovers in Paris, Frankfurt, or Milan on her commutes. The direct flight may also prove popular with Uzbek “biznessmen” seeking to do anonymous banking.

Russian Ambassador Moving On

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¶3. (U) The Russian MFA reported on its website that the Russian Ambassador to Tashkent, Farit Muhametshin, has been appointed the head of the Federal Agency for Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Affairs, Citizens Living Abroad, and \International Humanitarian Cooperation. The Charge d’Affaires will be Vazyh Ibragimovich Serazaev until a new envoy is named. In an October 18 article the Uzbek website uzmetronom.com credited Muhametshin, an ethnic Tatar, with the “restoration of friendly and allied relations between the states.”

Russia’s Economy and Uzbek Migrants

———————————–

¶4. (C) The effect of the world economic crisis on Uzbekistan was the topic of discussion at a meeting of embassy and IFI economists hosted last week by the Tashkent office of the EBRD. A significant portion of the discussion was devoted to the effect a downturn in the Russian economy would have on the up to 5 million Uzbek migrant laborers in Russia. A representative of the Russian trade mission assured us that the Russian migration service would be ruthless and efficient in deporting undocumented laborers, but his assertion was met with raised eyebrows. Other participants posited the more believable notion that highly qualified Uzbeks working in Russia will always find work and will remain through any recession, whereas unskilled laborers employed mainly in the construction industry may flood back to their family bases in Uzbekistan. Given that officially acknowledged remittances amounted to USD 1.6 billion in 2007 (nearly 9% of the Uzbek GDP), a mass return of unskilled laborers could be the most significant manifestation of the world economic crisis in Uzbekistan.

Iranian Ambassador Takes Four Months to Present Credentials

——————————————— ————-

¶5. (C) Iran’s new ambassador to Uzbekistan Muhammad Keshovarzoda was in Tashkent for four months before presenting his credentials to President Karimov on October

¶15. That Karimov was clearly in no hurry to receive Keshovarzoda can be seen as a reflection of GOU attitudes about Iran generally and suspicions about Tehran’s motives in the region.

NORLAND

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GOC PEACE COMMISSIONER ON PARAMILITARY LINKS TO GOC OFFICIALS, ELN AND THE FARC

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

ID 06BOGOTA10826
SUBJECT GOC PEACE COMMISSIONER ON PARAMILITARY LINKS TO
DATE 2006-11-29 22:10:00
CLASSIFICATION CONFIDENTIAL
ORIGIN Embassy Bogota
TEXT C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 010826

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/29/2016
TAGS: MARR PGOV PREL PTER CO CS CU FR NO SP SZ
SUBJECT: GOC PEACE COMMISSIONER ON PARAMILITARY LINKS TO
GOC OFFICIALS, ELN AND THE FARC

Classified By: Ambassador William B. Wood for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) Summary: Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo said
the GOC is committed to uncovering the truth about
paramilitary links to Colombia’s political, economic, and
military elites, but warned that the process would produce
substantial political and institutional costs. He is urging
President Uribe to reach out to opposition political parties
in an effort to agree on a unified approach to manage the
institutional damage resulting from the revelations. He does
not expect any breakthroughs at the next round of ELN talks,
but hopes to make progress on substantive issues. Restrepo
said the GOC has authorized the accompanying countries to
convey to the FARC that the GOC will not agree to talks on a
humanitarian accord unless the FARC halts terrorist actions,
makes a good faith gesture such as providing proof of life,
and puts forth a viable proposal. End Summary

Revelations of Colombian Congress-Paramilitary Ties

¶2. (C) Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo told us
November 22 the GOC supports the ongoing judicial
investigations of links between Colombian Congressmen and
paramilitary leaders. The peace process aimed to produce the
truth about paramilitary crimes*including their links to
regional political, economic and military elites*and the
revelations will continue. This is key to helping Colombia
break with its past. Still, he said the GOC is paying a high
political cost, since many of the congressmen involved are
members of President Uribe’s coalition. The GOC’s failure to
capture paramilitary leader Vicente Castano and other
paramilitary fugitives, its inability to prevent the
emergence of new criminal groups, and the Fiscalia’s slow
implementation of the Justice and Peace Law are exacerbating
this problem.

¶3. (C) Restrepo said the danger is that opposition political
parties will continue to exploit the exposure of
paramilitary-political class links for purely partisan
advantage. This will not only damage President Uribe and his
government, but will also severely undermine the credibility
and effectiveness of Colombia’s public institutions.
Restrepo said he is urging President Uribe to try to agree
with the opposition Liberal and Polo Democratico parties on a
unified approach to manage the institutional damage resulting
from the investigations. He recognized that such a deal
would require the GOC to offer the opposition concrete
advantages, including government positions and a commitment
to pursue the investigations wherever they might lead.
Restrepo said such an agreement would be difficult to
achieve, especially given the personal bitterness between
many political leaders, but said it would be worth it to
structure the public political debate.

Paramilitary Leaders in La Ceja and New Criminal Groups

¶4. (C) Restrepo said the paramilitary leaders in La Ceja
“feel trapped” and cannot agree on a common strategy.
Leaders such as Jorge 40 and Macaco are losing control over
their organizations, and fear the newly emerging criminal
groups. Omega, Jorge 40’s main military leader, was killed
on November 18 in Medellin by narcotraffickers intent on
seizing 40’s territory. Restrepo said La Ceja group is
looking to Vicente Castano for leadership. The November 6
letter by Castano accusing the GOC of violating its deal with
the paramilitaries was drafted in consultation with the La
Ceja detainees, and the group is increasingly unwilling to
cooperate with the JPL process. Restrepo doubted that more
than 50 paramilitaries would eventually ratify their
willingness to confess under the Justice and Peace Law (JPL).
He said the GOC would subject those who do not ratify to the
ordinary justice system, including extradition, but warned
this would involve security, political and legal risks.

¶5. (C) Restrepo said Vicente Castano offered to meet with him

November 21 under specific conditions, but he had refused.
Restrepo said the GOC is searching for Castano, but it would
be difficult to locate and detain him. The paramilitary
leader has deep pockets, operates his businesses through
multiple intermediaries, and is prepared to spend years on
the run. Restrepo said the GOC faces similar difficulties in
combating new criminal groups. Narcotraffickers*including
the FARC*are linking up with former paramilitary mid-level
commanders to build their own military capacity. The rural
police, or carabineros, have captured 460 members of these
groups, but have been unable to destroy a single organization
or to arrest their growth. Restrepo claimed current
counternarcotics efforts are ineffective, making it difficult
for the GOC to halt the formation of new, narco-based,
paramilitary groups.

ELN

¶6. (C) Restrepo does not expect the next round of talks in
Havana in December to produce any breakthroughs, but hopes to
make some progress on substantive issues. The GOC will try
to use the ELN’s desire for international funding to press
for ELN commitments on a ceasefire and a halt to kidnapping.
It is unacceptable for the ELN to continue kidnapping, which
it does at the rate of a victim a week, while talks continue.
He would meet with ELN negotiators Antonio Garcia, Francisco
Galan, and Juan Cuellar, as well as the accompanying
countries, in Caracas on November 23 to lay the groundwork
for the Havana meeting. Restrepo reiterated his fear that
the ELN is not serious about an agreement, and is only using
the talks to strengthen its ties with civil society and the
international community. He conceded, however, that the GOC
is not prepared to break off talks at this point.

¶7. (C) Restrepo complained the GOC receives little help from
other participants in the negotiations. The accompanying
countries*Spain, Norway and SWITZERLAND*routinely yield to
the ELN or adopt a neutral stance. For example, the ELN
claims it has a commitment from Norway to provide it with
500,000 Euros with no strings attached. The soft approach of
the accompanying countries toward the ELN complicates his
efforts to use international funding as leverage in the
negotiations. He said the guarantors are “unreliable” and
have no influence over the ELN. Lastly, Restrepo noted that
the civil society participants are all ELN sympathizers or
GOC critics.

FARC

¶8. (C) Restrepo said he met with representative of the three
accompanying countries*Spain, France and SWITZERLAND*in
Paris in early November to explain the GOC’s decision to
break off overtures to the FARC after the group’s October 19
bombing in Bogota. He also outlined the GOC’s position that
no talks on a humanitarian accord could occur until the FARC
suspended terrorist actions, made a good faith gesture such
as providing proof of life, and put forth a viable proposal
for discussion. Restrepo said the French were initially
critical of the GOC position, but later voiced understanding.
He said the GOC approved a request by the countries to reach
out to the FARC to convey the GOC stance. Restrepo added
that President Uribe had also authorized political operator
Alvaro Leyva to do the same.

¶9. (C) Despite these contacts, Restrepo doubted the FARC
would respond favorably. The FARC continues to believe it
can outlast President Uribe. With each Colombian legislator
tied to the paramilitaries, the FARC feel politically
stronger vis–vis the GOC. The recent mistrial in the Simon
Trinidad case further inflated the FARC’s sense of its
political power. Moreover, FARC success in infiltrating
territory vacated by the paramilitaries has strengthened its
military position on the ground and made the group even more
intransigent.

¶10. (C) Restrepo said the GOC has “great hopes” that
increased use of high technology weapons*coupled with
improved intelligence*will enable it to kill or capture a
FARC secretariat member, thereby forcing the FARC to begin
serious negotiations. He said a GOC success against a
Secretariat member would be a serious blow to the group’s

SIPDIS
mystique and image of invincibility. Still, Restrepo said
such an action alone would be unlikely to bring the FARC to
the negotiating table.
WOOD

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S/CT CRUMPTON PRESSES THE SWISS TO SHARE MORE INTEL

Friday, February 18th, 2011

ID
06BERN1867
SUBJECT
S/CT CRUMPTON PRESSES THE SWISS TO SHARE MORE INTEL \
DATE
2006-10-02 14:02:00
CLASSIFICATION
SECRET
ORIGIN
Embassy Bern
TEXT
80378 2006-10-02 14:48:00 06BERN1867 Embassy Bern SECRET VZCZCXYZ0000\
PP RUEHWEB\
\
DE RUEHSW #1867/01 2751448\
ZNY SSSSS ZZH\
P 021448Z OCT 06\
FM AMEMBASSY BERN\
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INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY\
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S E C R E T BERN 001867 \
\
SIPDIS \
\
SIPDIS \
\
STATE FOR S/CT, EUR, ISN \
\
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/02/2031 \
TAGS: PTER ETTC SZ
SUBJECT: S/CT CRUMPTON PRESSES THE SWISS TO SHARE MORE INTEL \
\
Classified By: DCM Carol Urban, Reasons 1.4 b/d/h \
\
1.(S) Summary: Counterterrorism Coordinator Henry Crumpton \
met with SWISS officials on September 7 to urge better \
intelligence sharing on terrorism. Crumpton highlighted the \
importance of a broad exchange of information as a necessary \
means to defeating terrorist plans. SWISS officials \
expressed surprise at USG dissatisfaction with their \
performance, but pointed to various SWISS legal and resource \
reasons to explain their inability to share more. SWISS \
officials added that they welcomed the President’s decision \
to transfer 14 high-value al-Qaida suspects to military \
custody, asserting that more such gestures would make \
U.S.-SWISS counterterrorism cooperation easier to sell to the \
SWISS public. End summary. \
\
——————————- \
Surprise at USG Dissatisfaction \
——————————- \
\
2.(S) Prior to attending the U.S.-SWISS sponsored “Black Ice” \
bioterrorism exercise held September 7-8 in Montreux, U.S. \
Counterterrorism Coordinator Crumpton met in Bern with senior \
SWISS officials in order to convey the message that \
intelligence sharing needed to improve. At a breakfast \
meeting with SWISS Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Deputy \
Political Director Anton Thalmann, DFA Security Policy \
director Jacques Pitteloud, and Poloff, Ambassador Crumpton \
said that the USG, while pleased that Switzerland has frozen \
over 34 million SWISS Francs (about $28 million) in \
Al-Qaida/Taliban assets, was concerned that suspected \
terrorists continued to operate in Switzerland, and that \
SWISS officials were too restrictive in what information they \
shared. Crumpton stressed that it was not sufficient to \
share only intelligence information having a specific U.S. \
nexus; only with the broad picture can governments adequately \
assess the threat. \
\
3.(S) Deputy PolDir Thalmann expressed surprise at the USG’s \
dissatisfaction with the SWISS performance. He had not heard \
this dissatisfaction expressed with regard to SWISS Justice \
Minister Blocher’s August visit to Washington for the signing \
of the new Operative Working Agreement (OWA) on \
counterterrorism cooperation. Pitteloud — a former SWISS \
intelligence official aware of (and sympathetic to the USG \
concerns) intelligence sharing shortfalls — offered that USG \
officials may have wished to emphasize the positive as they \
signed the OWA. Thalmann promised to consult with his \
interagency colleagues. \
\
4.(S) Noting President Bush’s speech the previous evening \
announcing the transfer of 14 high-value suspects from \
confidential confinement to Guantanamo Bay, Thalmann and \
\
SIPDIS \
Pitteloud said they were pleased the USG was moving closer to \
what they considered a more transparent approach to \
detainees. Pitteloud regretted that differences over \
detainees, overflights, and renditions had made closer \
SWISS-U.S. cooperation less popular with the SWISS public. \
\
——————————————— — \
Bank Secrecy and Countering Terrorist Financing \
——————————————— — \
\
5.(C) Meeting later with SWISS officials from the SWISS \
Banking Commission and from the departments of Foreign \
Affairs, Economics, and Finance, Ambassador Crumpton — \
joined by Embassy law enforcement and Econoff — observed \
that SWISS bank secrecy laws proved a formidable obstacle \
regarding how much information the SWISS could share with the \
U.S. on suspect assets. Urs Zulauf, spokesman for the SWISS \
Banking Commission, explained that the SWISS needed very \
specific information from the USG in order to freeze assets \
or start criminal cases; information that was not always \
forthcoming. He explained that the SWISS legal system had \
very explicit requirements regarding terrorism financing: “we \
have no flexibility”. \
\
6.(C) Ambassador Crumpton acknowledged SWISS concerns and \
constraints and indicated he would relay this to Washington \
agencies. He requested, however, that the SWISS think \
creatively about ways the government could improve its \
information sharing. He stressed that there is no piece of \
information that is “purely domestic” as terrorists are \
micro-level actors with a macro-level impact. He noted that \
intelligence and information-sharing programs such as Swift \
have benefited Switzerland and have produced information — \
SWISS-origin information — that resulted in anti-terrorism \
cases. Ambassador Crumpton stressed that it was inadequate \
for the Banking Commission, DFA and others in the SWISS \
Administration to restrict information exchanges to threats \
specifically identifiable to the United States. Important \
puzzle pieces in the global war on terrorism could be \
disregarded if this limited approach is not expanded. \
\
——————————————— —— \
Accustomed to Police Cooperation, not Intel Sharing \
——————————————— —— \
\
7.(S) Charge joined Ambassador Crumpton for a meeting with \
Federal Police Director Jean-Luc Vez, XXXXXXXXXXXX and \
Michel Perler of the Federal Criminal Police (BKP), and Juerg \
Buehler, deputy director of the Service for Analysis and \
Protection (Internal Intelligence Service). Ambassador \
Crumpton thanked Vez and Justice Minister Blocher for \
pressing forward on the U.S.-SWISS Operative Working \
Agreement (OWA). He hoped the new OWA would be more than a \
piece of paper, but rather a vehicle for real \
counterterrorism cooperation. Given the threat faced by both \
countries, one could not confine intelligence sharing only to \
“SWISS-specific” or “US-specific” intelligence. The Heathrow \
plot was thwarted because of good intelligence sharing among \
different services, which we were sharing even before we knew \
the American nexus. All friendly services should share as \
much as possible with each other. \
\
8.(S) The SWISS officials chafed at the suggestion by Embassy \
law enforcement officials that they had not been responsive \
to specific requests for information. Traditionally, the \
SWISS had turned to the police forces to undertake \
investigations of all threats, including terrorism. He was \
convinced that it was time to develop the intelligence side, \
but the SWISS services were small and it would take \
considerable time to push the changes through the legislative \
process. Vez described U.S.-SWISS cooperation as good, but \
asserted that the USG needed to provide more detailed \
information if we expected the SWISS to prosecute terrorists. \
(Comment: The SWISS complaint that USG intelligence is \
insufficiently specific reflects their passive approach \
counterterrorism — one would hope SWISS investigators could \
use this “lead-information” to build their own cases, rather \
than await complete criminal cases to be provided them on a \
platter. End comment.) \
\
9.(S) Charge observed that recent polling had shown the SWISS \
public relatively unconcerned about terrorism. Asked how he \
viewed the threat, Vez said that he was confident there was \
“no threat to Switzerland,” but he realized the situation \
could change rapidly. There was an evident \
“individualization” of the jihadi threat, and the fact that \
there was less coordination and control by a central command \
widened the threat, as seen with the attempted train bombings \
in Germany. XXXXXXXXXXXX followed with an informative slide \
presentation on the SWISS nexus with senior al-Qaida leaders \
dating back to the early 1990s. \
\
10.(S) Pulling Vez aside at the end, Ambassador Crumpton \
underlined the gravity of the situation, describing \
Switzerland as nearly the only country in Western Europe to \
have not provided a response to our information on the \
al-Qaida threat in Europe. Vez was vague in his response, \
giving no indication he would improve things in the near term. \
\
——- \
Comment \
——- \
\
11.(S) The SWISS Service for Analysis and Prevention (DAP) is \
uncooperative toward Embassy law enforcement and other \
officials. This could partly be due to the anti-Americanism \
of DAP’s director Urs von Daeniken, but the problem is more \
widespread; DAP doesn’t share very well with other services \
or within the SWISS bureaucracy itself. What little \
information does get shared is by the Federal Criminal Police \
(BKP), a sister office in the Federal Police Bureau, whose \
counterterrorism cell hosts an FBI agent. However, even the \
BKP’s information tends to be solely U.S.-specific, and short \
of the broader picture desired. \
\
12.(S) Domestically, DAP has little to lose from poor \
cooperation with the U.S. Public sentiment leans against \
involvement in intelligence gathering, foreign or domestic. \
Justice Minister Blocher’s attitude toward the situation has \
not been as helpful as initially hoped when he took office in \
January 2004. Although he is obviously aware of the problem, \
he apparently sees no political percentage to making a swift \
change. Embassy will continue to encourage senior USG \
officials to send the message conveyed by Ambassador Crumpton \
(and Treasury Under Secretary Stuart Levey after him), namely \
the need to share intelligence information broadly, in order \
to tackle the threat. \
CONEWAY \
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