Thursday, August 27, 2009

CQ: US Pan Am Libyan Bomber Case "Still Open"

After all, why should the US government be cooperative with a British government that has used the Pan Am 103 bomber case to get BP a leg up on US-based Occidental Petroleum, among others, in a bidding war for Libyan oil and gas concessions?From Jeff Stein's CQ "Spy Talk" column:
The release of Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi from a Scottish jail has opened cash spigots from Tripoli to London, but a Justice Department spokesman says the Libyan Pan Am 103 bomber could be arrested again, along with other unnamed conspirators.

"There remains an open indictment in the District of Columbia and an open investigation," Richard Kolko, an FBI agent and Justice Department spokesman, told SpyTalk Thursday.

It could not be learned whether the "red notice" Interpol posted when Megrahi was indicted in 1991, alerting its members to the U.S. warrant for his arrest, remained open.

Megrahi was held under house arrest in Libya until 1998, when he was handed over to Britain. A special Scottish court held in the Netherlands convicted him in 2001.

Interpol spokeswoman Latonya N. Miller could not immediately say whether the red notice has been taken down, or a new one issued, since Megrahi was released Aug. 20.

But "the normal practice when someone is 'arrested,' even if we (the FBI) do not arrest them, is to remove the warrant from NCIC (National Crime Information Center)," said Richard Marquise, the FBI agent who headed the Pan Am 103 Task Force, "and I would assume the red notice would be removed as well."

But the prospect of Washington putting renewed vigor into arresting Megrahi, who was given a hero's welcome when he arrived home in Tripoli last week, has to be considered slim

Western investment, including from the U.S., has been pouring into Libya since the Muammar Qadaffi renounced nuclear weapons and last year paid off the remaining claims of victims of Libyan terrorism, which also included survivors and relatives of American soldiers killed in a 1986 West German discotheque bombing.

Libya, meanwhile, "is preparing to pour millions of pounds into the London property market in the latest sign of burgeoning business links between the two countries," the Guardian newspaper reported.

"The Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), which manages the country's $65bn (£40bn) oil wealth, has bought two buildings in recent months worth a combined £275m and instructed real estate advisers to look for more."

The paper also said "the Tripoli-based LIA, a so-called sovereign wealth fund which looks after long-term state reserves, is looking to open its first branch in London - paving the way for billions of dollars worth of investment to be channelled through the City."

"Existing British investments in Libya," The Guardian said, "have raised questions about whether business interests are dictating the pace of diplomatic detente."

"Official and unofficial British government contacts with Libya have been extensive," veteran BBC anchor Andrew Neil also reported Thursday.

"Last night we learned that three government ministers have made trips to Tripoli in the last 15 months: the then-trade minister Digby Jones (May 2008), Health minister Dawn Primarolo (November 2008) and Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell (February 2009).

"We do not know what was said in any of these Tripoli talks. But remember this: Saif Qudaffi, the Libyan dictator's favourite son and a key figure in the bomber's release, has averred that "in all commercial contracts for oil and gas with Britain, Megrahi [the now-released bomber] was always on the table." So it's reasonable to assume the ministers had their ears bent."

Neal also noted that "In 2004 Prime Minister Tony Blair flew to a tent outside Tripoli to do his so-called "deal in the desert" with Colonel Qaddafi which led to a broad rapprochement with Libya, a significant part of which was a prisoner transfer agreement which Qaddafi always saw as a means of bringing back his bomber."

Prince Andrew, who acts as Britain's special trade representative, has also visited Libya three times in the past year.

"It's a cast of characters that would do justice to a Bond film," Neal added.