The more digging that takes place around Red Star Enterprises Ltd and Mina Corp, companies at the center of a US congressional probe into Pentagon contracting practices in Kyrgyzstan, the murkier the companies’ corporate structures and affiliations get.
There is an abundance of evidence that suggests Red Star is a thread in a vast web of business operations that extends across Afghanistan. Sitting at the top of this quiet business empire is an obscure Belize-registered entity called Aspen Wind Corporation, which appears to serve as an “umbrella” organization for Red Star and a variety of businesses operated by an Afghan-American entity, Neda Holding.
According to the official websites of several Aspen Wind subsidiaries, including entities named Placement Consulting and Neda Advertising, Red Star was listed as an affiliated company.
The Neda Advertising site, for example, described itself as “part of a larger holding company, Aspen Wind Corporation, a US Afghan Joint Venture.”
“Within the Aspen Wind umbrella we have 5 other companies [present] in 13 countries, an advertising company - Neda Afghan Advertising; a Mineral Water Company - Neda Aspen Water; an IT services company - Kabul-Technology; a recruitment company - Placement Consulting; and a fuel supply company - Red Star Enterprises, which current[ly] support[s] the US Air Force in Bagram [Afghanistan], in Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan and in Iraq,” the Neda Advertising website added.
On its website, Neda Advertising also portrayed itself as the “exclusive vendor” for ISAF-NATO and the United Nations Development Programme, as well as for many corporate heavyweights, including Coca-Cola and Toyota.
EurasiaNet.org spoke to a Kabul-based director of Aspen Wind/Neda Advertising who confirmed that Red Star is part of the group.
Despite the multiple claims of affiliation, a spokesman’s for Red Star on May 18 denied any relationship existed between Aspen Wind Corp and Red Star. “Red Star is not related to Aspen Wind Corp,” he insisted.
In the weeks since the US congressional probe began, the web content of various entities with connections to Red Star/Mina Corp has been altered to delete references to the fuel suppliers.
Red Star and Mina Corp are the focus of a US congressional probe concerning fuel supplies at the Manas Transit Center, a key logistics hub for the US war effort in Afghanistan. [For background see EurasiaNet’s archive].
Aspen Wind Corporation is, according to press releases dating from December 2004, “a US-based trade and finance company with offices in New York, London and Moscow.”
Some indirect connections also appear to bind Red Star to Aspen Wind-related entities. For example, some of Neda Holding’s advertising ventures have won small US government contracts in Afghanistan. In 2009, Neda Telecommunications teamed with NATO to install WiMax internet services in Kabul. Neda Telecommunications, which is described as a “subsidiary” of Aspen Wind Corp, also introduced a satellite-based technology for internet provision called O3b networks.
Satellite Support Services, a company claiming to be the “exclusive distributor” of O3b networks in Afghanistan, maintains corporate offices at 20 Conduit Street, London – the same London address used by both Red Star and Mina Corp. A phone call to Mina Corp’s office confirmed that Satellite Support Services could be reached there. [For background see EurasiaNet’s archive].
A representative for O3b Networks declined to discuss the firm’s relationship to Satellite Support Services. According to the company’s website, O3b Networks is based in Jersey, one of the Channel Islands, which enjoy renown as a tax haven. The website goes on to state that company founder Greg Wyler “helped to create Africa’s first commercial 3G mobile and fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks.”
Also located at 20 Conduit Street, London, is Maris Capital, an investment fund specializing in Africa. Maris Capital’s founder and partner, Charlie Tryon, used to be the chief executive officer for Neda Telecommunications. He was also the London marketing director for Silk Road Pearls, a Bishkek-based pearl trading company that Chuck Squires, Red Star/Mina Corp’s director of operations, was president of.
A previous version of Maris Capital’s webpage said Charlie Tryon was a director at Mina Corp. Maris Capital’s webpage has since been updated to remove any mention of Mina Corp.
Meanwhile, Aspen Wind appears to be heavily involved in energy-related activities in Afghanistan. In 2002, it partnered with Rosneftegazstroy (RNGS), a major Russian energy-sector construction firm, to create RNGS Afghanistan. “The founders of the joint venture [are] RAO Rosneftegazstroy, [the] American Company Aspen Wind Corporation, Neda, Kamal Nabi Zada, [and] Takhib Zada (Afghanistan),” RNGS's website said.
“RNGS Afghanistan participates in tenders for the rehabilitation and construction in Afghanistan of industrial, civil and social projects, including motor roads, oil and gas trunk pipelines and related facilities,” the website added.
In September 2007, Rosneftegazstroy’s president, Ivan Mazur, told a Russian oil and gas magazine that RNGS anticipates taking part in the construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline. The TAPI pipeline is a long-stalled, US-backed project that seeks to bring Turkmen gas to the Pakistani and Indian markets via Afghanistan.
Deirdre Tynan is a Bishkek-based reporter specializing in Central Asian affairs.