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Cablegate: New Information On Crashed Drug Plane

DE RUEHBP #0054 0321159
R 011159Z FEB 10

S E C R E T BAMAKO 000054


EO 12958 DECL: 01/13/2019

Classified By: Political Counselor Peter Newman, Embassy Bamako, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (S) On January 12, [name redacted], provided PolCouns with copies of documents from the civil aviation authorities of Saudi Arabia and Guinea-Bissau he believed pertained to the Boeing 727 that crashed on take-off near the town of Tarkint in Northern Mali at the beginning of November 2009. The first document is an Aircraft Air Worthiness Certificate issued by the Saudi Arabian General Authority of Civil Aviation. The document identifies the aircraft as a Boeing B727-200 categorized as a transport aircraft with the registration mark HZ-SNE. The certificate is dated November 12, 2008 and has an expiration date of March 11, 2009.

2. (S) The second through fifth documents are letters in the name of the Civil Aviation Agency in Guinea-Bissau (AACGB). One letter is addressed to Mr. Ibrahima Gueye, identified as the Administrator of “Africa Air Assistance.” A Google search Post conducted identified Africa Air Assistance as a Dakar, Senegal-based subsidiary of Malaga, Spain-based West African Aviation, an agent and distributor &for major worldwide aviation maintenance and security companies.8 The letter informs Mr. Gueye that the Boeing B727-200F under Guinea-Bissau registration J5-GCU is no longer considered airworthy, and requests information concerning the location of the identified aircraft within 24 hours. The letter is dated November 5, 2009. On the same date, AACGB sent two letters to its counterpart civil aviation authorities in Nigeria and Venezuela. AACGB stated that it had information that the aircraft J5-GCU was operating under a leasing agreement in Venezuela with Nigerian crews. The letters requested that the Nigerian and Venezuelan civil aviation authorities ground the 727 should the opportunity arise. The final letter is from AACGB to the Malian National Civil Aviation Authority (ANAC) and is dated December 1, 2009. In this letter, AACGB informs ANAC that it has learned aircraft J5-GCU was operating flights from Colombia to Mali. AACGB requests ANAC’s assistance in grounding the aircraft due to the expired airworthiness certification.

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3. (S) In a meeting with PolOff on November 25, the Deputy Director of ANAC, Issa Saley Maiga, stated that notwithstanding statutory jurisdiction for investigating aviation accidents, his agency was not given authority to investigate the incident until November 24, three to four weeks after the event. He said that until late November, responsibility for investigating the crash of the “drug plane” ) as it has been called in the press ) was placed solely with the DGSE. On December 17, Deputy Regional Representative of the United Nations Office Against Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Cyriaque Sobtafo explained that because the plane crash occurred in northern Mali, it was considered exclusively a matter for DGSE, and that not even the Drug Brigade of the Malian Judiciary Investigation Police was allowed to make inquiries. Sobtafo added that the Malian government had not shared any information from its investigation with UNODC.

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