Russian Mob Link to 9/11 Hijackers

A Venezuelan man busted with forty-three pounds of heroin on a Lear jet belonging to the owner of the Venice FL flight school at which Mohamed Atta and his bodyguard Marwan Al-Shehhi were enrolled is a major kingpin in an international drug trafficking network run by the Russian Mob.

Edgar Valles Diaz was arrested on Wally Hilliard’s Lear jet (N351WB) at Orlando Executive Airport on July 25, 2000, in what the Orlando Sentinel called  “the biggest bust in Central Florida history.” The paper quoted officials stating it was “the largest find of its kind in the southeastern United States in recent years.”

Court documents revealed that Valles Diaz was a major narcotics trafficker in his native Venezuela who had flown Hilliard’s Lear jet for thirty-nine weeks in a row. Each flight originated in Venezuela, stopping in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando before flying to New York.

According to one of the flight crew on the Lear jet, Valles Diaz would be greeted upon arrival by an organized crime figure from the Russian enclave in Brighton Beach named Igor Borisovich Rabaev.

“When we landed in New York Valles-Diaz would be met by his  ‘boyfriend,’” a member of the Lear jet’s flight crew stated. “He gets picked up at the airport by an Uzbek named Igor Rabaev, his heroin connection from Central Asia.”

The Russian Mob is an equal opportunity employer

Currently wanted on two continents, Igor Rabaev is a prominent member of a Russian Mob family which uses the Uzbek capital of Tashkent as a transshipment point for heroin from Afghanistan, we learned.

“Igor Rabaev is a name to be conjured with in certain circles,” a former U.S. covert operative in Central Asia told us.

“He’s from Uzbekistan, and escaped from Russia to Israel by saying he was Jewish, back when it was the only way you could get out. But he’s not Jewish. He’s Muslim, and he’s got close ties with radical Muslim circles in the ‘Stans’ who serve as a conduit for heroin coming out of Afghanistan.”

(Uzbekistan is finally on the map, if only because of the new Borat movie.)

“Non-Jewish Russian mobsters often fraudulently claimed Jewish ancestry in order to gain easier movement in and out of Israel, where the Russian Mafia has established a large operating base,” said the source. “It was a real scam by Russian organized crime; it was easier for lots of these people to say they were Jewish to get into Israel, and then from Israel to become instant citizens, get Israeli passports, and then into the U.S.”

We received confirmation that there were, indeed, Muslim Mobsters from the former USSR posing as Jews in “Red Mafiya,” by Stephen I Friedman, the definitive book about the Russian Mob in Brighton Beach.

Brighton Beach: the new Berlin?

The head of the New York FBI’s Russian Mob unit told Friedman that there were three or four major Russian crime families operating in Brighton Beach; the largest consisted primarily of Jewish émigrés from Odessa, followed by a second family from Tashkent, in Uzbekistan, which the FBI had pegged as Muslim, but which people in the community insisted was Jewish.

In addition to being associated with the Russian Mob, Valles Diaz was also a partner in the company “leasing” the Lear jet, American Jet Charters, along with the planes owner, 75-year old Wallace J. Hilliard, the Wisconsin insurance executive who says he “retired” to Florida, but who, instead—within a year of his supposed “retirement”— had assembled a fleet of between twenty to thirty long-range private jets, as well as flight schools like the now-infamous Huffman Aviation.  

The news that Wally Hilliard’s Lear jet had been used by Russian Mobsters came hard on the heels of the recent revelation about one of Mohamed Atta’s closest associates in Florida, Wolfgang Bohringer, the personal pilot for Victor Kozeny, known as the “Pirate of Prague,” and also purported to have Russian Mob connections.  

Late last month Kozeny was ordered extradited to New York by a court in the Bahamas to face charges of defrauding American investors, including former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, of almost $150 million. During the Northern Ireland peace talks, which Mitchell brokered in 1999, he had been  flown to the negotiations in Kozeny’s personal jet, according to published reports.

The disclosures raise the question of the Russian Mob’s possible role as the “global network” which British Prime Minister said had assisted the terrorists while they were in the U.S.

The Global Network which supported the terrorists?

FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, who former Attorney General John Ashcroft went all the way to the Supreme Court to silence, revealed she saw documents indicating the U.S. State Department was covering up a drug trafficking network associated with the terrorists involved in the 9/11 attack.

Could this “drug trafficking network” be, or involve, the Russian Mob?

The recent news underlines the significance of the Central Asia “Stans’”— Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan—which has become increasingly apparent recently, even in news stories where they appear to be only peripherally involved.

Take Republican Rep. Curt Weldon’s current difficulties, for example, in providing his daughter with entrée, lobbying assistance, and money that foreign governments and companies are only too happy to provide for friendly access in Washington D.C.  

Just a few years ago, this scandal would have had a Saudi face. Today its centered in the Central Asian “republics.”

Hey Ney, Hey Ho, Iran Contra ops have got to go

Then there’s the soon-to-be-incarcerated Bob Ney. On the road to his bribery conspiracy plea, Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio crossed paths with a colorful Broward ex-con who swindled Elvis and snitched on the mob. But that’s not all…

In addition to being one of Jack Abramoff’s “altar boys,” he was gambling in London with a Syrian “businessman” named Fouad al Zayat, known as the “Fat Man.” Al-Zayat is one of the top dozen high stakes gamblers in the world, owns cargo aviation companies, and freely consorts with known criminals…

In other words, he’s a junior Adnan Khashoggi. Only his playground isn’t Riyadh. It's Tashkent.

We had already discovered, in “Welcome to TERRORLAND,” that “retired insurance executive” Wally Hilliard had friends in high places… everyone from former Democratic fund-raiser Truman Arnold to Florida Republican Governor Jeb Bush. Even reviled former Florida Sec’y of State Katherine Harris put in a good word, praising his non-existent airline.

Hilliard doesn’t restrict his wheeler-dealing to domestic politicians, either. We’ve already reported extensively, for example, on his involvement with Saudi billionaire and Iran Contra figure Adnan Khashoggi.

The man who came up to Venice from his $4 million estate in Naples FL “only when  the newer jets came in” apparently has ties to almost everyone fingered in the Iran Contra Scandal.

Not a great scandal, but it sure has lasted a long time

Adnan Khashoggi lieutenant Ramy El-Batrawi ran an air cargo carrier company for Khashoggi called Jetbourne International which flew 23 tons of missiles to Iran for Oliver North.

El-Batrawi also is in business with SkyWay Aircraft, the shadowy St Petersburg FL aviation company which has an apparent “green light” from the DEA to load 5.5 tons of cocaine aboard DC9’s and get away with it.

But Hilliard is also in business, we recently discovered, with two more Iran Contra veterans, in a company offering HD-TV chips called SPATIALIGHT, INC.

Farhad Azima and Mansour Rasnavad both have illustrious CIA pedigrees. Azima, an Iranian whose family was close to the Shah, owns a cargo airline in Miami that delivered whatever Iran Contra swag El-Batrawi’s cargo airline left behind.

Azima’s Global International Air (executive vice-president Mansour Rasnavad) was part of Oliver North's logistical network shipping arms—including a shipment of 23 tons of TOW missiles to Iran—to the Ayatollah.

"Our guns go to those who need them."

Their relationship with the agency which goes back to the late 1970s when he supplied air and logistical support to EATSCO (Egyptian American Transport and Services Corporation) a company owned by former CIA agents Thomas Clines, Theodore Shackley, and Richard Secord, and which was prominently involved in the activities of former CIA agent Edwin Wilson.

It doesn’t get any more Iran Contra-y than that.

In fact, their company was once even cited for chartering a Boeing 707 to the PLO, who used it to ship a load of weapons to the Sandinistas.

There were, presumably, red faces all around. Still, the level of international intrigue this caper attests to marks them as spooks extraordinaire.

Before moving on, we feel obliged to point out that the company on whose behalf the two men were signing: Argyle Capital. Remember Argyle Equities, the Texas investment firm with the big stake in SkyWay Aircraft's DC9 Cocaine One?

This is all no doubt just a coincidence.

That's a good question to ask him… But only under oath

Here we recall a question Wally Hilliard’s former jet mechanic Dave Montgomery once asked out loud over a beer:

“I used to ask myself: ‘Why is Wally doing business with all these foreigners?  Alfonso Bowe, Mark Shubin, Pervez Khan… It didn’t make sense.”  

Moreover there appears to be no accountability at the level these men are on.  

Hilliard, for example, was cited in a federal complaint accusing him and Magic Dutch Boy Rudi Dekkers of numerous "unauthorized and unsupervised flights" during 1999. Two years before the 9/11 attack, Hilliard and Dekkers were flying unnamed Saudis to unspecified destinations in the U.S. on unknown missions.

"They were ferrying Saudi princes all over the U.S.," said an aviation executive familiar with the operation. “You can go to jail for the kind of things they’re charged with. But all they're getting is a slap on the wrist. What they were doing is blatantly illegal."

"Without a Federal Aviation Administration air carrier operating certificate, the Government has no idea where those planes went, or even who was on board. Whoever they were flying didn’t want anyone to know.”

That's a diplomatic pouch, you moron. Hands off.

Igor Rabaev is from Tashkent, a key transshipment location as Afghan heroin wends its way to Russia and the West.

We wanted to learn more about the Russian Mob figure who had been flying a Wally Hilliard Lear jet filled with heroin during the same month Mohamed Atta arrived to attend Hilliard's flight school.

So we asked the DEA to comment. They declined.

Our subsequent frustration must have been evident, because, unbidden, a source in Venice told us: “You should ask Hilliard’s partner about him. Mark Shubin knows him.”

Mark Shubin?

Small world.

Mark Shubin had shared ownership of a handful of top-of-the-line private jets—Gulf stream’s, Fokker's, Challengers—with Wally Hilliard, including two with highly unusual ‘tail’ numbers: N11UN and N111UN.  

Shubin also owned a company in Florida called ‘International Diplomatic Courier Services.’

And did we mention,  he used to be a U2 pilot for the CIA?

We couldn’t locate Shubin. Perhaps he was busy doing renditions, and unavailable for comment. But we found someone who used to fly with him, and learned that, as tall as we thought the cotton already was… it was about to get a lot taller. And a lot more serious.

Geo-politically speaking, that is. Because Igor Rabaev had tried to murder the Minister of Energy for the Ukraine.

The biggest lie told about the September 11th attack was the first one: “19 hijackers moved through Europe and America unnoticed.



Daniel Hopsicker

Daniel Hopsicker is an investigative journalist and the author of two books on transnational crime, Welcome to Terrorland and Barry & the Boys.

1 Response

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