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July 1, 2011

Who Made a Deal with Guinea's President?

Or, Too Many Coincidences

The New York Times, citing two law enforcement sources close to the sensational case, said on Thursday that, "although there was clear evidence a sexual encounter took place, prosecutors did not believe much of the version of events told by the Guinean-born maid and suspect she has repeatedly lied to them."

Friday, July 1, 2011

Officials said that within a day of the alleged rape attempt, the maid was recorded speaking on the phone with a man jailed for possessing 400 pounds (180 kilograms) of marijuana and discussing the benefits of pursuing charges. The Times said he is one of several individuals who made multiple cash deposits, totaling around $100,000, into the woman's bank account over the last two years.

It said Friday's unscheduled hearing would likely alter the strict bail conditions imposed on Strauss-Kahn, allowing him to travel freely within the United States, and that lawyers were discussing dismissing the felony charges.

"It is a mess, a mess on both sides," one official told the respected daily, indicating that prosecutors, who met with defense lawyers on Thursday, would tell the judge they "have problems with the case." The district attorney's office may ask Strauss-Kahn to plead guilty to a misdemeanor, but his lawyers would contest such a move, it added.

Among the discoveries, one official told the newspaper, are issues involving the asylum application of the 32-year-old housekeeper and her possible links to criminal activities, including drug dealing and money laundering. Officials declined to reveal the reason for Friday's hearing.

"No details about this appearance will be available until the defendant appears in court tomorrow," the Manhattan District Attorney's office said.

The former French finance minister had not been expected back in court until July 18. Strauss-Kahn had posted $1 million bail and a $5 million bond when he was released in May and agreed to remain under house arrest with an ankle monitor.

Earlier Thursday, French newspaper Liberation, citing Strauss-Kahn's defense lawyers, said he was likely to challenge the legality of the lineup that took place a day after his arrest, when the alleged victim picked him out. Strauss-Kahn had spent days in New York's tough Rikers Island jail pending the bail agreement, but is now awaiting trial in his luxury rental apartment in Manhattan's TriBeCa neighborhood. He has denied all charges against him.

Strauss-Kahn resigned from the IMF shortly after his arrest, setting off a battle for the leadership of the US-based multilateral lender from which French finance minister Christine Lagarde ultimately emerged victorious.

The Strauss-Kahn affair has sent shock waves through France, where many initially believed he was the victim of a political conspiracy and slammed New York police for forcing him to endure a "perp walk" before the world media. Word that the case might crumble, however, raised hopes among France's opposition Socialists that a vindicated Strauss-Kahn might return to help them drive President Nicolas Sarkozy from office in next year's elections.

"It's a thunderbolt -- but in the opposite direction this time," said Socialist former prime minister Lionel Jospin. In a separate article published Wednesday, the Times reported that Lisa Friel, head of the Manhattan district attorney's sex crimes unit for nearly a decade, was leaving the post. It was not immediately clear if the move was related to the Strauss-Kahn case. Friel had made an early court appearance as part of the case, but did not remain on the investigating team, the Times said.

Another online news source, NDJ World, has stated:
The Sofitel maid keeps insisting however that DSK did rape her at the luxury hotel despite allegedly a telephone recording exists of a conversation between the maid and an inmate, one day after she met with DSK, that reportedly talks about “possible profit” from her claim against Strauss-Kahn. The prisoner identified on the recording is member of a group that reportedly deposited $100,000 into the chambermaid’s bank account over the past two year.  The maid allegedly paid hundreds of dollars in phone bills every month for five separate enterprises.  She insists however, that she only has one telephone and the money was deposited by her fiance and his friends. The maid also alleges she has been raped before and that that fact is documented in her asylum papers.  The prosecutor could however not find any evidence of this in her dossier.

What we don't know is how the woman from Guinea, a country in West Africa, came to be in the United States and how long she has been in New York. Guinea is normally thought of as a haven for refugees from other West African countries, such as Liberia, the Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire), or Sierra Leone.

This unknown factor raises yet more questions about who might have used the New Guinea maid in a scheme to frame or entrap the socialist head of the International Monetary Fund into an activitiy that would lead to his resignation and replacement at the important banking position.

Who would have a motive and the power to inject the maid, whose name is still being withheld,  into this particular place at this particular time? At this point we can only speculate, although it helps to have some knowledge about the history of this country from which the maid seeks asylum in the United States. The Republic of Guinea, a former French colony, gained independence on October 2, 1958. The people of Guinea are predominantly Muslim.

According to an article appearing at the website of the UN Refugee Agency, the UN estimates that "1.1 million of the 15 million inhabitants of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are either internally displaced persons or refugees." (AFP, 8 March 2002)

Guinea is colored in beige.



With Guinea's historical roots as a colonial empire of France, is it possible that the man against whom Dominique Strauss-Kahn planned to run--Nicolas Sarkozy, with ties to Guinea President Alpha Conde--manipulated the maid into the situation of making a rape claim against Strauss-Kahn? According to the Daily Mail:
Nicolas Sarkozy warned Dominique Strauss-Kahn of his behaviour with women when he was sent to the U.S. as head of the International  Monetary Fund, it has emerged. The concerned French president told the under-fire IMF chief in 2007 before he went to Washington D.C. that his life ‘will be passed under a magnifying glass’ in America. And when he heard Strauss-Kahn was arrested last weekend after allegedly sexually assaulting a New York hotel maid, he rolled his eyes and said: ‘We did warn him’.

Guinea's President Alpha Condé meets Nicolas Sarkozy in March this year
Reuters/Benoit Tessier

Rights Group Says Guinea Needs Rule of Law

Anne Look | Dakar
May 24, 2011

Voice of America

 Guinea President Alpha Conde reviews an honor guard at his arrival at the Elysee Palace, in Paris for a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy (File Photo - March 23, 2011)

Human Rights Watch says Guinea's new government should address what it says are profound rights and governance problems that have underscored decades of abuse.  Guinean President Alpha Conde took office in December of last year amid high hopes that his presidency would mark an end to 50 years of authoritarian rule and mismanagement in the West African country.

In a new report, Human Rights Watch calls for Conde to bring an end to those decades of impunity and to hold perpetrators of crimes and human-rights abuses accountable, particularly members of security forces responsible for gunning down 100 demonstrators in 2007 and for killing more than 100 individuals and raping dozens of women in the now infamous 2009 stadium massacre.

Conde's task is not without its challenges. Human Rights Watch Senior West Africa researcher, Corinne Dufka, said the new leader has inherited a swelled and unruly security sector, as well as a broken-down justice system.

"The three successive regimes have used militias and security forces not to protect the population but rather to ensure a continuation of the regime," said Dufka. "Members of the security forces have acted more as perpetrators than protectors of the population over the years. President Conde has inherited a military that is steeped in a culture of indiscipline and impunity and there must be measures taken, including downsizing the military, which has grown from 10,000 to 45,000 in the last decade." [Watch the DVD, Liberia, an Uncivil War.]

Human Rights Watch says soldiers and policemen implicated in extortion, banditry, theft, kidnapping, racketeering, and excessive use of lethal force have enjoyed near-complete impunity for years. It says thousands of Guineans who dared to oppose previous regimes have been tortured, starved, beaten to death by state security forces or executed in police custody and military barracks. The group is calling for President Conde to investigate and bring these perpetrators to justice, something his three predecessors failed to do.

"We found that particularly among ordinary Guineans, disturbingly, there is a sense that the security forces are simply above the law," said Dufka. "It is really a blind spot, the fact that they should be held accountable, that they should be subject to the rule of law in Guinea."

Dufka says the rule of law in Guinea has been undermined by a chronically neglected and underfunded judiciary, which gets just one half of one percent of the national budget, compared to the more than 40 percent going to the Defense Ministry. [Watch

"Some of the Ministry of Justice officials and legal professionals we spoke to characterize it as no accident that it has been that way," he said. "Lawyers and judicial personnel do not have pens and paper and desks. They do not have cars to transport detainees to court, and in fact very few cases really take place. "In the criminal court in Conakry for example, there were over 200 cases on the docket and only one was dealt with last year," continued Dufka. "It has effectively ground to a halt because of negligence, marginalization and lack of independence."

Human Rights Watch is also calling for Conde to establish an anti-corruption commission to address embezzlement and mismanagement that have made Guinea one of the world's poorest countries, despite abundant mineral resources.

Posted by America News on Apr 7 2011
 President Conde, who will be accompanied by a high-powered government delegation, will discuss with his host bilateral cooperation issues, including the suspension of several grants by development partners since the December 2008 coup, following the death of President Lansana Conte. Development partners, including the European Union (EU), have subjected the disbursement of grants to the holding of legislative elections, scheduled for the last quarter of 2011.
The two leaders will also discuss the issue of the Guinean debt. ‘President Conde will urge his French counterpart [Sarkozy?] to plead the cause of his country with its creditors in order to reduce the debt, if it can not be cancelled,’ the source added.

Both leaders will also discuss several African political issues, especially those affecting Côte d’Ivoire and Libya.

President Conde, who was the President of the Federation of Black African Students in France (FEANF) in the 60s and a former law professor at the Sorbonne in Paris, is expected to also meet with investors to convince them to invest in Guinea.

By John Helmer, Moscow
Now it’s official – the French, British, Americans, Chinese and Indians are all behind Guinean President Alpa Conde’s decision to revoke the Russian concession for the world’s largest unmined bauxite mining deposit, Dian-Dian, and hit the current concession holder, United Company Rusal, with back-tax and fraud claims, plus interest and penalties, for about $1 billion.

A small item in a Paris-based newsletter, African Mining Intelligence (AFI) , out this week, reports the problems Rusal is facing in Conakry. These aren’t news – Conde ordered Oleg Deripaska, Rusal’s chief executive, out of his office in April. Since then Conde has held discussions with his advisors in Conakry and abroad, along with George Soros’s legal aid team in Guinea. The Guinean president has decided that after concluding his sensitive negotiations with Rio Tinto over iron-ore mining rights at Simandou, he will start new negotiations with the Russians. “Conde feels he has finished with Rio [Tinto],” said one of the presidential advisors. But there is still no cash [from Rio Tinto’s promised $700 million down payment] in the treasury. The government is strapped for cash, and will go after all the [mine concession] violations it can. His next target is Rusal. After Rusal, the target will be Crew Gold [owned by Alexei Mordashov’s Nord Gold company].”

AMI is owned by a Frenchman of Moroccan origin, Maurice Botbol, who publishes other newsletters on Africa and the intelligence community. Botbol will sell you this story for €4, although though the information is dated, not altogether original, and not quite accurate:
The Russian concern UC RusAl is in a tizzy in Guinea following the announcement that a Chinese group plans to build an aluminum complex at Fria near RusAl’s refinery. A former natural resources minister, Fassine Fofane, now the boss of a consultancy named Kakande, accompanied a delegation of Chinese investors from the firm Jiuquan Iron Steel (Group) Co. Ltd (JISCO) in Guinea in early June. Fofana’s delegation proposed building an alumina refinery and an aluminum smelter in the Fria region, close to the Friguia aluminum refinery managed by UC RusAl.
The Chinese program was presented to prime minister Mohamed Said Fofana and to mines minister Mohamed Lamine Fofana. The delegation visited the mine operated by Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee (CBG) at Sangaredi before travelling to Fria to examine the Friguia facilities. Rusal was sufficiently alarmed by the visit that it asked its representative in the country to examine how much influence Fassine Fofana had over the present government. RusAl is especially worried that the Chinese shepherded by the former minister might persuade the government to allow JISCO to use the railway to the port of Friguia to ship out its production or even, if it builds an aluminum smelter, that the government could order the Russian group to sell its alumina production at Kindia to the smelter in question.

On April 6, president Alpha Conde gave a report by Alex Stewart International to the Russian envoy to Guinea, Alexander Bregadze. The report calls on RusAl to pay USD 1 billion in compensation for loss of earnings linked to the privatisation of Friguia in 2006. The same day a meeting between Conde and a Russian delegation led by natural resources minister Yury Trutnev turned rather frigid because the president declined to receive Oleg Deripaska, boss of RusAl.

The Alex Stewart International (ASI) report was first ordered and compiled by former Guinean mining minister, Mahmoud Thiam, at the start of January 2010. Thiam discussed it in detail with the Rusal executive in charge of Guinea, Victor Boyarkin, at several meetings during last year. Boyarkin, a former intelligence officer, reports directly to Deripaska. The head of Rusal’s international relations department, Sergei Chestnoy, a former member of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has been sidelined as he is under investigation by the US Government.

The Paris publication this week is a signal that there are now French and other international interests engaged in the lobbying for Conde to revoke Rusal’s operating and mining rights in Guinea, and put them up for new awards.

A source close to Conde reports, following a conversation with him a few days ago, that “Minister Fofana is a promoter of a refinery project at Friguia. And at least three other refineries at various stages of planning. They pose no threat to Rusal.”

“On the other hand,” he added, “the President has made it clear that Rusal is next on his list of issues to fix.”
Another Guinean source claims the business issues have become personal for Conde and Deripaska after the April door-closing incident, and after Deripaska sought support from Conde’s wife, Djene Kaba Condé.
Before the ASI report was issued, Thiam and the Guinean government had gone to court in Conakry to annul Rusal’s Friguia purchase agreement. Rusal issued statements in response that it had “purchased Friguia in full compliance with Guinean legislation and we consider the plant to be our legitimate property.” Rusal also said it would apply to an international arbitration tribunal in Paris to overturn the Guinean court’s ruling against Rusal. According to Thiam, Rusal bought the Friguia refinery for a privatization transfer price of less than $20 million.

The second of Conde’s targets is Rusal’s concession to mine Dian-Dian. According to Rusal’s website, this deposit “is located 350 km north of Conakry in the Boke province [see Boke on map], and is a unique deposit containing around 1 billion tonnes of bauxite ore with a high aluminium content and insignificant amounts of hazardous impurities.” According to Rusal’s share sale prospectus in Hong Kong of January 2010, Dian-Dian represents roughly one tonne in five of Rusal’s entire global bauxite reserves.

According to Thiam, President Conde intends to repeat to Rusal the ultimatum it received from Thiam before he left his ministerial office — either start investing and building the mine, as required by the concession agreements, or lose one or all of the Dian-Dian mining permits. “Dian-Dian has three large permits with reserves to accommodate a. large player each,” Thiam said this week. “Once they realise [Dian-Dian] is in play, all the big players will show up.” Asked what bauxite mining internationals he knows to be interested, Thiam referred to Chinese companies, Alcoa of the US, Rio Tinto of the UK, and Middle Eastern companies. He added: “no deadline has been set yet [for retrocession of permits]. The process is just starting. But Dian-Dian is at great risk.”

Rusal refuses to respond to this correspondent’s questions. The latest reference Rusal has made to its negotiations on the Guinean financial claims was this announcement of May 26: “UC RUSAL (SEHK: 486, EuroNext: RUSAL/RUAL, MICEX: RUALR, RTS: RUAL), the world’s largest aluminium producer, is pleased to announce the launch of a unique education programme the “RUSAL Scholarship-2011”. The RUSAL Scholarship will provide 100 talented young Guineans aged between 18 and 25 the opportunity to be educated in Russia’s best universities. All accommodation, transportation costs and tuition fees will be covered by UC RUSAL.”

The company said it anticipates spending $5.5 million over five years on this project. The cost of developing the Dian-Dian mine and associated infrastructure has been estimated at more than $600 million.

The alliance of Alcoa and Rio Tinto already holds a bauxite mining concession at Guinea’s biggest-capacity mine at Boke. According to Alcoa’s website presentation, “Alcoa is present in Guinea as a 45% shareholder of Halco Mining, a partnership which owns 51% of Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee (CBG). CBG, a partnership with the Government of Guinea, has exclusive rights to mine bauxite in Guinea’s Sangaredi Plateau. In addition to mining in Sangaredi, CBG operates a port in Kamsar [see map] for drying and shipping bauxite to refineries worldwide. Alcoa also supports the local Guinea community through healthcare and library programs funded by the Alcoa Foundation.”

Omitted from this version is that Alcoa’s equal 45% shareholding partner in Halco was Alcan of Canada, and since the latter’s acquisition in 2007, Rio Tinto. The CBG operations are larger than Rusal’s in Guinea, and the largest in the bauxite world.

For many years, Rusal blamed Alcoa, and its former chief executive Paul O’Neill, US Secretary of the Treasury in 2001-2002, for being behind all of Rusal’s troubles in the US, including court fights and the banning of Oleg Deripaska from entry to the US. Then in 2004-2005 Alcoa, headed by an O’Neill successor, bought two of Rusal’s aluminium rolling-mills in samara and Rostov regions. That deal was facilitated by the purported advisor to the Russian government, Dmitry Afanasyev, who has since served as a Rusal board director and lawyer to Deripaska. Alcoa sources concede that they have been careful not to appear to be challenging Rusal’s interests abroad in case Deripaska makes trouble for Alcoa’s interests in Russia.

The involvement of US financier George Soros as an informal advisor to President Conde, and the despatch of Soros-funded US lawyers to Conakry to review mining permits and resource privatization records, has reawakened Rusal suspicion that the Americans, including Alcoa and the White House, are again aiming at Deripaska. 

Read Soros on Soros.

An American aluminium industry source says that President Conde’s negative attitude towards Rusal goes back many years, during the rule of Lansana Conte, the 25-year Guinean dictator who died in December of 2008. “Rusal was so arrogant and insulting to the Ministers and to the President’s assistants that it was clear that something was going to happen with Rusal’s virtual monopoly. Now it is coming home to roost.”

But Rusal wasn’t the first of the Russian groups to try to hold on to Dian-Dian without digging a hole. In the last years of the Soviet period and early 1990s, the controlling shareholders of the Bratsk Aluminium Plant (BrAZ) — Boris Gromov, Yury Schlaifstein, plus David and Simon Reuben of London – also claimed the Dian-Dian concession, and planned to mine it to feed their smelter. “Funny how life repeats itself,” the US source says.

Obama's new jobs creation plan--Mercenaries?

Pratap Chatterjee joined the Center for American Progress in September 2010 as a Visiting Fellow specializing in federal procurement reform. He wrote on Jun 29, 2011 an article which predicts that, once Obama's troop withdrawal plan goes into effect, the number of "private contractors" aka mercenaries, engaged in Afghanistan will surge. His analysis reveals that " the one group that has seen demand explode since Obama became president is the number of private security contractors (men or women with guns), which spiked from a flat line of about 4,000 to almost 19,000 today."

CHART: Number Of Contractors In Afghanistan Will Surge As U.S. Troops Withdraw

The number of contractors in Afghanistan is likely to increase significantly in the next year as the Obama administration pulls back some of the extra 68,000 troops that it has dispatched there since January 2009.
Typically, the U.S. pays one contractor to support every soldier that has deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. The ratio of contractors to troops increases dramatically during a military surge as well as during a drawdown, and often stays higher than troop levels when military numbers are low, i.e. down to 30,000-50,000.

The reason is simple — the military needs extra workers to build new bases as well as to shut them down. Just like a hotel or restaurant, a military base also needs a minimum number of people to do the basics like janitorial or food service work. And as troops withdraw, U.S. diplomats are likely to hire extra security contractors as they are doing now in Iraq.

See Chart and continue reading...and don't skip the comments! They are priceless.