A Slovak citizen has been identified as the ringleader of an international arms trading group that has defied a UN embargo on military shipments to Liberia over the past decade.
The UN report, published by the Security Council's Committee on Liberia on October 17, says Peter Jusko was the brains behind a scheme to issue false end-user certificates for arms shipments.
The fake certificates listed Guinea as the final destination of the arms. The Guinean government denied having placed the orders.
The documents were used by Jusko's gang to secure "helicopter gunships, transport aircraft, missiles, artillery pieces and massive quantities of small arms and ammunition" for governments and non-state actors in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to the report.
Jusko and his accomplices "individually played a very important role in arming Liberia and Sierra Leone" and "may have used their brokering companies for arms deals to other embargoed countries or non-state actors."
Despite the findings of the 130 page document and its claims to have received information on illegal arms shipments in March 2001 from the Slovak government, Interior Minister Ivan Šimko said November 20 that no charges had yet been laid against Jusko or his associates in the arms trading firms Joy Slovakia and Morse s.r.o.
Šimko said he had ordered an overview of illegal arms shipments being investigated by the Customs Police, but said that Jusko's name did not figure among the documents.
"I would be happy if anyone who has evidence turned it over to the police," Šimko said, refusing to comment further on any case under investigation.
However, according to the report, Slovak police already had information about Jusko's activities. "Mr Jusko was already known to the Slovak authorities as a director of an arms brokerage company called Joy Slovakia," the report said.
It also claims that the Slovak military had previously done business with Joy Slovakia in the sale of small arms to Guinea in 1997, on the basis of a forged end-user certificate.
The five-member UN panel which compiled the Liberian arms study visited 37 countries from April to October this year and interviewed representatives of 385 government ministries, diplomatic missions, private firms, media companies and third sector bodies.
The panel also presented several case studies which tracked arms shipments to Liberia from beginning to end, backing up the stories with arms sales contracts, flight plans, cargo manifests, pilots logbooks and bank payment records.
The evidence collected said the Guinean firm Pecos was involved in every arms shipment to Liberia the panel studied.
Pecos, "a company that has systematically been used by brokers to violate the arms embargo imposed on Liberia", and "a front company for illicit arms imports into Africa from arms-exporting countries", was established in 1997 by Guinean engineer Mohamed Yansane, who had attended university in Czechoslovakia with Jusko.
Jusko had moved his operations to Guinea after a 1998 law in Slovakia required arms exporters to acquire licences from a state commission.
In 1998 Joy Slovakia was also the focus of a criminal investigation by several European police services for suspected involvement in money laundering and arms trafficking.
Jusko used Pecos as a cover to work with Russian arms broker Alexander Islamov and Israeli broker Jacob Berger to obtain weapons and ammunition for shipment to Liberia.
Transport of the shipments was organised by Victor Bout, a former KGB officer turned global arms smuggler.
The report said Bout's employee Pavol Popov could "be considered the ground manager for Victor Bout's arms shipments from Central Europe. It is Popov who applies for the flight permissions and issues the false flight plans."
The UN investigation found that Pecos had smuggled thousands of Slovak assault rifles from Uganda to Liberia last year, as well as a Kyrgyz Mi-24 helicopter gunship that was being repaired at a Defence Ministry facility in Trenčín to Liberia in August 2000.
Slovak, Kyrgyz and Moldovan authorities foiled several other shipments by Pecos of Mi-24 and Mi-8 gunships in 2001, but were unable to prevent Pecos from sending several tonnes of helicopter parts to Liberia.
When interviewed by the UN panel in October 2001, Jusko denied any knowledge of the use of end-user certificates, "and blamed Alexander Islamov in Moscow and the network of Victor Bout for the wrongdoing."
But Sanjivan Ruprah, a Liberian diamond mine owner and arms dealer, told the panel in September 2001 that "Jusko was one of the main suppliers of end-user certificates to his organisation. Islamov is a supplier of many weapons and spare parts for the companies of Bout."
Ruprah said Jusko's end-user certificates could be obtained in 24 hours for $50,000.
The panel recommended, in light of its findings, that "each UN Member State that has procured or supplied arms on the basis of an end-user certificate mentioning the companies Pecos, Joy Slovakia and/or Morse, or the individuals Peter Jusko, Alexander Islamov, Jacob Berger... conduct a thorough investigation on the actual delivery and end-use of the arms."
The UN officers also criticised arms export controllers, who had depended only on the Pecos documents and brokers as guarantees for the safe delivery of the arms. "Had any of the exporting countries tried to actually verify whether Guinea was the real end-user, Pecos might not have lasted," the report said.
The panel also drew attention to the millions of displaced and homeless people in the three war-torn African countries, to the tens of thousands of dead, and to the people mutilated by armed gangs as evidence of how much damage Jusko and his associates had inflicted.
"In Sierra Leone, thousands of civilians, many of them women and children, victims of unspeakable brutality, face a future without hands or feet.
The Amputees Camp in Freetown is a cruel testimony to the havoc created by the forces that supplied arms to rebels."
26. Nov 2001 at 0:00 | Tom Nicholson