July 1 2010
last edits 28 September
(Trial transcript cited throughout is from Day 26, June 22 2001, p 4045 - 4204)
"Catch letter," in English usage, is a term for the enlarged, often decorated capital at the beginning of a book or chapter (like the C here). It catches your attention and draws you into the emerging storyline. It’s also a phrase used by Swiss electronics merchant Edwin Bollier to describe a paper letter he sent to the CIA in January 1989, blaming Libya for the bombing of Pan Am 103. The term he used in German is “Fang-Briefes,” so it doesn’t have the double-meaning to him. Nonetheless, it’s an apt metaphor; this memo and some later information on various Libyans Bollier blamed, named, or drew attention to, are likely important factors in the early emergence of the blame-Libya and blame-Megrahi notions.
Most mainstream sources take Bollier at his word that his drive now is to exonerate Libya and al Megrahi, hoping for a $200 million payout [see video, 41:00], that he earns by spouting nonsense about his timers and ignoring the best evidence, like that which this blog publicizes for free. But before the 2001 conviction and especially before the 1991 indictments, in the time when his help was most needed, Bollier’s involvement with the case was more ambiguous (to say the least).
Bollier’s unusual firm Mebo, with true Swiss neutrality, sold electronics to rogue nations for military uses while also allegedly maintaining links to the CIA. In the mid-1980s they managed to do some business in Libya – selling 20 units of MST-13 timer, a fragment of which would later be “found” near Lockerbie.
Well before this turn, he explains, a mysterious CIA man met him on 30 December 1988 and compelled him to write the letter in question. Threats were attempted, but fearless Bollier says he was driven only by curiosity to know who was manipulating him into blaming Libya. (see below on motive) So he blamed away.
The letter was mentioned on 22 June, 2000, during Bollier’s multi-day questioning, with a copy shown as production 323. It was typed up on a hotel stationery, using a typewriter with a Spanish keyset. This he had to buy, on order of the mystery man for mystery reasons. Bollier repeats endlessly how the contents were nonsense he was allowed to make up as filler – so long as it blamed Libya for the Lockerbie disaster. "This gentleman just told me that I had to indicate Gadhafi and [JSO chief] Senussi in that letter," and do so using a machine that could type "jalapeño" properly. 
After he finished the ad libs exercise on January 5th, Bollier says he delivered it on the 19th to the US embassy in Vienna, from where it made its way to the CIA. Bollier told me – roughly translated:
Today we know that "Instruction [Befehl],” attribute a letter to the Chief of the CIA, came from western security service agents! The letter was then converted by me after long consideration into the form of a catch-letter [fang-briefes]. […] The catch letter was very successful: the security service, name of the future contact person [ansprech], address, which became telephone and fax number and communication frequency.” [source]
He was on the right frequency indeed. When the case amazingly turned from the tenfold embarrassing truth onto Libya, Bollier became important. Edwin was a key prosecution witness at the Camp Zeist trial in 2000; the judges wrote in their final opinion, in the case against Megrahi “there are three important witnesses, Abdul Majid [Giaka], Edwin Bollier and Tony Gauci.” [Opinion of the Court, para 41] However, they rejected that he ever met this "mysterious stranger," a story that "belongs in our view to the realm of fiction where it may best be placed in the genre of the spy thriller.” [para 47] In the period leading up to the 1991 indictments, he was more useful yet – starting with his “fang-briefes.”
The Letter’s Contents
Sadly, the CIA's probe under Cannistraro was all too capable of accepting fantasy as inspiration or even as fact. Therefore, nonsense or not, the letter needs to be examined as closely as the transcripts will allow. Under prosecution questioning (they had considered charging his as an accomplice in the bombing, BTW), much of the letter was read out or summarized. It was explained that Bollier’s line to the CIA “suggests that there can be contact between you, using a code name, and sets out how that contact can be initiated.” After this, it covered "the first short information concerning the Pan Am Flight 103." The Crown’s Mr. Turnbull then summarized:
Q And then there is some information. And perhaps we could see the next image. And more information is then given on the second page; is that right?At the bottom of page one Col. Gaddafi was duly mentioned as having called for a secret conference that Bollier pretended to know of, and that presumably led to the plot against 103. An “Ibrahim Senussi” is mentioned, whom Bollier clarified meant Abdullah Senoussi, head of Libya’s CIA, the JSO. When asked to read the part where he explained the bomb’s location, he first said "I wrote that this was in an office close to Senussi.” Getting more specific, he read back "bundles of dollars would have been put in the suitcase, together with explosive material."
Q And reading the matter shortly, does it indicate that Libya and the people mentioned in the letter have an involvement in the bombing of Pan Am 103?
A That is correct.
So the Libyans had a bomb in a suitcase, that was also full of cash. At trial he explained “I made it up. I had heard that a suitcase had been found in Lockerbie with timers; and that influenced me at that time. There was a suitcase found with lots of money, I think, or there was money from a suitcase, or money had fallen out of a suitcase. That is what I included in the letter.”
And he mentioned how this suitcase was introduced to the air system: "On December 20th, 1988 they checked in at the Tarabulus Airport [Libya], Karl Heinz, and the suitcase with explosives to Zurich in Switzerland on an early flight.” This was made up on Bolllier’s own travels – he returned from a failed deal in Tripoli for Zurich on the day before the bombing.
It’s not clear just who “they” are, but his acquaintance and eventual convict al Megrahi, whom Bollier calls Abdelbaset, isn’t named that I’ve seen. He says he placed an odd phone call to Megrahi – whom he hadn’t spoken to in a year – around Christmas, or between the bombing and the unlikely CIA visit. This will form part of a separate post. The CIA had Giaka's mention of Megrahi at this time, but not Bollier's just yet (at least not via this letter).
Why He Wrote it
Another interesting line from the letter I will hold off for the final point on the list below. In brief outline form, these are the varying reasons that may or may not have motivated Bollier in writing such a letter just two weeks after Lockerbie.
- - He was threatened: The mystery CIA man said, as Bollier recalled at trial, he would write the letter, “otherwise you will have to suffer the consequences. Well, you'll see the consequences in the media, et cetera." He doesn’t seem to have been motivated by fear, however.
- - Plucky curiosity. “I was flying a kite,” he said at trial. “I wanted to find out who was behind all of this.” The best way to do that, he reasoned, was to give them what they wanted, but take it to the bosses.
- - He wanted to throw investigators off. An official LTBU trial summary for the day stated that Bollier “had explained this letter to the CIA as something "to put the investigators on the wrong tracks.”” [source] This has been repeated elsewhere, but appears to be a misreading. See next point.
- - In a 1991 interview with Swiss authorities he said he pointed to Libya in order “to get the investigators away from the wrong track and to bring them onto the Libyan track." It may have worked. At trial he insisted it was because the mystery man made him do it (with curiosity, not threats), and he was “just pretending” to be helpful in 1991. This aspect of his possible motives deserves and will receive its own post to explore a little.
- - The January letter had mentioned, in passing, “We've heard that you will pay for classified information. Your payment, after success only, covered on a later date." Regarding this, a 1991 FBI interview summary stated: "Bollier put the information about payment on delivery to show that he was not a conman." Conmen usually have ways of doing just that. That document further stated "Bollier sees three possibilities for Bollier to receive money from the United States government." These were listed as making electronics for the U.S., becoming a “covert operative” for them, or simply getting an appropriate chunk of the “reward money for providing information” about the recent bombing. Such a fund would eventually exist, but Bollier denies begging or even asking for money. In fact, the FBI tried to force him to accept $4 millions to lie, he said in 2008, but he refused. [see video 33:45]
Two weeks more after the bombing...
Someone who was likely Vincent Cannistraro of the CIA's Lockerbie probe told CBS News, who told the country, that "investigators believe" Libya was behind the bombing. The details do not line up with what Bollier said in his "catch-letter," but this mutant whisper of the future fundament was perhaps emboldened by the knowledge that Edwin Bollier was out there, and was willing to make s*** up about Libya just as they were ready to do so as well.
Comments from Mr. Bollier (ebol) can be expected below. He's on the internet, and we're on good terms, considering.