WERE KEY SURVIVORS FROM ESTONIA CATASTROPHE KIDNAPPED?
2005.01.22 - Who Kidnapped Captain Avo Piht?
<a href="http://www.elaestonia.org/eng/index.php?module=lingid&link=133">WERE KEY SURVIVORS FROM ESTONIA CATASTROPHE KIDNAPPED?</a>
By Christopher Bollyn
Exclusive to American Free Press
The recent revelations of "enforced disappearances" of two Egyptian "terror suspects" carried out in Sweden in 2001 may shed light on the fate of nine missing survivors from the Estonia catastrophe of 1994.
Last week, in an article entitled "‘Ghost Planes’ Make Suspects Disappear," American Free Press reported that a U.S. registered Gulfstream 5 executive jet played a role in the "extraordinary rendition" or “enforced disappearance” of two Egyptian "terror suspects" from Sweden in 2001.
As reported, there is evidence that a similar abduction may have occurred in Sweden in the days following the Estonia ferry disaster of late September 1994.
According to Swedish journalist Sven Anér, enforced disappearances from Sweden are nothing new. More than 10 years ago, on Sept. 28, 1994, nine Estonian crewmembers, who evidently survived the Estonia ferry disaster, disappeared without a trace.
Arlanda doc 1Documents pertaining to the 1994 and 2001 disappearances from Sweden point to U.S. registered private jets being used in both cases. Anér has provided AFP with airport documents concerning the aircraft suspected of being involved in the abduction of the nine missing Estonians.
Enforced disappearance, according to the Rome Statute of 1998, "means the arrest, detention or abduction of persons by, or with the authorization, support or acquiescence of, a State or a political organization, followed by a refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom or to give information on the fate or whereabouts of those persons, with the intention of removing them from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time."
Enforced disappearance, a form of kidnapping, is considered a "crime against humanity," according to the Rome Statute, which Sweden ratified in June 2001.
Arlanda doc 2Ten years ago, in the immediate aftermath of the Estonia ferry disaster, which took the lives of some 852 people on Sept. 28, 1994, at least nine Estonian crew members, which official survivor lists show having survived the sinking, later mysteriously disappeared in what appears to be a government-organized abduction and enforced disappearance.
While the original survivor lists contain the names of 146 individuals, shortly thereafter the names of 11 crew members, who had been listed as survivors, were deleted without explanation from the lists maintained by the Swedish and Finnish authorities.
Anér has found 15 different original lists of survivors, all of which include the names of 11 Estonian crew members whose names were later deleted. It should be noted that in order for a name to appear on the list, a survivor was required to give his name, date of birth, status and nationality.
There is substantial evidence that at least 9 crewmembers survived the sinking of Estonia and were later abducted and taken to Arlanda airport near Stockholm whence they were flown out of Sweden on two private aircraft.
The abduction of these 9 crew members effectively removed key witnesses who would have been able to testify about the condition of the ship and the cause of the sinking. Chief among these were one of the ship's captains, Avo Piht, who was on-board but not on duty that night, and Chief Engineer Lembit Leiger. It is thought that the other seven were crewmembers who had shared the same life raft or been rescued with Piht and Leiger in the same helicopter, Y-64.
In the first days after the sinking, it was widely reported that Avo Piht had survived. The Swedish television news program Aktuellt, for example, in the evening of Sept. 28, 1994, reported that Ronald Bergman, director of Nordström & Thulin, the Swedish firm that co-owned the vessel with the Estonian state, had called and informed them that the ship's captain had survived and was being treated in a hospital in Finland.
Bengt-Erik Stenmark, security chief at the Swedish Maritime Administration told Reuters that the international investigation committee had interviewed Captain Avo Piht. Neither Stenmark nor Reuters has ever retracted this statement.
The German television network ZDF showed a video clip on September 28 of Avo Piht and other survivors arriving at Turku University Hospital in Finland. This video was later confiscated by German intelligence agents, according to Estonia researcher Jutta Rabe.
Leiger's wife, Kairi, received a call from a relative in Sweden who told her that a Swedish police superintendent named H. Strindlund had called to inform them that her husband had survived. Lembit Leiger had reportedly been treated in Stockholm's Huddinge Hospital and been released on September 29, 24 hours after having been admitted.
The next day, Mrs. Leiger spoke to Strindlund herself. Strindlund informed her of the flight details for the plane on which Leiger would be returning to Tallinn – but he never came home.
Along with Piht and Leiger, there are at least seven other "disappeared" crew members, whose names remained on survivor lists for days: The ship's doctor, Dr. Viktor Bogdanov, Kalev Vahtras, Kaimar Kikas, Agur Targama, Tiina Müür, and the twin sisters, Hannely and Hanka-Hannika Veide.
A STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE
In Tallinn, at noon on Sept. 28, 1994, the names of survivors provided by the Estonian Department of Transportation were read over the radio. Kalev Vahtras, the ship's quartermaster, was one of them.
Silver Linde, a surviving seaman, told Jutta Rabe that he had shared a hospital room in Turku, Finland, with Vahtras.
Vahtras and Linde were friends and the two spoke in the hospital. Vahtras had no noticeable injuries, although his body temperature was low and he was wrapped in blankets, Linde said.
Linde went to visit other survivors and left Kalev alone in the room. When Linde returned with another crewmember, they discovered that Vahtras was gone. His entire bed had vanished.
Linde asked a nurse about Vahtras and was told he had been transferred to another hospital. A survivor list from Turku hospital shows Vahtras' name and body temperature.
Vahtras' wife went to Turku and was told her husband was in a hospital in Sweden.
Eventually an unrecognizable and disfigured corpse said to be Vahtras was returned to Estonia with a death certificate which read: Drowned in the Baltic Sea. Linde is serving a 9-year prison sentence in Finland, the victim of a framed charge of drug trafficking.
THE CENSORED RESCUE
Aftonbladet, the Swedish daily, reported on the day of the sinking that rescue worker Kenneth Svensson, on a rescue trip with Swedish Navy helicopter Y-64, rescued 9 people at about 3 a.m. on Sept. 28. Half an hour later, according to Aftonbladet, the helicopter took the rescued to Huddinge Hospital in Stockholm, arriving at 4:30 a.m., with nine persons, one of whom was dead. There is, however, no information as to who these 9 people were.
The early rescue by Kenneth Svensson, however, was completely censored from the final report (JAIC), published three years later. According to the final report, Y-64 only rescued one person at 5:10 a.m. Svensson received a medal for heroic service from Sweden's supreme commander Owe Victorin and was requested not to discuss the matter.
As AFP reported earlier, it was Owe Victorin who authorized the smuggling of Soviet weapons technology on Estonia in the first place. There was an agreement between Victorin and the commissioner of customs, Ulf Larsson, for a specific senior customs officer to clear the contraband materials, without any inspection, on arrival in Stockholm. At least two shipments of Soviet weapons technology had been delivered on Estonia under this arrangement in September 1994.
Jan Lindqvist, information chief for Sweden's civil aviation administration, provided Anér with documentation of two private planes that left Stockholm's Arlanda airport carrying a total of 9 unregistered passengers on the 28th and 29th of September.
The first plane, a Boeing 727-200, then registered VR-CLM, belonged to Larmag Aviation Cayman Ltd., a Bermuda-based company owned by Lars-Erik Magnusson, a Swedish casino owner and real estate mogul who became invested heavily in an oil and gas scheme in Turkmenistan in 1994 with funds taken from another firm, Fermenta.
The 161-seat Larmag 727 arrived from Amsterdam on the evening of Sept. 27 without passengers or cargo and left at 8:54 p.m. on Sept. 28 with 4 unregistered passengers headed for Amsterdam.
The second plane, a Gulfstream 4, registered N971L, belongs to International Lease Finance Corp. (ILFC) of Los Angeles, California. ILFC, an aircraft leasing company, was founded by Leslie Gonda, born Lazlo Goldschmied in Hungary. Today, Maurice R. Greenberg's American International Group (AIG) owns ILFC and Greenberg sits on the board of directors with Gonda. The ILFC Gulfstream arrived at about 11 p.m. on the 28th without passengers from Amsterdam and left at 5:13 on the 29th with 5 unregistered passengers bound for Bangor, Maine.
AFP inquired at ILFC about who was operating the plane at the time. April Rotondi wrote that "no one" at ILFC can help with this request and hung up when asked on the phone.
Anér told AFP that there was an understanding at Arlanda that invoices for the ILFC Gulfstream were sent to the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm. In his book Mayday, about the Estonia catastrophe, Anér says, "I am convinced that both these ghost planes are connected to the Estonia catastrophe."
AFP asked Lindqvist about Anér's information. "I trust the information I gave Sven Anér," Lindqvist said. Asked about the "Kalla Fakta" exposé that a Gulfstream 5, registered to phony front companies in the U.S., was involved in the "enforced disappearance" of two Egyptians in 2001, Lindqvist said: "Through my internal sources, I know that everything in the program is correct."
The independent French-based Swedish sea-safety expert and naval architect Anders Björkman's website on the Estonia catastrophe is at:
Mr. Björkman, who is a former Swedish Navy engineer, has posted a survivor list that contains the names of 12 missing Estonian crew members and shows when and how they were rescued:
Survivor Rescue List: http://heiwaco.tripod.com/Tabell2flottar.htm
This list shows that Avo Piht, Kalev Vahtras, Hannely (Anne) and Hanka-Hannika Veide were picked up by Swedish Navy helicopter Y-64 from life raft X1 at about 3:30 a.m. (Sept. 28, 1994) and taken to Huddinge Hospital in Stockholm at 4:40 a.m. This is the rescue done by Kenneth Svensson.
It should be noted that Hannely is listed with her nickname "Anne," which only she (or her sister) would have known and been able to provide.
This list also shows that Kaimar Kikas, Merit Kikas, Tiit Meos, Agur Targama, and Ago Tomingas, from life raft X2, were also picked up by helicopter Y-64 and Kenneth Svensson at about 3:50 a.m.
These nine rescued people were taken together to Huddinge Hospital, arriving at 4:40 a.m. on September 28, 1994.
These people were seen, registered and spoken to by others including other crew members and hospital personnel. In Captain Avo Piht's case, he was even filmed and interviewed. Interpol, Europe's international police force, initiated a search for Avo Piht after Estonia sank. Police don't search for dead men.
The relatives of these survivors were notified of their status and locations.
By the next day, September 29, 1994, all of these Estonians had disappeared although their names remained on some lists for more than one week.
The dozen missing Estonia crew members is one of the earliest and most egregious examples of "enforced disappearance."
Who kidnapped Captain Avo Piht and where is he?
<a href="http://www.zeitenschrift.net/magazin/1-estonia.htm">ILL-FATED ESTONIA FERRY USED FOR WEAPONS TRANSFERS</a>
The day after the Baltic ferry Estonia sank on September 28, 1994, Swedish newspapers reported that a "monster wave" was the likely cause of the ferry's sinking. Since then, the official explanations for Europe's worst maritime disaster since World War II have only gotten "curiouser and curiouser."
By Christopher Bollyn
The Baltic ferry Estonia, en route from Tallinn to Stockholm with some 1,000 passengers and crew on board, sank on September 28, 1994. Shortly after midnight, two concussions rocked the ship. The ferry quickly listed to starboard and sank into the frigid Baltic Sea in less than 45 minutes under circumstances which can only be described as mysterious.
Although more than 500 Swedes were among the 852 reported dead, the Swedish government has blocked every effort to recover the bodies from the wreck. Even an early offer by a Norwegian diving company to retrieve the bodies at cost was rejected. Despite repeated promises from two consecutive Swedish prime ministers that the bodies would be retrieved and the wreck would be salvaged, three months after Estonia sank the Swedish government announced that there would be no recovery operation whatsoever. Instead of retrieving the bodies, the government of Sweden hired a Dutch marine salvage firm, Smit Tak BV, that specializes in neutralizing underwater nuclear waste, spending $350 million in a failed attempt to cover the ship in concrete. The wreck lies in soft mud at a depth of between 60-80 meters.
MILITARY SHIPMENTS CONFIRMED
Recent revelations in the Swedish mass media that the ferry was being used to smuggle Soviet military technology have confirmed long-held suspicions that the unexplained sinking of Estonia may have been connected to a secret space weapons cargo it was carrying.
Immediately before Estonia left Tallinn on its final voyage, Carl Övberg, a survivor and frequent passenger who had arrived at the last minute, reported that the harbor had been sealed off and that a military convoy had escorted two large trucks to the waiting ferry. As soon as the trucks were loaded, the ship's car ramp and bow visor were closed and the delayed ferry sailed for Stockholm.
Swedish state television (SVT 1) broadcast an investigative journalism program called Uppdrag Granskning on November 30, 2004, in which the former chief of customs in Stockholm confessed that Estonia had indeed been used to transport Soviet military technology to the West in September 1994. According to former customs chief Lennart Henriksson, on two occasions shortly before Estonia sank, vehicles carrying Soviet military technology had been allowed to enter Sweden without any inspection. "I have been walking around thinking about what happened for ten years," Lennart Henriksson, Stockholm's former customs chief said. "Each time Estonia's name came up I've thought the little I know should be brought into the light of day. I want to clear my conscience."
Henriksson had been ordered to allow certain vehicles carrying Soviet military contraband to pass Swedish customs without inspection on September 14 and 20, 1994, but was not working the day Estonia sank because he was on vacation. Henriksson's confession sheds new light on the sinking of Estonia. The ferry was a joint venture between a private Swedish company, Nordström & Thulin, and Estline, a company owned by the Estonian government. Prior to the SVT 1exposé, reports of Soviet military technology being smuggled on the ferry had been dismissed as "conspiracy theories." Henriksson revealed that a secret agreement existed to allow military contraband cargo to enter Sweden without being inspected by customs. This arrangement was between Owe Wictorin, then supreme commander of Sweden's military and Ulf Larsson, then general director of Swedish customs. The arrangement was known at the highest level of the government as well as at the defense department.
Normally, Swedish customs searched every vehicle coming from Estonia. That a vehicle was to pass without inspection was something Henriksson had never seen in 38 years of service.
When the ferry arrived on Sept. 14, 1994, Henriksson spoke to the driver of the expected vehicle, a Volvo 745 station wagon driven by a Frank Larsson, a false identity. When Henriksson told "Larsson" that customs was carrying out inspections, he "gave me a look, but I said the search would be faked," Henriksson said. "We opened a few boxes and as far as I could see it was military electronics in them." The customs slip showed the car belonging to a non-existent company called Ericsson Access AB, a fictitious subsidiary of AB LM Ericsson Finance. No address was given. Henriksson discovered later that the vehicle was a rental car. There is no evidence that Ericsson was actually involved in the smuggling. Although the Swedish military authorized the smuggling, the final destination of the Soviet technology is not known.
A week later, on September 20, 1994, a much larger shipment of contraband technology arrived and was allowed to pass without inspection. This time it was a van and, once again, Henriksson merely glanced into the boxes. "What were you thinking this second time?" reporter Lars Borgnäs asked. "I thought it was a strange procedure," Henriksson said. "But orders are orders and you don't reflect too much on why."
The mystery of the sinking of Estonia, however, has affected some more than others. While survivors recovered and the relatives and friends of those lost at sea mourned, a third group was left completely in limbo, where it is to this day. To this third group belong a dozen, or more, Estonian crew members who were originally reported as having been rescued, only to have mysteriously disappeared in the days following the disaster. The disappearance of these 12 Estonia crew members points to a high-level cover-up of an international intrigue. Recent revelations in the Swedish press of "enforced disappearances" of two Egyptian "terror suspects" carried out in Sweden in 2001 may shed light on the fate of missing Estonia survivors. It was recently reported in the Swedish media that a private Gulfstream 5 executive jet, registered in the United States, played a role in the "extraordinary rendition" of two Egyptian "terror suspects" from Sweden in 2001.
According to Swedish journalist Sven Anér, enforced disappearances from Sweden are nothing new. There is a body of evidence that similar abductions occurred in Sweden in the days following the Estonia ferry disaster. Shortly after Estonia sank, a dozen Estonian crewmembers, all evidently survivors of the catastrophe - disappeared without a trace.
Documents indicate that U.S. registered private jets were used in both the 1994 and 2001 disappearance cases. Anér has documents from Sweden's civil aviation administration concerning two specific aircraft suspected of being involved in the abduction of the missing Estonians. Enforced disappearance, according to the Rome Statute of 1998, "means the arrest, detention or abduction of persons by, or with the authorization, support or acquiescence of, a State or a political organization, followed by a refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom or to give information on the fate or whereabouts of those persons, with the intention of removing them from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time." Enforced disappearance, a form of kidnapping, is considered a "crime against humanity," according to the Rome Statute, which Sweden ratified in June 2001.
As many as 12 Estonian crew members, which official survivor lists show having survived the sinking, disappeared in what appears to be a government-organized abduction and enforced disappearance. While the original survivor lists contain the names of 146 individuals, the names of a dozen crew members who had been listed as survivors, were deleted without explanation from the lists maintained by the Swedish and Finnish authorities in the days following the disaster. Anér has found 15 different original lists of survivors, all of which include the names of 11 Estonian crew members whose names were later deleted. In order for a name to appear on the list, a survivor was required to give his name, date of birth, status and nationality.
There is evidence that some surviving crewmembers were abducted and taken to Stockholm's Arlanda airport whence they were flown out of Sweden on two private aircraft. The abductions removed key witnesses who would have been able to testify about the condition of the ship, the cargo, and the cause of the sinking. Chief among them were one of the ship's captains, Avo Piht, who was on board but not on duty that night, and Chief Engineer Lembit Leiger. It is thought that the others were crewmembers who had shared the same life raft or been rescued with Piht and Leiger in the same helicopter: Y-64.
Three things are sacred to me: first Truth, and then, in its tracks, primordial prayer; Then virtue–nobility of soul which, in God walks on the path of beauty. Frithjof Schuon