Around January 2004,
Kintex was awarded the contract. Sources say, within a month, a team from
the MHA visited Sofia, the Bulgarian capital, to etch out the details
of the Rs 61.42 crore deal.
This is where the bare text of the story ends. However, it is the footnotes
that actually throw light on the shadowy deal.
Izhmash, not satisfied with the government’s benchmarks, repeatedly
petitioned the MHA to explain the technical grounds on which they had
been disqualified. When no reply came from the Indian side, voices of
discontent started filtering in from the highest levels of power. The
president of Udmurt Republic himself, Alexander A Volkov, decided to send
off a letter to Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister LK Advani. Though
the republic may be small and relatively unknown, the bilateral trade
between India and Udmurtia is worth $67 million, a sizeable sum considering
the total trade with our neighbour Pakistan is just $200 million.
In his letter, Volkov said, “… the Government of the Udmurt
Republic and OJSC “Concern IZHMASH” and FSUE “Rosoboronexport”
authorities, among other Russian material exporters are deeply concerned…”
Besides Volkov, sources say, the topmost office in Russia also delivered
a strong message through the back channels of power to the Indian government.
Volkov’s letter, however, was not the only official reminder from
the Russian camp sent to the MHA. It was followed by communications from
the General Director of the Russian agency of Conventional Arms, AV Nozdrachev,
chief security advisor to President Vladimir Putin, chief military and
economic advisor to the Russian Parliament, president of the Russian Federation
Chambers of Commerce and Industry, president of the Eurasian Patent Organisation
— almost everyone getting affected by the deal.
Kintex, the company
that the government picked for the contract, is infamous the world over
for pumping weapons into armed conflicts. During the early 1960s, it was
involved in supplying arms to socialist-oriented forces in Algeria, Angola,
Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique, apart from leftist terrorist groups in Italy,
Turkey and the Middle East. Further, Kintex supplied weapons to groups
tied to the 1994 Rwanda massacres.
There are reports that explicitly call Kintex crooks. Money Talks: Arms
Dealing with Human Rights Abusers, a Human Rights Watch report, details
Bulgaria’s pattern of selling arms to rogue states and some of the
world’s most unsavoury rebel groups. The international non-governmental
organisation described Kintex in a report published in April 1999: “Kintex
is the country’s [Bulgaria] oldest and most important arms exporter.
Since its founding in 1966 as Texim, the company has been responsible
for the bulk of Bulgaria’s arms exports, and it is the primary distributor
for most of the country’s small arms and light weapons. Kintex also
ranks as one of the most notorious arms trading firms in the world, with
involvement in questionable arms deals – including illicit transactions
– spanning several decades.”
The report adds, “In the early 1990s, the state arms trading company,
Kintex, arranged to sell weapons to Iraq, and reportedly to Libya and
the former Yugoslavia, in violation of UN imposed arms embargoes. Building
on its cold war arms dealing contacts, Kintex circumvented the arms trade
controls instituted by a short-lived reform-minded government that served
from 1991 to 1992.”
One does not require intelligence reports to understand the facts. Even
a plain Google search on the internet throws up hundreds of articles that
speak of Kintex’s collusion in small arms proliferation. In an article
published in the famous periodical Washington Monthly in January 2002,
Kintex is blamed for supplying “clients ranging from Burundi - where
it armed both government forces and insurgents fighting against them -
to Croatia, which turned to Sofia for help during the Balkans war.”
“In one case, Kintex was caught shipping weapons to the Croats on
an end-user certificate that showed Bolivia as the purchaser. This raised
suspicions, since Bolivia exclusively uses NATO-standard arms. So did
the fact that the certificate’s signer, the illustrious General
Juan Carlos Montano, turned out not to exist,” the article continues.
Not surprisingly, Kintex has also been linked to drug trafficking. In
his book, RED COCAINE: The Drugging of America and the West, Dr Joseph
Douglass Jr, quotes many US intelligence reports to certify a link between
Kintex and drug trafficking. Douglass says that from 1970 till 1984, Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports sent to Congress underlined Bulgaria’s
lack of cooperation with the US agency. The DEA identified numerous source
reports on the official involvement of Bulgaria. The reports identified
Kintex and other companies (Texim and Corecom) as state security front
operations, which managed drug production and trafficking.