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Viewing cable 06BOGOTA1970, BLUE LANTERN HELICOPTERS: CASE TWO HUGHES

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06BOGOTA1970 2006-03-06 14:02 2011-02-27 13:01 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Bogota
Appears in these articles:
http://www.elespectador.com/wikileaks
VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #1970/01 0651449
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 061449Z MAR 06
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2792
INFO RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEANHA/FAA WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 001970 

SIPDIS 

SIPDIS 

DDTC: TIM WATKINS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/23/2016 
TAGS: ETTC KOMC CO
SUBJECT: BLUE LANTERN HELICOPTERS: CASE TWO HUGHES 
HELICOPTERS CONTINUED 

REF: A. SECSTATE 22779 

     B. BOGOTA 1652 

Classified By: AMB:WBWOOD for Reasons 1.4 (b)+(e) 

1. (C) (SUMMARY): Post has confirmed the location of the 
missing Hughes 500 helicopters that were being used to move 
cash and valuables on the north coast of Colombia.  The 
helicopters in question were originally sold to the Israeli 
government by the USG for military purposes but were 
converted to civilian grade aircraft in 1998.  The 
helicopters came to Colombia on false export and 
airworthiness documents issued in Israel.  Post learned that 
the helicopters were found in a warehouse owned by Enilse
Lopez, A.K.A. "La Gata" ("the cat"), a suspected 
money-launderer with alleged ties to the paramilitaries. 
Post has obtained permission to visit the site where the 
helicopters are being stored in Barranquilla and plans to 
visit shortly. 

------- 
HISTORY 
------- 

2.(C) The following is a time-line of how the helicopters 
came to be in the possession of the Fiscalia in Barranquilla: 

 -- Two Hughes 500 military grade helicopters were sold to 
the Israeli government in 1982 for use as ambulance 
helicopters. 

 -- In 1998 the two helicopters were grounded by the Israeli 
military for conversion to civilian aircraft and placed on 
the market for sale. 

 -- In 2002 the Israeli government sold the helicopters to 
CANWEST of Canada.  CANWEST did not move the helicopters out 
of Israel. 

 -- In 2003, CANWEST sold the helicopters to SAI (Servicios
Aeronauticos Integrales) of Mexico.  SAI convertedthe
helicopters to civilian grade helicopters and moved the 
helicopters from Israel to Miami on export certifications and 
destination documents indicating plans to use the helicopters 
in Mexico.  The export and airworthiness documents were 
issued in Israel under the numbers 2003-36 and 2003-37. 

 -- While the helicopters were still in Miami,SAI sold the 
helicopters to Panama-based company, Trade Leasing and 
Consulting (TLC).  The general manager of TLC is a Colombian 
national by the name of Francisco Alberto Restrepo Flores. 
He moved the helicopters to Cartagena at the end of January 
2004. 
   -- AvionesEjecutivos, otherwise known as AVIEL LTDA, 
based in Medellin, Colombia, carried out the import 
processing for TLC.  Colombian Civil Aviation authorized 
AVIEL a 90-day temporary certificate of airworthiness on the 
condition that AVIEL obtain an H3WE from the USG.  During 
these 90 days, the helicopters were used by Aviel to move 
valuables (mainly cash) on behalf of BancoAgrario on the 
north coast of Colombia. 

 -- The USG-FAA did not issue Aviel the flight authorization 
(H3WE) because the request stipulated a permission type 396E 
which did not correspond with the type of helicopter listed 
in the request, the Hughes 500. 

 -- Due to the USG's refusal to issue a flight authorization 
(H3WE), Colombian Civil Aviation reviewed the documentation 
and determined that the export and airworthiness documents 
number 2003-36 and 2003-37 exhibited unauthorized 
modifications.  According to the Fiscalia these documents 
originally indicated use in Mexico, and were later changed to 
read Colombia.  The Fiscalia added that according to Israeli 
export authorities, these documents were never issued by the 
Israeli government.

-- These irregularities led Civil Aviation of Colombia in 
coordination with the Fiscalia to refuse to issue a permanent 
airworthiness certificate, thus grounding both helicopters. 

 -- In September of 2004, the Fiscalia located the 
helicopters in a warehouse owned by Uniapuesta, a company 
owned by Enilse Lopez.  The Fiscalia took possession of the 
two helicopters and moved them to their current storage 
location in Barranquilla. 

------------------------------ 
ANSWERS TO REMAINING QUESTIONS 
------------------------------ 

3. The following are the remaining answers to questions from 
DDTC: 

Q. Prior to being brought to the court's attention, what is
the history of the helicopters and for what purpose were they 
used? 

A. The helicopters were first used as Israeli 
military-ambulance helicopters and then in 1998 were 
grounded.  In early 1999 the helicopters were reconfigured 
for civilian use by either CANWEST or SAI.  The helicopters 
remained grounded until January 2004, when AVIEL began using 
the helicopters to transport money and other items of value 
on behalf of BancoAgrario in the north coast area. 

Q. Can the U.S. Embassy visit the site where the helicopters 
are being stored? 

A. The helicopters are currently being stored at the 
Parqueadero Chemical in Barranquilla under the 
supervision/authority of the DireccionSeccional de la 
Fiscalia.  The exact address is Calle 3, Via AEternit No. 
66-164.  The phone number of the Fiscalia in Barranquilla is 
075-351-0429 (calling from Bogota) and the contact names 
available for Barranquilla are Judith Valluelo Montes and 
Perla Davila Martinez.  The address of the Direccion
Seccional de la FiscaliaisCra 44 37-28, 2nd floor.  Post 
does have verbal authorization from both Hector Cruz and 
Perla Davila to visit the site and is making arrangements to 
do so.  The purpose of the visit would be to personally 
verify tail numbers and identiplates on both helicopters. 

--------- 
NEXT STEPS 
---------- 

4. Post intends to visit the site where the helicopters are 
being stored and verify the tail numbers of said helicopters. 
 Post also intends to provide assistance to the Fiscalia in 
Bogota to obtain answers to critical questions regarding the 
documentation accompanying the helicopters in an effort to 
expedite the adjudication of this case. 

WOOD 

=======================CABLE ENDS============================