Risky Shipment of Bulgarian Weapons for Uganda Might Reach South Sudan

The government assures that the Bulgarian arms trafficking company and its Russian partners won’t lie this time around

A large shipment of weapons for the Ugandan Ministry of Defense will depart over the weekend from the airport of the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Burgas to the Ugandan capital, Bivol learned from sources familiar with the deal. The paperwork for the upcoming flight, which Bivol has in its possession, describes the route of the airplane which must transport 31 tons of Kalashnikovs and 12 tons of ammunition. On the Bulgarian side, the delivering company is Bulgarian Industrial Engineering and Management (BIEM) of majority shareholder Petar Mandzhukov, a well-known arms dealer. On behalf of Uganda, the importing company is BOSASY LOGISTICS LTD.

The shipment should be delivered by Russian aircraft of the company “Volga-Dnepr”. In this regard, the Russian Embassy in Uganda has requested permission from the South Soudan Embassy in Uganda to fly over its territory on 29 August 2017, describing the exact cargo parameters. There is also detailed information on the consignee and the sender of the weapons that are to officially land in Uganda.


Risky Shipment of Bulgarian Weapons for Uganda Might Reach South SudanRisky Shipment of Bulgarian Weapons for Uganda Might Reach South Sudan

However, in 2004, the European Union imposed an arms embargo on Sudan that is still in force and following the break-up of South Sudan is also valid for the new country. This embargo has been violated in the past by the same companies – Mandzhukov’s BIEM and BOSASY LOGISTICS LTD. The violations are listed in a report of UN experts sent to the Security Council in November 2016. Paragraph 53 of the report describes the shipment in July 2014 of small arms ammunition and assault rifles under a contract between BIEM and the Ugandan Ministry of Defense with the same BOSASY firm acting as intermediary and whose Chairman is Russian national Valerii Copeichin. The weapons have been transferred to South Sudan, according to the UN experts. They also indicate that after 2014, the transfers likely used the same modality.

A UN expert report describes the same re-export scheme that is expected to happen this weekend.

The scheme described in the UN report is the exact same one used for the shipment to be sent this weekend from the airport in Burgas. Yesterday evening, aircraft IL76 (code RA-76503) landed in Burgas from India but then immediately left for Hannover. The other aircraft of the company are in different parts of the world, with Bivol tracking their location.

Yesterday, at 8 pm, the Volga-Dnepr plane landed at Burgas airport.

The Bulgarian company BULGARIAN INDUSTRIAL ENGINEERING AND MANAGEMENT, owned by Petar Mandzhukov, is not blacklisted as an arms trafficker for the first time. Last year, an investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), in which Bivol participated, revealed that it had delivered Serbian weapons to Saudi Arabia that had been diverted to the Syrian conflict. US classified diplomatic cables on BIEM, published by Wikileaks, point out its “connection to organized crime and grey arms trafficking”.

Mandzhukov himself is a former employee of the Communist regime export-import company Kintex and is currently close to the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), heir of the Communist party. He was bestowed the country’ highest order “Stara Planina” by former President Georgi Parvanov who, on his part, was exposed as a former agent of the Communist secret services (State Security) known by the codename Gotse. Mandzhukov was a long-time owner of the Socialist daily newspaper “Duma” and is also a “beloved by the US State Department villain”. In another cable on Bulgarian organized crime, Mandzhukov and his company Machinexport are mentioned as being named in the Duelfer Report for connections to Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.

Bulgarian government is not against the shipment, but has requested guarantees

Despite the proven bad reputation of BIEM and the previous deal with BOSASY, which is known to have fallen into the hands of South Sudan in violation of the embargo and has helped fuel the bloody conflict there, the Bulgarian State does not see a problem with the new one. This emerges from the response received Saturday morning by the Ministry of Economy after Bivol approached it for a comment late Friday afternoon (August 25, 2017). Bivol also asked the Customs Agency to comment and provide shipment documentation. So far we have not received an answer from the latter.

The Ministry of Economy’s reply states that an authorization for the deal was requested as early as December 12, 2016 from the Inter-Institutional Committee on Export Control and Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction. At that time, the conclusions of UN experts were already public.

The said Committee had granted authorization but not until June 19, 2017, with protocol No. 620. However, before that date, there had been two other examinations of the application by it – on January 11, 2017 and April 13, 2017. The Committee had postponed its approval twice, citing incompleteness of the required documents. It had decided to task “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to conduct a diplomatic verification of the end-user certificate submitted to the application and that the applicant will submit a written commitment to provide a delivery certificate within 30 days of the shipment” (the bold print is from the Ministry’s original response).

In the end, the authorization had been issued at a meeting of the Inter-Institutional Committee on June 19, 2017, after all of the required documents had been handed over and a verbal note from the Permanent Representation of Uganda to the UN in New York had been received (letter of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with entry No. 26-B-106) confirming the authenticity of the end-user certificate.

“We note that the application is accompanied by an original end-user certificate, issued by the Ugandan Ministry of Defense, which makes the commitment that the products will not be transferred or otherwise made available to a third party without the prior consent of the exporting country (in this case of the Republic of Bulgaria),” the Ministry of Economy writes. “The applicant has made a written commitment that no later than 30 days after receipt of the items to Uganda, they will provide a delivery certificate issued by the end user.”

However, according to Bivol’s sources, Mandzhukov’s weapons will take the same route to the conflict zone and Uganda will be only an intermediate stop. Against the backdrop of the history of BIEM and BOSASY, this information is perceived as credible, and the assurances of the Ministry of the Economy that everything is perfectly documented seem quite naive. There is only hope that Bulgaria will not be singled as a serial violator of the South Sudan embargo.


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