Monday, May 15, 2006

This is going to run & run....

..... and sadly for the family of the pilot Max Radford, I don't think we will ever know the real truth behind this tragic story.

In the Sunday Times last week there is a further installment of a long and complicated story...

I post this here as I had brief interaction with Max, he was a genuinely nice chap who took time out of his madly busy day to talk to me. I have heard various conspiracy theories in the helicopter industry in the UK, some incredible & some more unbelievable than others, but I believe the fact remains that Max was an innocent in all of this.

British lawyer hatched Putin smears

A BRITISH lawyer killed in a helicopter crash on the south coast of England was at the heart of a secret smear campaign against President Vladimir Putin and his leading associates, according to a confidential dossier.

Stephen Curtis, who died in 2004, was chairman of the security firm ISC Global (UK) which worked for a group of Russian tycoons plotting against Putin.

The dossier says the company was to “discredit [Putin] and those around him”. The targets were 11 senior Russians — from the defence minister to Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea football club.

ISC was also tasked with creating a luxury yacht with a crew capable of repelling an armed assault. The ship was to be a floating refuge for oligarchs wanted by Moscow on charges of fraud.

Curtis, 45, died in March 2004 alongside Max Radford, 34, the pilot, when their helicopter crashed near Bournemouth airport on the way to Dublin.

The wreckage yielded few clues and an inquest jury last November returned a verdict of accidental death. But a number of facts remained unexplained. It emerged that Curtis had received threats, felt he was under surveillance and had warned a relative shortly before: “If anything happens in the next two weeks then it won’t be an accident.”

Even the coroner conceded that the death had “all the ingredients of an espionage thriller”. The ISC connection was never investigated or put to the jury and the pilot’s parents do not accept the verdict. Their lawyer called for a public inquiry.

The dossier, seen by The Sunday Times, shows that ISC was funded by some of Russia’s wealthiest but most wanted men. They included Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Leonid Nevzlin, the owners of Group Menatep, the company behind Yukos, Russia’s second largest oil company.

Curtis, who already acted for the Gibraltar-based Menatep, was made chairman of ISC, which received £6m from the Russians in the first three years, financial documents show. His expertise was in setting up complex offshore structures to disperse Yukos’s vast profits. Two former Scotland Yard officers ran the security side.

ISC “targeted” leading figures in Russia after Putin sanctioned the arrest of Khodorkovsky on fraud and tax evasion charges in October 2003 as his jet refuelled in Siberia. Putin wanted to dismantle Yukos and take it back into the Kremlin’s hands.

Nevzlin, who is wanted for fraud offences and organising a contract killing, moved to Israel as a wave of Yukos executives fled to London. City lawyers were hired to fend off extradition requests from Moscow which the oligarchs say are politically inspired.

ISC carried out “monitoring” services to collate information on developments in the extradition battle. Ex-SAS soldiers acted as bodyguards to clients considered at risk of being kidnapped by Moscow.

The company also drew up plans to customise a £30m luxury yacht, the Constellation, to provide a safe haven for wanted executives, said ISC sources. It was to be defended against armed assault by a “Swat” team which would undergo “combat and kidnapping avoidance training”, according to the boat’s specification. Living quarters would be protected by bullet-proof glass and meeting rooms pumped with “white noise” to prevent bugging.

The specification reveals how some guests were to be entertained. It says: “Procedure for vetting, screening and searching Lady’s [sic] of the night onboard. Also a need to establish a trusted agency connection for such personnel.”

The campaign was authorised by Nevzlin who told ISC to do “the biggest investigation ever”, according to a company insider. ISC drafted a 12-page document marked “Secret”, which one of its partners presented to Nevzlin in Israel. The oligarch authorised £37m for the first phase of the operation, the source said.

The plan was to mount a “sensitive and delicate” worldwide operation, feeding false or compromising information to journalists and governments about Putin — referred to as “X” — and his associates.

The plotters wanted “[Putin] to be removed from power” but the more realistic objective was to force him to release Khodorkovsky from detention by March 2004 and cut Yukos’s £5 billion tax bill.

The document shows that besides Putin, Sergei Ivanov, the defence minister, was to be smeared with allegedly compromising photographs. Other targets included key figures in state-owned energy companies.

Abramovich had angered the Yukos oligarchs because Putin allowed him to keep his billions and travel freely within Russia. The document recommended an attempt to discredit him with allegations of “money laundering and bribery”. Abramovich’s spokesman said last week he was unaware of the plot.

Curtis’s crash happened within months of the smear campaign being hatched. Former ISC operatives say he had become “paranoid” in the last year of his life. He had become Menatep’s managing director responsible for assets worth £16 billion.

An ISC source said Curtis’s “paranoia” may have had some justification: “After Curtis’s death we swept the family home and located a small magnet used to secure a listening device,” he recalled. It would emerge at the inquest that Curtis had reported his clients’ transactions to the police “on many occasions”.

Putin was re-elected 11 days after the crash. ISC stopped trading last year and was renamed RISC under new ownership. Its former partners have declined to comment on operational matters. Menatep has been renamed GML and its current board has no involvement with ISC. A spokesman for GML, still controlled by Nevzlin and Khodorkovsky, declined to comment.

Gloria Radford, the pilot’s mother, still believes her son was killed as part of an assassination plot against Curtis. “I know there was more to the situation than was ever disclosed. There is something terribly wrong,” she said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Max Radford taught me to fly. He was one of the best pilots I have ever flown with. He knew Bournemouth airport and the surrounding areas like the back of his hand.

This was no accident!