US-Sponsored Drug-Plane Operation Had Global Reach

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The Narco Sphere

Aircraft Linked to “Mayan Jaguar” Flew Tons of Cocaine Into Africa — Gateway to the European Market

US government intelligence agencies, in particular, the CIA, often have been accused of complicity in the drug trade, but public officials and the mainstream media just as quickly dismiss the allegations as whacky conspiracy theories — often with just cause.

Still, some cases defy explanations that rely on putting the blame on a few “bad apples.” In those cases, if it is not official US government complicity in the drug trade at work, then there seems to be at least some very deep-seated corruption and agency dysfunction in play.

The ongoing investigation into the Gulfstream II jet that crashed in Mexico in the fall of 2007 with a cargo of 3.7 tons of cocaine onboard appears to be an example of a case that points to a deeper corruption problem within the US bureaucracy.

That jet was part of a long-running US covert operation, called Mayan Jaguar, that involved the sale of dozens of aircraft to Latin American narco-trafficking organizations, court records recently revealed.

It now appears, based on a Narco News investigation, that a number of the jets sold through Mayan Jaguar or related parties may have been used to move tons of cocaine into the European market, via Africa, despite the fact that some of these aircraft were supposedly being monitored and tracked by the US law enforcers and/or intelligence agents overseeing Mayan Jaguar.

Media reports as well European investigators have connected the Gulfstream II jet, via its tail number, N987SA, to past use by the CIA, including alleged flights from 2001 to 2005 between the United States, Europe and Guantanamo Bay, home to the infamous prison camp for targets of the so-called War on Terror.

The Gulfstream II jet was sold twice between Aug. 31, 2007, and Sept. 24, 2007 — the date of its crash landing in Mexico’ s Yucatan Peninsula with a payload of cocaine.

Two Florida companies involved in those sales have been called out in federal court pleadings that allege the Gulfstream jet was part of a bizarre Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) undercover operation carried out in Latin America (Mayan Jaguar) — which netted no arrests or indictments in the US over the four years or so that it was reportedly officially in motion. The plug was pulled on the operation, US prosecutors now claim, with the crash of the Gulfstream II in Mexico.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General allegedly is investigating two ICE agents who were part of Mayan Jaguar, federal court pleadings filed in Florida indicate. The investigation is focused on suspected unlawful activity related to the Mayan Jaguar operation.

However, multiple law-enforcement sources who spoke with Narco News say an operation like Mayan Jaguar would have required a number of high-level approvals and ongoing oversight, not only from ICE and Department of Homeland Security officials, but also from officials at the Department of Justice and the State Department — including the US ambassadors in the affected nations.

Mayan Jaguar’s lack of law-enforcement success over four years, despite all of that oversight, led those same law enforcers to conclude that the true purpose of Mayan Jaguar was not to gather evidence to make arrests or pursue indictments. Instead, they suggest that ICE’s Mayan Jaguar could well have been a CIA cover operation utilizing multiple front companies to penetrate narco-trafficking organizations with the goal of gathering intelligence and recruiting assets — all aimed at advancing US interests deemed vital to the intelligence community.

That’s a serious charge, but not one that is out of the realm of possibility, stresses one long-time federal drug agent, who spoke with Narco News on background:

Remember, it’s all about the intel. Morality, legality and even good sense are suspended in favor of gathering intel.

American’s intel agencies want to know where the drugs go, to whom and then where they are distributed. The result is a great trafficking-pattern wall chart. They use the intel to generate more intel upon which they likewise do not act.

The intel agencies sometimes approach those who are profiting [from the drug trade], remind them that they (the intel agencies) set up the opportunity for them to make the big money and then ask them for a payback in the form of more intel.

Breaking It Down

The strategy employed in Mayan Jaguar, according to the court pleadings revealing its existence, was to place transponders on aircraft sold to Latin American drug smuggling organizations via an ICE front company — also identified in the court filings as Donna Blue Aircraft Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla.

Along with Donna Blue, two other Florida companies have popped up in federal court filings accused of brokering aircraft sales for individuals in Latin America that US prosecutors now allege are connected to narco-trafficking groups. And these three companies, all based in Florida, are connected to each other through various business and personal threads that are exposed in court filings and other public records.

Let’s break it down: A company called World Jet Inc. of Fort Lauderdale brokered the sale of the Gulfstream II jet in late August 2007 to the ICE front company Donna Blue, owned by an ICE informant named Joao Malago, who is a longtime business associate of Larry Peters, owner of Skyway Aircraft Inc. of St. Petersburg.

“Mr. Malago and Mr. Peters were both involved together in a transaction that resulted in their — Mr. Malago being stopped by ICE in 2004. He was carrying an excessive amount of money that could not be explained or justified at the time. It didn’t have — it ended up being seized and Mr. Malago became a CI [confidential informant] for ICE back in 2004,” states federal prosecutor Andrea Hoffman in a criminal case now pending in US District Court in Florida.

Donna Blue, a few weeks after acquiring the Gulfstream II via a World Jet-brokered sale, turned around and sold it to a Florida duo that included a pilot named Gregory Smith, whom, court records reveal, also works for World Jet as a contract pilot and who has done past work for US government agencies (possibly even the CIA) as a contract pilot.

In fact, in the late 1990s, Smith’s Fort Lauderdale-based company at the time, Aero Group Jets Inc., leased a Hawker jet to a longtime CIA asset named Baruch Vega. That jet was used for a joint DEA/FBI/CIA operation targeting Colombian narco-trafficking groups [link here, see pages 3 and 16]. That same Hawker jet, FAA records show, was later purchased by Clyde O’Connor — Smith’s partner in the 2007 Gulfstream II purchase.

Within days of Smith and his partner, O’Connor, acquiring the Gulfstream II from the ICE front company Donna Blue as part of Mayan Jaguar, it crash lands (on Sept. 24, 2007) in Mexico with nearly four tons of cocaine onboard.

Mayan Jaguar, over a four-year period, facilitated dozens of aircraft sales similar to the Gulfstream II deal, with the planes being sold to suspected Latin American drug smugglers, yet no arrests or indictments were made in the US, prosecutors claim, and the planes sold to alleged narco-traffickers as part of the operation are, for the most part, still unaccounted for — other than those which, like the Gulfstream II, happened to crash or were otherwise apprehended in countries outside the US.

And many of these so-called “cocaine planes” that were sold via Mayan Jaguar, according to court pleadings, were being tracked through transponders placed on the aircraft, which means US officials involved with Mayan Jaguar presumably knew where the aircraft were at any given time after they were sold to the narco-trafficking organizations.

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