Sunday, October 14, 2007

Update on the crashed coke jet with the CIA history

I'm sure you recall the Gulfstream II laden with tons of cocaine that went down in Mexico at the end of last month. A number of surprising facts brought this aircraft to our attention, not least among them its history as a CIA rendition jet. The jet underwent a series of rapid ownership transfers just before the Big Event.

The last owners of record -- the parties who officially bought the jet on the very day that it took off on its fateful journey (a trip that must have been arranged well in advance) -- were Florida businessmen Clyde O'Connor and Gregory D. Smith. O'Connor ran an aviation firm called Execstar.

An anonymous commenter just now left a message on an earlier post: Clyde O'Connor flew to the Azores from Canada on October 12.

I don't know how my reader learned this fact, if it is a fact. The last article to mention O'Connor -- and quite a juicy piece it is -- was published in the Broward Palm Beach New Times on October 11. That article was written by Bob Norman, who provides some top-notch journalism.

From the start, I considered O'Connor a noteworthy individual, since he declared bankruptcy in 1998 but somehow ran a four-million dollar company in 2002. The new story details the man's safety violations, his connections to three crashes, and his bankruptcies.
O'Connor is a man who drives too fast, disobeys the rules, falls into debt despite access to millions of dollars, and has been linked to no fewer than three plane crashes. He's never been an easy man to pin down, but he's been a veritable ghost since the September 24 crash, which is under investigation by authorities in Mexico, Colombia, and the United States.

So when the sandy-haired, six-foot-two O'Connor popped up in the lobby of an aviation business at Fort Lauderdale Executive just a week after the crash, it was the talk of the flying set.

"He was standing in the lobby of Banyan Air Service — and we all thought he was in jail in Mexico," said Joan Kuntz, a manager at Sheltair Aviation, O'Connor's former landlord.
Readers with really good memories may recall my earlier piece, in which I noted (in the final paragraph) that O'Connor had written a letter praising the duty-related death of a local cop, as recounted in a previous story by Bob Norman. O'Connor doesn't like policemen, it seems. But the law must have had an awful fondness for him: Authorities let him run around free for weeks after his coke-laden jet hit the jungle floor near Cancun.

I suppose I'll get my wrists slapped for speculating in public, but what the hell. (I'm a blogger, not Katie Couric.) If you, like me, are inclined to suspect that the CIA was still running that jet, then perhaps you will agree with my view that O'Connor seems to be the sort of fellow who, in a desperate-for-dollars moment, might lend his name to such an endeavor. I don't think he ran the show. The Agency often does not own the aircraft it controls or uses.

In earlier stories, we spoke of the Skyway jet captured in Mexico. That jet also carried tons of coke, and it also had a CIA history. The owner of record was a teflon-coated con artist named Brent Kovar, although I've seen no evidence that he ever actually used the jet. That plane also underwent a series of confusing, last-minute ownership changes in the days just before it went on its drug run.

If you are now muttering something about bloggers who wear their tin-foil hats too tight, that's your privilege. So how do you explain the fact that O'Connor was allowed to walk around free until his reported getaway?

Incidentally, O'Connor's partner, Greg Smith, who owns another aviation firm, refuses to discuss the matter. So does the DEA. So do most newspapers.


Anonymous said...

You seen this one yet?

Pilot fined for hiding firearms
American caught in Halifax has alleged ties to drug lord
By DAVENE JEFFREY Staff Reporter
Sat. Oct 13 - 5:22 AM

An American pilot with alleged ties to a notorious Mexican drug lord was fined $1,500 Thursday for not declaring two handguns when he touched down in Halifax to refuel. And he had to fork over another $2,000 to get his plane back.

Clyde Stewart O’Connor, 42, of Florida landed his Cessna 210 at Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Wednesday afternoon, said Laurie Gillmore, a spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency.

It’s standard practice for officials to ask anyone entering the country whether they have any firearms, Ms. Gillmore said.

Border guards twice asked Mr. O’Connor if he was carrying any firearms, she said.

"He said no," she said.

"The aircraft was searched and two handguns were found."

Joseph Cannon said...

DA-yam! Thanks for this one, starroute.

Well, this goes some ways toward confirming what my anonymous source said. Clyde did go to Canada. And I'll bet he went on from there to the Azores.

More than that. I think we can presume that this guy has some "pull" with what Cartman would call "the AuthoriTAHS."

I mean, he's a pilot and he owns a plane, for Chrissakes. You'd think that if the cops really wanted his ass, they would put him in jail. Or impound his plane. Or send a bulletin to other airports: Be on the lookout...

If you own a car in which the cops find several ounces of pot, you'll be in for a world of hurt. This guy owned a plane caught shipping TONS of coke.

And he walks.

Or rather, flies.

Buh-bye, Clyde!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your CIA airplane chicanery.

I am old, so I know lots of folks. I know guys who flew for air america. Their aircraft were loaded with stuff that was unknown and they delivered the stuff and, if they were lucky, they weren't killed.

I also know sailors who knew about tons of heroin found on a large naval ship upon return from overseas.

The government needs a lot of money to do all the stuff they do. The quickest way to make a lot of money is to sell drugs.

Here is the point. They have been doing "it" for a generation, when are the great investigative reporters going to get to the point and find out what "they" are spending all of their drug money on?

40+ years of selling drugs for money and all I ever hear about is "they are selling drugs for money!"
Like this is some kind of earth shattering announcement. Where were you in 1967 when they were selling drugs for money?

Anonymous said...

I've been chasing names around online without knowing if I'm finding anything or not -- the private aircraft business is a world of its own, and not one I have the time (or, frankly, the interest) to try to untangle.

But I did get this far: Checking Clyde S. O'Connor at brings up under "Possible Relatives" what looks like the name of a wife, Raisa O'Connor.

Raisa's name then shows up as the contact person for Global Jet Charters:

Global Jet Charters specializes in providing cost effective and luxurious private air charter flights to the most discerning private jet travelers. From gourmet catering and arranging limousine and hotel accommodations, to golf reservations or arranging tickets to prestigious local events, our staff provides full service 24/7/365, and has made most first time flyers long term customers.

Global Jet Charters was founded in 1993 by Aero Toy Store, the world's largest pre-owned private jet aircraft sales company. Most Global Jet charter flights are in our own aircraft and the flight crews are hand picked employees.

And googling on Aero Toy Store brings up an interview with the general manager of its Canadian branch -- where things are apparently comparatively restrained -- that went something like this:

Speaking of "the ultimate," your hangar is spotless. Did you build it?

Discretion is huge in this industry. Let's just say we bought this hangar about 28 months ago from a fashion marketing genius. ...

Is it a new plane?

It's a trade-in. Like I said, discretion is big in this business. All I can say is that we got it from a U.S. Fortune 10 company. They side-graded to a Bombardier Global Express plane, so we took this as a trade-in. ...

But here in Montreal, buying a plane isn't an emotional thing like buying a sports car. In Las Vegas or Fort Lauderdale, where we have other Aero Toy Stores, you get internationally known wealthy people like P. Diddy who can say, "That one looks cool, I'll take it." ...

In the Canadian market we mostly sell planes for corporate use - for VPs and CEOs to get to meetings. In the States, we sell a lot of aircrafts for personal use. ...

Why do you have Maseratis, Corvettes and Mercedes all over the hangar?

Some people come in here for a plane and they see this '66 Corvette they love. We're more than happy to throw in the car when they're buying a plane.

Well, the rich are not like you and me -- we've heard that line before. But it does seem a little strange to me, since I expected O'Connor to be a sleazy figure living at the margins of society, and instead the line leads straight from him to the sort of place where the staff is always hand-picked and discrete, the customers always discerning, and they toss around Corvettes like after-dinner mints.

Joseph Cannon said...

Another excellent catch. Clyde's partner in the Gulfstream deal is a guy named Greg Smith, listed as the owner of something called Global Jet Solutions. Seems to me that this may be the same company, or a related firm.

Joseph Cannon said...

anon 6:07: Hope you don't mind me saying that it's always a pleasure to meet someone who makes me feel young. Where was I in '67? Collecting stray pop bottles to turn in so I could buy every damn comic book published by DC, Marvel and Charlton. And if I still had those books, I could sell 'em and retire.

The CIA drug-running allegations may be old news to you and to many of my other readers. But on the other side of the political aisle, any whisper of such a claim can lead to excoriation. An earlier story along these lines led one right-wing blogger to call for the "Mythbusters" crew to come in and debunk. (I like that show, but those guys don't seem like the kinds of folks who would track down Alfred McCoy for an interview.)

At any rate, I wish the folks responding "CIA? Drugs? Yawn -- old news" would pay a little more attention to what I actually wrote. This is an allegation NOT just that the CIA is back to its old smuggling tricks, but that it is using RENDITION as a cover for said tricks.

And if that thesis is true -- well, it places the entire controversy over rendition in a new light.

At least, I think so.

But boy-oh-boy, you do ask THE key question: Where's the damn money going?

Anonymous said...

It appears Clyde O'Connor's Cessna 210 is N210TM, which flew from Halifax Int'l to St. Johns Int'l on Thursday night, and then Ponta Delgada, in the Azores, the next morning.

N210TM is registered to Mellon Investments Corporation, located at 3511 Silverside Road, Suite 105, Wilmington, Delaware. This is the address of Delaware Registry, Ltd., a company that sets up Delaware corporations.

In 2003, N1116G, an aircraft owned by One Leasing, a corporation with the same address as Mellon Investments, crashed in Columbia with 4 people on board that were allegedly CIA employees.

Joseph Cannon said...

logancale, thank you thank you thank you.

That Delaware office is not quite as helpful as one might hope, since lots of companies do business there.

However, one other organization that has used that same address appears to be....Al Qaeda.

This Romanian-language story contains the addy, which it connects to a shady pair named Dimitros Kokkos and Riffat Mahmoud:

I'm not able to read this, because there are no good Romanian/English online free translators. However, plug those names into Google (Dimitros can be Dimitrios. Mahmoud can be Mohammed, and Riffat can be spelled a number of different ways) and you'll find that those two men were involved in a vessel that was supposedly part of the Al Qaeda "fleet."

See here:

These guys ran cargo ships. Supposedly, their crime was smuggling Al Qaeda operatives. I'm not sure you need a CARGO ship for that.

"Kokkos has links with Greek crime syndicates and is purely driven by commercial interests while Muhammed is an al Qaeda operative in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean."

Here's a lengthy story in La Repubblica on those two guys...

Well, so we know that the CIA and Al Qaeda were using the same Delaware address at the same time. Interesting.

But so far, we don't have enough to bowl over the folks who are likely to say "Coincidence! Pure coincidence!"

Joseph Cannon said...

Oooh, looky looky...

The same Delaware addy shows up in THIS extremely fragrant story...

Also found here:

Anonymous said...

Additional evidence that N210TM is the correct aircraft:

This page from 2002 has it available for charter from Execstar Aviation, O'Connor's former company.