Just another planeload of cash

I can’t help thinking that if this LA Times story is accurate, those BGIA planes need a searching.

In one of the most troubling trends, U.S. officials said that Al Qaeda’s command base in Pakistan is increasingly being funded by cash coming out of Iraq, where the terrorist network’s operatives are raising substantial sums from donations to the anti-American insurgency as well as kidnappings of wealthy Iraqis and other criminal activity.

The influx of money has bolstered Al Qaeda’s leadership ranks at a time when the core command is regrouping and reasserting influence over its far-flung network. The trend also signals a reversal in the traditional flow of Al Qaeda funds, with the network’s leadership surviving to a large extent on money coming in from its most profitable franchise, rather than distributing funds from headquarters to distant cells.

Al Qaeda’s efforts were aided, intelligence officials said, by Pakistan’s withdrawal in September of tens of thousands of troops from the tribal areas along the Afghanistan border where Bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, are believed to be hiding.

Little more than a year ago, Al Qaeda’s core command was thought to be in a financial crunch. But U.S. officials said cash shipped from Iraq has eased those troubles.

“Iraq is a big moneymaker for them,” said a senior U.S. counter-terrorism official.

Well, it’s yet another tick on the yards-long list of fuck-ups, and hardly surprising. But why BGIA? Consider this. Back in 2004-2005, this operation was flying constantly from Iraq to the UAE, occasionally from the UAE to Afghanistan, but also from the UAE to Pakistan on charter to “Royal Air Cargo”. This entity’s exact details are unclear, but let’s put it this way – it seems to be from Saudi Arabia, and its aircraft come from BGIA, Irbis Air Co, Air Cess, and Air Bridge Group, a shortlived company associated with Aerocom that wanted to fly between northern Australia and Indo-China with Antonov 12 aircraft.

You may be able to guess why this could be suspicious. Royal also lost an Ilyushin 76 on the approach to Bagram on Remembrance Day, 2005. But honestly, what is it that you’d move between Iraq and Pakistan? It’s not going to be anything good. Readers with long memories will remember that it was precisely the delivery of Iraq’s new currency that SkyLink Logistics carried out using BGIA’s chartered, Sao Tome-registered Il-76 S9-DAE. (See here, here, here, and here.)

There’s also another, Pakistani-based Royal – it’s even got a website, which tells us that it has ties to the UAE royal family. But then, so did our old friends Flying Dolphin and Santa Cruz Imperial.

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