Afghan Arms Kick-Backs
[An article on Charlie Wilson, the ex-US Representative now formally hired as the lobbyist for the Nawaz Sharif Government ($30,000/month)]
The article indicates that Wilson and associates are under investigation for
kick-backs on arms to the Afghan mujahideen during the height of the war with the USSR.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS – October 21, 1997
Afghan arms inquiry targets friend of ex-Rep. Wilson; Officials investigate whether 2 shared $ 4 million in kickbacks
BYLINE: Richard Whittle, George Kuempel, Staff Writers of The Dallas Morning News
Former U.S. Rep. Charles Wilson waged a colorful crusade to arm the Afghan mujahedeen rebels in the 1980s. The same decade saw one of his Texas friends make millions brokering weapons deals. Now federal authorities are investigating whether the Texas lawmaker and the arms broker split up to $ 4 million in kickbacks on an Afghan arms deal.
Former state Sen. Joe Christie of Austin is the mysterious “Texas businessman C ” referred to in a Swiss court ruling last month that revealed the Justice Department investigation, court documents and interviews show.
A Justice Department spokesman said he could neither confirm nor deny the existence of the investigation. Mr. Wilson, 64, a Lufkin Democrat who retired from the U.S. House last year, has “categorically and emphatically ” denied the allegation.
Mr. Wilson remained in Washington after he left Congress and is a lobbyist for the Pakistani
government under a contract that pays his firm $ 30,000 a month.
Mr. Christie, a close friend of Mr. Wilson’s since the 1970s and the chief shareholder of a company in which Mr. Wilson owned stock in the 1980s, has owned numerous businesses over the years.
He also made millions brokering arms deals in the 1980s, according to testimony in U.S. court documents. The documents do not describe the nature of those arms deals or whether they were connected with the Afghan rebels’ war against the Soviet-backed government.
The Afghan arms investigation was revealed when Switzerland’s highest court rejected an attempt by a Texas businessman to block U.S. investigators from examining his Swiss bank records. The Swiss court’s ruling described the Justice Department’s investigation.
The ruling identified Mr. Wilson only as “Congressman W ” and Mr. Christie only as “Texas businessman C. ” It said the Justice Department was investigating whether they were paid $ 3.5 million to $ 4 million in “commissions ” for getting Congress to buy 20 mm anti–aircraft guns made by “Firm X Ltd ” for the mujahedeen .
A Swiss source confirmed that the “C ” in the court’s ruling stands for “Christie ” and that “X Ltd. ” is a division of Oerlikon-Buhrle Holding AG, a conglomerate based in Zurich. U.S. sources said “Congressman W” is Mr. Wilson.
The Swiss court said the acts being investigated by the Justice Department could constitute bribery. Mr. Wilson’s involvement in the Afghan issue drew widespread publicity in the 1980s. Mr. Wilson made numerous trips to Pakistan, whose government was funneling arms to the mujahedeen for the CIA. “Goodtime Charlie, ” as his friends dubbed him, usually took along his girlfriend of that period – a former Miss World USA – one reporter or another and one or more of his Texas buddies.
Fought for weapons
Numerous articles and books have documented the extraordinary role Mr. Wilson played in persuading Congress to earmark $ 40 million for the CIA to give Swiss- made Oerlikon 20 mm anti-aircraft guns to the Afghan rebels in 1983.
Mr. Wilson lobbied his colleagues in secret sessions of the House Defense Appropriations
Subcommittee and the House and Senate Intelligence committees. Those who saw him in action were mystified by his ardor for the Oerlikon gun.
CIA officials also were perplexed by Mr. Wilson’s insistence on the cumbersome, expensive Oerlikon. The CIA station chief in Pakistan – who normally made the weapons decisions in the covert aid program – urged CIA headquarters to reject the gun, calling it “tactically stupid”
Documents filed in a recent federal court case show that investigators have been examining Mr. Christie’s relationship with a Washington lobbyist. Prosecutors say the lobbyist, who traveled to Pakistan with Mr. Wilson in the 1980s, shared arms deal fees with Mr. Christie.
Bank deposit evidence
The documents, which include an Internal Revenue Service memoand federal grand jury testimony by Mr. Christie’s accountant, also link Mr. Christie to a top official of Oerlikon. And they include testimony that Mr. Christie’s arms deal fees were deposited in a Swiss bank.
The accountant, Frederick W. Nelan, told the grand jury that one of several companies Mr. Christie owns, Marine Resources Inc., received about $ 15 million for brokering arms deals between 1984 and 1989.
Mr. Nelan, testifying under a grant of immunity from prosecution, said the money was deposited in a Swiss account held in the name of Tremona Investments, a company he said had been incorporated in Panama by Interallianz Bank of Switzerland.
Public records reviewed by The News make no reference to the arms sales “partnership ” between Mr. Wilson and Mr. Christie alleged by the Justice Department. But they do indicate that the two men have done business together.
Financial-disclosure forms Mr. Wilson filed as a House member show that from 1986 to 1988 he owned stock valued at $ 100,001 to $ 250,000 in Pine Tree Resources Inc. Texas secretary of state records show that Mr. Christie incorporated the company in 1986 and was its president.
Mr. Wilson sold a block of his stock in the company, whose charter failed to specify its purpose, the day before the company dissolved in April 1988.
Mr. Wilson and Mr. Christie also have in common an association with Denis M. Neill, 54, the foreign aid lobbyist whose prosecution this year produced the documents describing Mr. Christie as an arms broker.
Mr. Neill was convicted this year of one felony charge of filing a false tax return and sentenced to 15 months in federal prison.
Mr. Neill traveled to Pakistan with Mr. Wilson in the 1980s and saw demonstrations of weapons, including the Oerlikon gun, the court documents show.
Prosecutors in the Neill case said he and Mr. Christie shared $ 25.9 million in arms deal fees between 1985 and 1988.
In a 1992 memoir of the Afghan war, The Bear Trap , former Pakistani Brigadier Mohammed Yousaf complained that the Afghan rebels often were given unsuitable weapons.
“I have strong suspicions that at least one weapon system was forced on us because a U.S. congressman had a lot to gain if the weapons sale went ahead, ” Mr. Yousaf wrote. Mr. Yousaf cited the Oerlikon, saying the gun was poorly suited for the mujahedeen because it weighed 1,200 pounds, required at least 20 mules to haul it around Afghanistan’s mountains and fired shells that cost $ 50 each at a rate of 1,000 rounds a minute.
John McMahon, who was deputy director of the CIA at the time, said decisions on what arms to provide groups such as the mujahedeen in a covert operation normally were made by agency experts.
CIA officials were surprised by Mr. Wilson’s insistence on the Oerlikon, he said. “Our first evaluation of it by our guys in the paramilitary division was that it’s not the right gun for the war, ” Mr. McMahon said. “We used to make comments like, It must be Charlie’s uncle who owns Oerlikon.’ ”