US in­tel­li­gence ops in Greece

Two cases where Amer­i­can and lo­cal law en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties have worked to­gether

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY YIANNIS SOULIOTIS

In De­cem­ber 2015, US agents from the Home­land Se­cu­rity In­ves­ti­ga­tions (HSI) ser­vice and of­fi­cers from the Greek Po­lice’s or­ga­nized crime unit ar­rested a 51-year-old arms traf­ficker and owner of a com­pany based in the Jor­da­nian city of Amman, in Aspropy­r­gos, an in­dus­trial town east of Athens. In the months be­fore, the sus­pect had been ne­go­ti­at­ing with an un­der­cover HSI agent for the pur­chase of 200 M4 as­sault ri­fles and a cor­re­spond­ing num­ber of scopes and ther­mal cam­eras.

The Amer­i­can ser­vice first made con­tact with the sus­pect in 2014 and in the pe­riod lead­ing up to his ar­rest, the 51-year-old is said to have told the HSI agent that his clients were based in Beirut and the guns would end up in Iraq. The Amer­i­cans, how­ever, had ev­i­dence or in­di­ca­tions to sug­gest that the Amer­i­can-Jor­da­nian na­tional was a sup­plier for Hezbol­lah in Le­banon.

His ar­rest in Greece took place in a ware­house where he was wait­ing for de­liv­ery of the weapons. A few weeks later, he was ex­tra­dited to the United States.

An­other sim­i­lar op­er­a­tion spear­headed by HSI took place in down­town Athens on Fe­bru­ary 7-9. The tar­get in this case was a Chi­nese na­tional who was in ne­go­ti­a­tions with Amer­i­can un­der­cover agents for the pur­chase of con­trolled mil­i­tary ma­teriel. He was ar­rested by Greek Po­lice of­fi­cers in the lobby of his ho­tel, near the Plaka district. He had pre­vi­ously met with agents pos­ing as deal­ers in high-tech weapons sys­tems, in an op­er­a­tion that first started in 2013.

The Chi­nese man, also aged 51, was a me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer by pro­fes­sion who pre­sented him­self as an ex­pert in ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy with an in­ter­est in pur­chas­ing a mil­i­tary­grade data col­lec­tion an­tenna. He claimed to work for a Chi­nese ship­ping com­pany, though there were sus­pi­cions that he was act­ing on be­half of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment. The max­i­mum-range aerial he was look­ing to ac­quire has the ca­pa­bil­ity of col­lect­ing and de­cod­ing in­for­ma­tion and data and send­ing it to drones. Ac­cord­ing to a source close to the investigation, the equip­ment he was look­ing for is sim­i­lar to that used for do­mes­tic dig­i­tal sur­veil­lance by na­tional in­tel­li­gence ser­vices.

The HSI agents held their first meet­ing to dis­cuss the deal with the sus­pect in Thai­land be­tween 2013 and 2014. The ne­go­ti­a­tions con­tin­ued and a fi­nal ren­dezvous to seal the agree­ment was set in Athens for early 2016. Sev­eral meet­ings be­tween Amer­i­can agents and of­fi­cers of the Greek Po­lice’s At­tica Se­cu­rity Depart­ment were held in or­der to co­or­di­nate the op­er­a­tion, while the Athens pros­e­cu­tor’s ser­vice was also in­formed of the im­pend­ing meet­ing.

The 51-year-old flew into Athens In­ter­na­tional Air­port on the morn­ing of Fe­bru­ary 7 from China, via Dubai, and was im­me­di­ately put un­der sur­veil­lance. Wary of be­ing ar­rested, he was trav­el­ing light, car­ry­ing only the essen­tials: a change of clothes and a mo­bile phone. He posed as a tourist, vis­it­ing the Acrop­o­lis, and did not make a sin­gle call save that to con­firm his ap­point­ment with the “sell­ers.” He was ar­rested at the meet­ing and the process for his ex­tra­di­tion has al­ready started.

US agents from the Home­land Se­cu­rity In­ves­ti­ga­tions (HSI) ser­vice seen dur­ing a past op­er­a­tion.

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