Swiss bank handled sale from Russian bioweapons company

By Lucy Komisar
Earth Times News Service, Nov 12, 2001

GENEVA– As the U.S. searches for the culprits who let loose an anthrax attack on America and for the money trail of Islamic terrorists believed to have plotted the attack on the World Trade Center, key questions are: How does the illicit trade in biological weapons operate and how is terrorist money moved?

For answers to both those questions, the U.S. ought to zero in on a Swiss bank that handled a sale from a known Russian biological weapons producer, Biopreparat, to a company, Interplastica, with links to Islamic militants.

Beginning in 1973, Biopreparat produced and stockpiled hundreds of tons of anthrax and dozens of tons of plague and smallpox. Documents obtained in Switzerland by this reporter show that the Banca del Gottardo in Lugano has been tightly involved in deals between Russian weapons firms and Interplastica, a company which beginning in the 1960’s, specialized in trade with the countries of the East bloc to pierce western embargoes. Interplastica is registered in Morbio Inferiore near Lugano, in the canton of Tessin in southern Switzerland.

Banca del Gottardo, photo Lucy Komisar.

Among the deals, documents show that the Banca del Gottardo financed a contract between Biopreparat and Interplastica in 1993.

After the international Biological Weapons Convention in 1972 outlawed biological weapons, the Soviets founded Biopreparat, supposedly for peaceful medical research. However, its deputy director till 1992, Ken Alibek, who now lives outside Washington D.C., has testified to U.S. intelligence agents and Congress that this was just a cover for the production of biological weapons. After the Soviet regime ended, Biopreparat was officially separated from its military function and privatized. However, Western experts have doubts that the military has given up its interest and control.

A list of Interplastica contracts dated December 12, 1993, notes contract number A-23366 with Bioprepeparat,. The paper lists Rosvneshtorg as buyer and Biopreparat as client. A contract dated June 18, 1993 was for $20 million for 400 mio aghi or injectables. Rosvneshtorg Bank is a Russian state bank.

Alibek said that as he’d left in 1972, he did not know the details of contracts signed after that.However, according to the cover Abilek described, the contract with Interplastica would have been written in code to show a deal for a medical product to hide its true purpose.

The document that links the Banca del Gottardo to the sale is a memo faxed to the bank by Kate Geary, who worked for the bank and now is legal advisor in the Lugano law firm, Sganzini Bernasconi Peter & Gaggini, which represents the bank. She notes that for our friends of Torola, ‘Biopreparat’ deposited through ‘Interplastica two cont. of 20 kg of material in the security box of the bank. P. Mamaladze advised – ready for transaction [of] ‘bonds’.

The rest of the document purports to be about trade related claims against bonds, all written in quotes as if to indicate that bonds stood for something else. Torola is a shell company registered in Lugano and run by several individuals of Georgian and Yugoslavian origin. Paata Guramovich Mamaladze is a Georgian arms trafficker.

Curiously, Mamaladze, with several Georgians, Russians and Swiss, is also an owner of Falkon Capital. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov — referred to by some Russian newspapers as Misha two percent, for his alleged collection of illegal commissions — arranged a deal, approved in October, under which Falkon was given the right to buy Russia’s $2.5 billion debt to the government of Czechoslovakia for only 23 percent of its value.

The Banca del Gottardo is already connected to Russian corruption in a money-laundering case described in a U.S. Justice Department brief filed in the detention hearing of Russian Pavel Bordin. He is accused of skimming more than $65 million from Russian government construction contracts and funneling some of the payoffs to then Russian President Boris Yeltsin, his daughters and top Russian officials. The Banca del Gottardo held accounts for Borodin and other alleged culprits and moved the money through its affiliate in the offshore secrecy haven of the Bahamas. The Swiss magazine L’Hebdo reported in June 2000 that Pacolli and Generali flown to Moscow together on a private jet. A Geneva magistrate last month recommended prosecution of Borodin and others in the Mabetex case.

The man who paid the bribes, Beghjet Pacolli, owner of Mabetex, ran Interplastica.

Pacolli, who was born in Kosovo, supports militant Muslim groups. He finances the ultra-nationalist newspaper Bota Sot, based in Zurich, which has been condemned by the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Mission to Kosovo for sowing hate, intolerance and strife. Through the Fund for Reconstruction of Kosovo (FORK), in Lugano, he finances the Kosovo Liberation Army or UCK, (known in the West as KLA) described by Robert Gelbard, who was America’s special envoy to Bosnia, as Islamic terrorists. Europol (the European Police Organization) says the UCK is involved in drug and weapons trafficking, prostitution, and illegal immigration.

Attempts to reach Pacolli yielded an email response that Mr. Behgjet Pacolli worked for Interplastica till 1990 and there is absolutely no relation with what you mentioned in your e-mail. He does not know anything about it because he has left the company [a] long time before. Thanks for taking notice. Interplastica is now in the process of liquidation. The Banca del Gottardo did not respond to phone and email queries.

On Wednesday, November 6, the U.S. announced that it was adding to its blacklist of banks and individuals believed connected to the Bin Laden network the Al Taqwa bank, with operations in Switzerland, Italy, Liechtenstein and the Bahamas, and its chief executive Youssef Nada and board members Mohamed Mansour and Albert Huber.

Mohamed Mansour is on the board of the Bosnian Institute in Zurich. So is Pacolli.

Pier Felici Barchi, Nada’s lawyer, and Claudio Generali, president of the Banca del Gottardo serve together on boards of a capital management foundation in Liechtenstein and several enterprises in Switzerland. They are both leaders of the Liberal Radical Party, which rules in Switzerland and Tessin and which till now has afforded the bank political protection from intrusive investigations by authorities. The U.S. should put an end to that.

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