This is getting interesting: Congressional investigators are accusing Red Star and Mina, the now-notorious companies that supplied fuel to U.S. forces in Kyrgyzstan, of stonewalling them, in particular by not telling who owns the company, reports the Wall Street Journal:
Company officials have so far said they need to keep ownership a secret as a matter of security. Chuck Squires, a retired U.S. army colonel who has worked as an operations manager for both companies, said in an interview in April that the owners "are private people who want to stay that way."
William Burck, an attorney for the company, denied that officials have stonewalled the congressional investigation, and said they produced thousands of pages of documents, emails, and made company staff available for interviews. But investigators said the documents were mostly duplicates of what they had already received from the Pentagon, and have been of no use in clarifying who owns Mina Corp. and Red Star, both of which are registered in the overseas territory of Gibraltar...
"It's outrageous that these billion-dollar Department of Defense contractors would refuse to comply with a legitimate congressional inquiry," said Congressman John Tierney (D., Mass.), chairman of the subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government
"Failure to cooperate with this investigation raises serious questions about who the U.S. contracts with in support of our efforts in Afghanistan and how they operate," Mr. Tierney said.
Of course, the fact that the company seems to be linked somehow with Maksim Bakiyev, son of the deposed ex-president, certainly thickens the plot here.
Meanwhile, EurasiaNet's Deirdre Tynan reports that potential bidders are complaining about the new fuel contract, saying it appears designed to favor Mina and Red Star:
The fuel should be delivered by pipeline and the period of performance stretches from September 2011 to August 2013. “Fuel for these requirements must be sourced from northern routes/sources; Pakistani supply routes/sources will not be accepted for these requirements,” the pre-solicitation adds. A formal solicitation is expected to be advertised on or about August 31, 2010. Competitors maintain that Red Star, thanks to the pipeline MoU, enjoys an unfair advantage.
In addition, critics contend that the Department of Defense entered into the MoU in an allegedly non-transparent way – the need for a pipeline and fuel storage facilities at Bagram was never advertised, and no other company was given the opportunity to bid for the project. This alleged lack of transparency amounts to a violation of US procurement laws, Ronald Uscher, a lawyer representing IOTC, a competitor to Red Star and Mina Corp, claimed....
Uscher added that it appears the latest solicitation still contains “special conditions” that could result in “another sole source award to Red Star.”
So is the Pentagon still favoring the mysterious owners behind Mina and Red Star?