Monday, February 18, 2013

Bout steak

The horsemeat-sold-as-beef scandal took a parapolitical turn recently, when it was revealed that the mastermind may be the notorious Viktor Bout. I once referred to Bout as the closest real life equivalent to a James Bond supervillain.

Some say that Bout should be pronounced "butt," which makes my headline a better pun than you probably thought at first. Others insist on pronouncing Bout as "boot", which means I need a new pun. You'd think that a guy with his kind of ill-gotten loot could afford a better suit than the one you see in the picture to your left. (Four buttons? And look at those sleeves...!)

Bout, formerly of the GRU (or KGB, depending on your source), is an arms merchant, most infamous for being the key supplier to Al Qaeda in the years before the World Trade Center attack. Before the American invasion, the Afghan airline -- yes, they had an airline -- had become your standard "guns in, drugs out" operation, and Bout supplied the guns. During our war with Iraq, Bout got hold of a lot of Bosnian weapons scheduled for destruction and got them into the hands of -- well, pretty much everyone on all sides. He's into shady airlines, blood diamonds, money laundering, surface-to-air missiles and all the other accoutrements of the modern fun-seeker.

To learn a lot more, try this New Yorker profile (and this one), along with this website (which needs updating). The New Yorker article indicates that everyone's favorite death merchant turned his attention to foodstuffs six or seven years ago.

In 2010, Bout was arrested in Thailand for making weapons deals with Colombian terrorists. Extradited to the U.S., he was convicted in November of 2011 and sentenced to 25 years in August of last year.

So the question becomes: How does a guy in prison have anything to do with companies connected to the horsemeat scandal?

The company many point to as the main culprit in the beef-substitution racket is called Draap Trading, headquartered in Cyprus.
Jan Fasen, who runs Draap and has denied any wrongdoing, was convicted last year of selling South American horsemeat as German and Dutch beef.

In a development that sheds light on the mysterious networks operating in the European food chain, it has emerged that Draap's sole director is an anonymous corporate services company called Guardstand, set up in 1996 and based in Limassol.
Guardstand, in turn, appears to be part of the Bout network. (Yes, I've simplified a very complicated tale; there's also a company called Ilex in there somewhere. If you want the fuller version, follow the links.)

Take another look at the photo above. Would you buy ground round from that guy? Given the appalling number of human corpses Bout has churned up, we should be glad that Draap turned to an equestrian substitute.

In his pre-prison days, Bout went to great lengths to curry favor with the Pentagon and the neocons -- a pretty neat trick, when you consider that he has also armed Israel's enemies. For more on Bout's Bush-era links to the U.S. and U.K. power elite, see here and here and here.
The 2005 film "Lord of War" with Nicholas Cage was loosely based on Bout and his exploits.

I was struck by the physical resemblance of these two men and then got to thinking…

Who's the better capitalist: Tom Friedman or Victor Bout?

"Merchant of Death" Viktor Bout linked to Euro Horsemeat Scandal...

I sometimes forget what happened to our country. But Belén Fernández has a new book out on Tom Friedman called The Imperial Messenger, and she reminds us of Friedman's achievement, in an interview in the NY Times Examiner:

Thomas Friedman pushed Iraq war as ‘radical liberal revolution’ to ‘install democracy in heart of Arab world’

The Thos. Friedman Estate Above- Viktor in prison cell below:

Viktor Bout was in his twenties when the Soviet Union collapsed. By 1992, he had purchased three Antonov transport aircraft, renting out the planes "dry" -- that is, without an air crew. His first weapons deliveries were to Afghanistan, where he supplied the Taliban and their opponents, the Northern Alliance, with weapons and ammunition that they had purchased in the Ukraine.
After 9/11, the Bout aircraft immediately commenced flying for the United States, initiating regular flights to Afghanistan and Baghdad International, transporting materials needed for reconstruction to those countries and by our troops.
There was a contract with Federal Express to deliver to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and Bouts Air Metro is contracted to fly for Dick Ckeney's old company, Kellogg, Brown and Root in Iraq…
From: Meet Viktor Bout | TribLIVE
I think it was Johnny Carson got in trouble for doing a skit about spokes people for businesses. It had something to do with Mr. Ed being the representative for one of the big burger chains. Life imitates fart.
"It is imperative to understand that Mr. Bout was not sanctioned by the US government until July of 2004,
and prior to that date there was not any prohibition to conduct business with him."

"Victor was an easy target that never fired back, and the story became the only source of income for the self-proclaimed "experts" like Peleman, Farah, and other opportunists who made living for years out of the story they invented." [...]
"The idea of a person that is been watched and traced by the world's law enforcement not to be caught defies logic." [...]
"... the person who created the story of Victor Bout, a Belgian person who studied 14th century poetry, started a carrier as a private investigator after failing to join the Belgian police.
That person was Johan Peleman"

Don't get me wrong, I hate armsdealers.
But (possible) hypocrisy, too.
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