Pros: Did you receive any information about this shipment from the government of Ukraine?
IS: Yes, members of the panel went to Ukraine after we learned of the shipment from the Angola panel of experts. The Ukraine government showed us that the weight was 68 tons, and the end-user certificate was for Burkina Faso.
Pros: Did the panel also document a weapons shipment in December 1998?
IS: Yes, two flights from Niamey, Niger to Liberia in December 22.
Pros: Are you familiar with the invasion of Freetown by rebel forces in Sierra Leone.
IS: Yes, in January 1999.
Pros: Did the report discuss Viktor Bout, and who is he?
IS: Yes, he’s a well-known Russian weapons trafficker, sending weapons to many conflict weapons. The Angola panel had a lot of information on him. Panel identified four shipments from Europe to Liberia on planes leased or owned by Viktor Bout.
Pros: Any connection between Bout and Sanjivan Ruprah?
IS: Yes. Ruprah traveled on a Liberian passport under another name. Information came from a variety of sources, including intelligence sources and people in the aircraft business.
Pros: Did you encounter an individual named Gus Kouwenhouven?
IS: Yes, Kouwenhoven was a hotelier, involved in timber export and arms trafficking.
Pros: Did Mr. K. own a hotel?
IS: He operated a hotel in Monrovia.
Pros: Where did Mr. Minin stay in Monrovia?
IS: As far as I know he stayed there.
Pros: Did you go to Liberia?
IS: Yes, Oct 4-6, 2000. UN Representative organized most of the panel’s meetings. We met with cabinet ministers, President Taylor, air-traffic control authority, church leaders, Lebanese community leaders, diamond dealers, diplomats based in Liberia, NGOs and Liberian journalists.
Pros: Had there been coverage of your trip in the media?
IS: Yes, there was wide coverage in Liberian and international media. At least one article in local press accused panel of being there to concoct facts. Another article reported that Sam Bockarie had been seen hitching a ride to Foya, in NW Liberia.
Pros: Where did meeting with Taylor take place, and who was present?
IS: In his office, in the executive mansion. Present were 5 panel members, Mr. Taylor, UN representative.
Pros: Did you take notes?
IS: Yes. The typed-up notes on the meeting are included in Smillie’s report.
Pros: What was the tone of the meeting?
IS: Formal, but not unfriendly.
Pros: Were Taylor aides in the room?
IS: Others sat behind us who were not introduced. Media was there at the beginning, but they left at beginning.
IS: We had been told that US Undersecretary of State, Thomas Pickering, had confronted Taylor with information that the US accused Liberia of trafficking in blood diamonds. Taylor denied it. IS asked Taylor how to explain why Belgian import figures for Liberian diamonds were higher than Liberian export figures. Taylor said it was possible that RUF was dealing diamonds through Liberia, but that he knew nothing about it. Said that some of the diamonds going through Liberian could have been Russian diamonds.
Pros: Why Russian diamonds? Could that have been true?
IS: It is possible. Russian companies had a contract with DeBeers, but wanted if they wanted to sell more, in violation of their exclusive contract, they may have tried to pass off Russian diamonds as Liberian diamonds. Taylor also claimed that Liberia had more diamond production than Sierra Leone and that new kimberlite pipes discovered.
Pros: Did you receive information on diamond production in Liberia?
IS: We met with Liberian Minister of Mines, Mr. Dunbar, who said that there was barely any legal mining in Liberia taking place. He took us to a mine at Paynesville that had been dug by hand. Nobody was working there. Some people showed us very small diamonds. If there was no digging, that’s either because there were no diamonds or there was security present to keep diggers away. We didn’t see any security.
The court has just adjourned for lunch.