Back in May Andrew Gilligan reported that the MOD was using the services of Taliban-linked arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Being an eternal optimist I put in a Freedom of Information request on the issue last month.
I received a reply from the Defence Logistics Organisation in the following terms today:
We believe that the information falls within the scope of of a qualified exemption (S34 Commercial Interests) and as such it will be necessary for us to consider whether there are overriding reasons why disclosure would not be in the public interest.
We will make a decision on our ability to comply with your request by 16th November 2005, and will inform you immediately thereafter.
I have set out the request below so you can decide for yourself where the public interest lies. I guess we'll see what the MOD thinks next month.
Please provide me with the following information:
According to Civil Aviation Authority records, the airlines Jet Line International and Trans Avia Export Cargo Airlines carried out flights form RAF Brize Norton on behalf of the Ministry of Defence between 6-9 March 2005.
Trans Avia was designated by the US Treasury on 26 April 2005, as being linked to the Viktor Bout international arms trafficking network. Jet Line International is also reportedly linked to Mr Bout.
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw stated on 25 May 2004 that: "The UK has consistently supported international efforts to end Victor Bout's illegal activities, and UK Ministers have publicly welcomed action taken against his sanctions-busting activities. Our commitment to dealing with arms traffickers/sanctions busters is second to none, and a matter of public record."
Hansard 26 May 2004: Column 1639W
On what occasions in the past five years, has the MOD, or airline brokers acting on the MOD's behalf, used the services of Trans Avia, Jet Line, and other companies linked to Mr Bout, such as those designated by the US Treasury?
What was the purpose, point of departure and destination of these flights?
What payments have been made to these companies by the MOD or brokers acting on its behalf.
What consideration has the MOD given to the links between these companies and the Bout arms trafficking network in its decision to employ them?
What instruction has the MOD given to airline brokers operating on its behalf about the employment of airlines linked to Viktor Bout or other illicit arms trafficking networks?
What steps has the MOD taken to ensure that airlines linked to illicit arms trafficking networks are not employed on MOD business?
Please provide the information on paper. If you are not able to provide the information in this format then please explain why when you provide the information in another format.
If you decide to withhold any of the information requested you should clearly explain why you have done so in your response by reference to the legislation. If your decision to withold is based upon an evaluation of the public interest then you should clearly explain which public interests you have considered and why you have decided that the public interest in maintaining the exception(s) outweighs the public interest in releasing the information.
If you are proposing to make a charge for providing the information requested please provide full details in advance together with an explanation of any proposed charge.
I look forward to receiving the information requested as soon as possible and in any event within 20 working days of receipt.
Thank you in advance for your assistance. If you require any clarification of this request please contact me as soon as possible.