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October 31, 1992

Illegal German Weapons to Croatia and Bosnia Fuel the Balkan Conflict

War in the former Yugoslav republics is being fuelled by a massive and complex pattern of weapons shipments to Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, funded and organized by Germany. Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy has uncovered a widespread pattern of arms shipments which have been allowed to cross into Croatia and Bosnia with the tacit approval (and sometimes, apparently, direct support) of the governments of Germany and Austria, and possibly other states. As well, Germany has pointedly ignored the movement of German nationals into Croatia and Bosnia to fight against the Serbian residents of those two former Yugoslav states. All of the activity is in direct violation of German and Austrian law as well as being in violation of international embargoes against the supply of weapons to the conflict zone.

All of the actions support Germany's traditional ally, Croatia, against the Serbian populations still resident in what is now Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and against the rump of the Yugoslav Federation. The wide collection of information came to Defense & Foreign Affairs from diverse sources, including Defense & Foreign Affairs correspondents. Some, from other sources, came in written form in a variety of languages, without elaboration, often with only partial identification of some of the transactions, companies and weapons involved.

October 4, 1991: A convoy of three truckloads of anti-tank weapons and 40,000 military uniforms arrived in the Croatian capital, Zagreb, from Bielefeld, Germany. Elements of the Croatian paramilitary forces have subsequently been found in German-made uniforms, and supplied with very nutritious food from German military stocks.

Late October 1991: Four mobile workshops, six 155mm howitzers, and a number of 120mm mortars, along with70 US-made General Dynamics Stinger advanced, manportable surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), reached the port of Zadar, from German sources.

November 9, 1991: Two truckloads of GD Stinger SAMs and a quantity of blank jackets arrived in Karlovac, Croatia.

November 10, 1991: A truck with a variety of arms arrived in Zadar from Germany via Italy.

December 19, 1991: Pier 17 at the port of Rijeka was the site of unloading to 60 tanks (type unspecified, but believed to have been East German "T"-series tanks) from Germany.

January 8-9, 1992: Three MiG fighter aircraft, model unspecified, were received by the Croatian Armed Forces from Germany. The aircraft, from former East German stocks, included one new aircraft and two which had "previously been flown".

Mid-January 1992: Spare parts for Panavia Tornado aircraft were reportedly transported to Croatia from Germany in trucks. They were alleged to have been subsequently assembled and the aircraft (number unspecified, but believed to be more than one) are based now at Pleso airfield, Croatia.

Mid-January 1992: Weapons and military equipment worth about DM 5,000,000 were shipped to the port of Rijeka. They were in a container weighting 17.5 tons. The contents included night-vision sniper sights, night-vision field glasses, IC field glasses, optical sights for day shooting, radios for vehicle mounting, mobile radio sets, and a large amount of ammunition of various calibres. Three tons of these weapons were immediately sent to the 113th Brigade of the Croatian Army stationed at Sibenik.

January 14, 1992: Two truckloads of weapons (anti-tank rockets, mortars, Stinger SAMs) were delivered to Croatia. The weapons were reportedly purchased, source say, in Germany and Switzerland by the firm BHM from Basel.

January 15, 1992: Five truckloads of arms and ammunition were unloaded at the port of Rijeka. They were transported to, and store in, the village of Kukuljanovo, 12 km from Rijeka.

March 12, 1992: A truck transporting small arms arrived at Rijeka and continued on via Sibenik to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Early March 1992: Croatian Ministry of Defence bought 90 military trucks from the surplus stock of the French Army contingent in Germany through a German firm identified as Weba or Vebeg. The delivery was carried out in three shipments by the end of March via Austria and Slovenia. The source said that the transaction took place with the knowledge of French and German authorities.

April 10-13, 1992: A further 60 tanks from Germany (again, believed to be former East German "T"-series MBTs) were unloaded in the port of Koper and stored in the warehouses of Kukuljanovo near Rijeka.

April 21-22, 1992: The Croatian Government signed a contract with a German supplier for the delivery of various weapons and ordinance totalling US$ 3-million in value. This deal was signed through the Zagreb-based firm, Jugoart, according to sources, which has offices in Vienna. Jugoart reportedly arranges for deliveries of military equipment to the High Command of the Croatian Army from various suppliers in Germany.

May 1992: During the course of the month, Croatia was supplied with 1,010 Stinger SAMs, 2,000 Armbrust anti-tank rockets, 47,100 AK-47 Kalashnikov automatic assault rifles with 500 rounds per weapons, 2,550 RPG-7 manportable antitank rocket launchers, and 60 MiG combat aircraft engines. These weapons and supplies were delivered to Croatia through Italy and via the border posts at Kozina and Sezana.

July 20, 1992: A shipment of 100 automatic rifles, two sniper rifles, 10 radios and 260,000 rounds of 7.62 mm rifle ammunition was delivered from Stuttgart, Germany, to Prozor, Bosnia-Herzegovina, for the use of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO).

July-August 1992: Sources claim that Fadil Lipovaca, a former manager of the Moscow office of the firm Union invest, Sarajevo, and now owner of the private firm Carinthia (headquartered in Ljubljana), paid some US$ 150,000 for the purchase of arms for Muslim paramilitary forces. Part of this sum was allegedly provided by the Government of Turkmenistan through Industry and Energy Minister Kerimov. As well, a man named as Edo Bolic, manager of the Moscow office of the Sarajevo firm Vranica, reportedly paid US$170,000 to buy weapons for the Muslim forces in Bosnia and Herzegovian. Payments were made to the account of the LHB-Internationale Hondelsbank AG, HTH-Unioninvest Import-Export GmbH, Frankfurt-Main, No. 748.301, BLZ 500 308 00.

Sources indicated that most of the purchases and deliveries of weapons and military equipment for Croatian irregulars were effected with the assistance of the German firms, FABA, FOGA and Franconia-Jagd. The Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank AG in Darmstradt were, in most cases, used for the deposit and transactions involving large sums of money intended for arms purchases.

October 7, 1991: An Adria Airways DC-9 transport aircraft landed at Sarajevo from Klagenfurt. It carried "large amounts" of Heckler & Koch (German-made) automatic rifles and handguns for the Bosnian Ministry of the Interior.

Early October 1991: Croatia's Ministry of Defense paid US$ 61-million into an account at the Austrian bank Die Erst Osterreichische Spar Kasse-Bank for the purchase of T-72 main battle tanks, and in late October, the Croatian ministry requested the Austrian firm identified as AWDM to provide Croatia with spare parts for these tanks.

Late October 1991: The Croatian Ministry of Defense bought, through a firm identified as Xandill International Ltd. Consulting, headquartered in Vienna, 3,500 automatic rifles and 30,000 handgrenades worth US$ 1,750,000.

July 27-28, 1992: Ten MiG-21 fighter aircraft and two Saab aircraft were relocated from Austria to Croatia.

The ammunition factory at Baden, Austria, has since the beginning of September 1992 reportedly delivered, on a daily basis, ammunition to the Croatian Armed Forces and to the Territorial Defence Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slovenia.

Weapons and military equipment from Hungary were exported to Croatia on several occasions in 1991 in a variety of aircraft -- including agricultural aircraft -- belonging to Croatia and Hungary. Between September 25 and 27, 1991, and October 6 to 8, 1991, an airlift was established between Beremend, Bilje and Osijek for the transport of small arms and ammunition aboard AN-2 aircraft and towed gliders. Hungarian authorities also provided security for these overflights by electronic jamming of Yugoslav air defence surveillance radars.

September-October 1991: A Hungarian, named by sources as Karol Gala, owner of the firm Universum SD, based in Budapest, allegedly brought into Croatia from Poland (via Hungary) two truckloads of arms and ordinance, including 200 RPG-7 anti-tank rocket launchers, 2,500 RPG-7 rockets, 2,000 AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifles, 2,000 handgrenades, and 600,000 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition for the AK-47s. The trucks were reportedly rented by a Prague resident, identified as Mikulas Nadasi.

End September 1992: Hungary allegedly delivered to Croatia a surface-to-surface missile system, known as R-300, for which the Croatian Ministry of Defence paid US$ 1.5-million through the Croatian companies INJA, Astra and Pliva.

Croatia purchased, during 1991, some 120 T-72 main battle tanks worth US$ 90-million through the Swiss firms Eram Bau Montage AG and F-S International LTS (Ltd.?) of Hong Kong. The transaction was carried out, according to sources, through the Austrian bank, Rossler Bank AG, in Vienna. The tanks, formerly in service with the Soviet Army, were supplied to Croatia during October 1991.

January 14, 1992: Two truckloads of arms -- allegedly including rocket launchers, mortars and US-made GD Stinger SAMs -- arrived in Croatia from Basel. The weapons were allegedly bought in Germany by the Basel firm, BHM, and their delivery itinerary was Basel-Zurich-Gotthard-Venice-Trieste-Pula. On the following day, January 15, four more vans of small arms ammunition came from Zurich via Hungary.

Prague was one of the major centres of illegal supplies of weapons and defence equipment to Croatia during the second half of 1991 and the first half of 1992. Sources claimed that the following firms were involved:

Omnipol, Unimex, the "Bank of Bohemia", the Prague offices of the Swedish firms Scandinavia Invest and Abarent, the Prague office of the Swiss firm Computer Graphic Systems, two other companies from Switzerland, some Arab embassies (including the Syrian Embassy in Prague). Contracts were concluded for large quantities of defence equipment, including: 50,000 AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifles, 20,000 M-16 assault rifles, 70-million rounds of ammunition, 1,000 RPG-7 launches and 5,000 rockets, 100 "guided rocket" launchers. Negotiations are know to be underway in Prague for the supply of heavy weapons and aircraft.

February 1992: During February, and earlier, in late 1991, the Czechoslovak firm Omnipol allegedly supplied R-300 surface-to-surface missiles to Croatia, installing the weapons in the area of Kinkovo village near Slavonski Brod, Croatia.

The Vatican Bank, in 1991, reportedly paid through the trust of the institute for the Dissemination of Religion, US$ 1,988,300, via the International Handel Bank in the Netherlands, for the purchase of weapons in Beirut on behalf of Croatia. [Croatia is Catholic; Serbia is Orthodox. -- Ed.]

November 16, 1991: Croatia shipped through the port of Gdansk, Poland, 16,500 AK-47 assault rifles and 5-million rounds of ammunition, 175 RPG-7 antirank rocket launchers and related rounds; 150 M-82 mortars and 3,500 rounds; M-120 mortars and ammunition. Total value US$ 12.5-million. Payment was allegedly through Lajbic Bank and Banca Nationale de Milano, of Italy.

November 1991: The ships Kumrovec and Kozara, owned by the firm Danube Lloyds, of Sisak, allegedly shipped arms and ammunition from Bulgaria and Romania to Croatia.

December 2, 1991: A large shipment of weapons was sent from Paris to the firm PRO in Zagreb, Croatia. The shipment was by four trucks bearing Greek registration.

Early January 1992: The Zagreb firm, Astra, contracted for the acquisition of weapons in Turkey to be supplied to Croatia and the civil defence units of Bosnia and Herzegovian. The purchases were worth DM1,600,000 and the delivery was made by sea.

Early January 1992: A deal was made to ship 250 anti-aircraft missiles and 25 launchers (unspecified type) to Croatia from Poland, with the agreement of the Polish authorities, according to sources. The Customs certificate for this shipment was issued in late January 1992, indicating a dealer from the Philippines as the buyer. The airline "General and Aviation Services", registered in Nigeria, was indicated as the shipper.

January 11, 1992: A vessel carrying weapons left the port of Junieh in Beirut. These arms were bought from the Lebanese Christian militia headed by Shamir Zhazhra. The weight of these weapons and equipment was estimated at between 2,000 to 4,00 tons, and included a range of supplies from small arms to howitzers. Lebanon, as one of the largest illegal suppliers of weapons to the Croatian forces, has so far exported US$ 20-million worth of defence items to Croatia.

Early January 1992: Croatia ordered from Chile 100 UK-manufactured Shorts Blowpipe manportable SAMs. These SAMs had reportedly been upgraded in Chile. The same order included 500 Mamba anti-tank rockets valued at US$ 2,056,298. The order was reportedly placed through the export company "Fabricas y maestranzas del ejercito avida Pedro Montt 1606". The indicated buyer on the end user certificate was a Sri Lankan firm, and Croatia made the payment through Banco Central de Chile.

January 23, 1992: A ship bound for Rijeka was loaded in the port of Odessa with assault rifles, guns, sniper rifles, mortars, anti-tank rockets, SAMs and ordnance.

Mid-August 1992: A vessel from Turkey entered the port of Split carrying arms for the Croatian and Muslim forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

August 15, 1992: A Turkish Air Force aircraft flying humanitarian relief to Sarajevo also brought an unidentified amount of weapons and other military equipment for the Bosnian territorial defence units.

August 23-24, 1992: Three Boeing 747s of the Iranian Air Force landed at Zagreb and Sarajevo airports carrying weapons in unknown quantities and types. United Nations (UNPROFOR) officials were allegedly unable to inspect the cargoes.

Mid-October 1992:I Two ships carrying weapons for Bosnian and Herzegovinan Muslims started their voyages from Istanbul on October 10, 1992, and it has been established that one of these ships reached the port of Ploce, Croatia, on October 13, 1992.

The Bulgarian firm, Kintex, reportedly mediates the sale of Russian-made weapons to Boznia and Herzegovina and Croatia. Through its brokerage efforts, 25 tons of weapons and ammunition are reportedly ferried each week from Bulgaria, via Romania and Hungary. A larger shipment of weapons and related equipment from Bulgaria reached Split on October 16, 1992, however. These weapons were for the use of the Zenica-based units of the Muslim Army in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The highest officials in the Government of the Republic of Slovenia are directly involved in the delivery of weapons to Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to sources. These include Prime Minister J. Drnovsek, Defence Minister J. Jansa, and Interior Minister I. Bavcar.

In the first part of 1992, these officials allegedly signed, through their agents, agreements with Jerko Doko, Bosnia's Defence Minister, and Ragib Merdzanic, adviser to President Alija Izetbegovic, for the delivery of 30,000 AK-47s at DM500 each, 20,000 Italian Beretta 92 handguns at DM750 each, 6-million rounds of ammunition (for the rifles and handguns), and an unidentified amount of Motorola radio equipment, winter camouflage uniforms, four-wheel drive vehicles, and other military equipment.

Representatives of the Bosnian Government paid for the weapons with funds donated by Islamic countries. At least 13,000 of the AK-47s have been delivered of the amounts ordered.

At the beginning of October 1992, Croatia concluded a business deal with Venezuela and Brazil, offering three oil tankers for two squadrons of Embraer Tucano turboprop training aircraft. A group from the Croatian Ministry of Defense was reported in Brazil in October and November with several pilots to test the aircraft.

Defense & Foreign Affairs has additional material on foreign mercenaries, defense transactions and other related intelligence on the violation of the international embargoes on defense materiel shipments to the combatants in the current Balkan conflict. Much of this material will appear in the next edition -- December 1992 -- of Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy.