Ivory Coast: September 30, 2002


: Being in France's sphere of influence, the Ivory Coast's military and gendarme was armed with a selection of aging French weapon; from MAS 49 rifles and AA52 machine guns to Brandt mortars. However, both government and rebel troops have recently been photographed with the ubiquitous AK-47 assault rifle and RPG-7 grenade launcher. Where did these new weapons come from?

In late July 2000, Ukrainian arms dealer Leonid Minin chartered an Antonov-124 transport aircraft in Moscow, had it flown to Kiev (Ukraine) where it was loaded with 113 tons of weaponry: 10,500 AK-47s and 330 RPG-7s, along with sniper rifles, night vision equipment and assorted munitions. The weapons were supplied and transported by Moscow-based air cargo firm Aviatrend. The shipment was then directed to Abidjan, where General Robert Guei signed for them. Guei had also ordered five million rounds of ammunition from Aviatrend, as well. Apparently, the shipment cost $150,000 in cash and $500,000 worth of African diamonds. 
Aviatrend is run by former Soviet test pilot and longtime Minin associate Valery Cherny. Minin was arrested in August 2000 by an Italian vice squad for having prostitutes at his party in Milan and when incriminating arms dealing documents were discovered, a special branch team was called in to investigate. - Adam Geibel


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