Tags: weapons | crew | smuggler | thailand

NKorea Weapons Plane Crew Charged in Bangkok

Monday, 14 December 2009 09:04 AM

BANGKOK — Five crew members of an aircraft carrying weapons from North Korea were denied bail here Monday and ordered held for at least 12 days while the police investigate the origin and destination of the mysterious shipment of arms.

The crew members, who said they were unaware they were carrying weapons and thought the cargo was oil-drilling equipment, have not told investigators where the cargo was meant to be delivered, according to the police.

“They have not confessed,” said Pongsapat Pongcharoen, a spokesman for the police. “They want to give all the information in court.”

The five men could each face 10 years in prison on charges of possession of heavy weaponry, which North Korea is banned from exporting under a United Nations resolution passed this year.

The plane landed Friday to refuel and was seized after a tip from the American authorities. Crew members said in an interview on Sunday that they were headed for Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates and then back to Ukraine, where they said their trip originated. But its final destination remained unclear.

The seized cargo, totaling more than 30 tons, includes rocket-propelled grenades, surface-to-air missile launchers and possibly more sophisticated missiles. The weapons are due to undergo a further inspection beginning Tuesday.

Four of the crew members carried passports from Kazakhstan, and the other had one from Belarus.

Viktor Abdullayev, one of the pilots, said in an interview Monday that the crew was based in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

“I am from Kazakhstan,” he said, “but I work in Georgia.”

The numbers on the plane’s fuselage — 4L-AWA — indicate that it is registered in Georgia, and the “crew member certificate” of Mr. Abdullayev’s colleague, Ilyas Issakov, carries the flag of the government of Georgia and the logo of a company called Air West. The document lists him as a captain.

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Monday, 14 December 2009 09:04 AM
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