The holder of the main fuel-supply contract at the Manas Transit Center in Kyrgyzstan, a critical logistics hub for the US and NATO war effort in Afghanistan, operates in a “thick fog of mystery,” according to a report published by the Washington Post.
The Post article, published October 30, provides some details on the rise of Mina Corp and Red Star Enterprises, the current and former holders of the Pentagon’s Manas fuel-supply contract. Both entities are controlled, according to the Post investigation, by 58-year-old Douglas Edelman. He began his entrepreneurial career in Kyrgyzstan by opening “a bar and hamburger joint,” and, after the US-NATO blitz on Afghanistan in late 2001, parlayed his operations into a jet fuel supply business that, to date, has secured almost $3 billion in Defense Department contracts. [To read the full Washington Post article click here].
The Post investigation found that Mina Corp and Red Star have used addresses in a variety of countries, all outside the United States and Kyrgyzstan, that are “apparently little more than a mail drop.”
“Mina and Red Star have little of the visible infrastructure usually associated with an enterprise handling billions of dollars of business,” the Post article states. It goes on to point out that a US congressional subcommittee has, over the past six months, reviewed over 250,000 pages of documents and emails, in search of evidence of possible corruption and inappropriate business practices. So far, the investigation hasn’t turned up credible evidence to support any corruption charge, but investigators have reportedly found what the Post terms “serious flaws” in Pentagon contracting practices that have “potentially damaging diplomatic and strategic blowback.”
Chuck Squires, the director of operations for Mina Corp and Red Star, told the Post that the accusations of improper practices were “all garbage.” He went on to describe Mina Corp as “a legitimate company. Always has been.”
Kyrgyzstan’s current leaders continue to suspect that Mina Corp and Red Star have been involved in shady deals that enriched Kyrgyz leaders during the Akayev administration, which collapsed in 2005, and the Bakiyev administration, which was toppled this past spring. Provisional President Roza Otunbayeva has pressed US President Barack Obama’s administration to implement a new fuel-supply arrangement that would sideline Mina Corp, or eliminate its role altogether.
In June, the Defense Logistics Agency announced a new Manas fuel-supply tender for 240 million gallons of TS-1 jet fuel to be delivered over a two-year span. An announcement on the winner of that tender is imminent, according to Washington insiders.
According to the Post investigation, Mina Corp representatives sought a meeting with Otunbayeva, who reportedly refused to see them. In July, Erkin Bekbolotov, who is described in the article as Edelman’s business partner, held a meeting with Otunbayeva’s 28-year-old son, Atai Sadybakasov, in Istanbul. Bekbolotov described the meeting as “absolutely useless.”
But news of that meeting did vex Otunbayeva, who went on to complain to the Post about the dirty nature of business in Kyrgyzstan.
“The corruption is endless. All these dark corners,” she told the Post. “It’s like trying to clean the Augean Stables,” a reference to the fifth of Hercules’ 12 labors in Greek mythology.