July 6 2010
Note: This post is longer than the others, more rambling and with more loose ends. Apologies, it's just a lot to figure out and organize.
Cited throughout: Camp Zeist trial transcripts, days 25 and 26, June 21/22 2000.
A Letter to Hinshiri
Mebo co-founder and Libya-implicator Edwin Bollier started giving – or trying to give - bogus intelligence about the Lockerbie bombing to American investigators at the beginning of 1989. He didn’t become important, however, until the discovery in June 1990 that a Mebo timer (MST-13) was amongst the wreckage from Lockerbie. Before the year was out and well into 1991 Edwin went “on the record” with a string of stories about the timers and his dealing with Tripoli. One Bollier-FBI meeting occurred in Zurich on January 14 1991 and, among other things, helped set in motion the “fact” (a fact Bollier later renounced) that his MST-13 timers were sold only to Libya. But at the time, this important distinction helped tighten the noose. That fragment really does 99% prove Libyan authorship, as Bollier had told them from the beginning.
Shortly after this, on Feb. 6 1991 the Swiss jabberjaw wrote a letter to his friend Ezzadin Hinshiri of the Libayn JSO intelligence agency. At the Zeist trial in 2000 he explained this was “to make it clear to these people what was going on, what was happening, because our timer was in question.” Mr. Turnbull for the Crown questioned Bollier about this letter:
Q Was this in any sense designed to be a threat to Mr. Hinshiri?It was neither warning nor threat, just a friendly tip-off that they were in the process of being framed by someone. The additional about a certain suitcase read, in part: "I remembered myself that this suitcase was brought by Mr. Badri to our office, and he asked me to take it to Tripoli. He mentioned the suitcase contains clothes for a friend."
A No. No. We simply wanted to inform him that something big was coming towards us, and that also the Libyan military security might be involved. We just wanted to inform him.
Q But, you see, the first thing that you explained to him in the letter is that you'd been spoken to by the police. And then you go on to tell him that you told the police that [the 20 MST-13s] had been sold to a gentleman in Beirut. Is that correct? Is that what you said in the letter?
A That is correct. Yes.
Q Was that true, what you said in the letter?
A No. We haven't sold any to Beirut. I remember now. This letter also was about telling people and that they wouldn't think that we were testifying against them, because at the time the matter was being covered in the media. We just wanted to explain to them that something was in the offing that might be of interest to them, and simply they were our business friends, after all.
Q Was it designed to be a warning to Mr. Hinshiri?
A No. I just wanted to orient him.
Q You see, because after telling him the lie about saying to the police you'd sold timers to Mr. Khouri in Beirut, you went on in the letter to give Mr. Hinshiri some more information […] about the suitcase that you had taken to Libya for Badri Hassan.”
A That is correct. Yes. […] We informed him briefly what was happening. And this is precisely what we wrote.
Under Crown questioning in 2000, Bollier explained “I wrote to him that the police had asked about that suitcase. […] I just wanted to explain to him, and tell him what the police had asked about.” Mysteriously, he managed to squeeze this in before being cut off again:
"The police told me that if I were to go to Libya, I was not actually going on orders of the police to Libya. And this is why I mentioned it in the letter, so that they wouldn't think that we had made up the story in order to accuse the Libyans. That was the reason for the letter.”
The Case, its Contents, and Journey
Having cleared that up, we turn to the suitcase itself. Bollier says he first saw it on December 17, 1988, in the hands of “Mr. Badri,” or Badri Hassan - a business associate of his and of al Megrahi’s. Bollier was leaving in the morning to take a batch of Olympus timers to Tripoli, and Hassan, who shuttled back and forth himself routinely, wanted the Mebo boss to take this case with him. “He brought it to the MEBO firm premises,” Bollier explained at Camp Zeist. “It stayed there over the night, and in the morning I took it with me on my trip.”
Just as he was careful to re-set all his brand-new timers to zero before leaving, he says he took stock of this suitcase. As he said at trial, “one should always inspect luggage one is taking for somebody else into a plane […] because something dangerous may be contained in the luggage.” Nothing dangerous was inside – nothing but an odd assortment of men’s women’s and children’s clothing like Hassan said. “Badri told me they were new children's clothes which he wanted to send to a friend who owned a boutique in Libya.” Elsewhere he says it was for a friend with a family, or “was to be for a wedding.” After the Libyan had left into the Zurich evening, Bollier “opened the case and checked what was in it. It was not locked,” he explained. “It was a brown leather suitcase with an additional leather security strap.”
Knowing Bollier’s style and seeing lines like “I didn't know what was finally going to happen to the suitcase” suggest he was going to call it a brown hardshell Samsonite. But he says it was a leather case instead, which is a relief – unless he were to recall it only had a brown leathery surface but was made of hard plastic. That in fact sounds like the kind of thing Herr Bollier might suddenly remember somewhere. But he did manage to faintly tie its content to the bombing (see below).
In his December 17 1990 interview, records relating to his travels were referred to:
Q … it can be seen that you checked in a piece of luggage weighing 19 kilos. What was this?"At the airport, he was handed an additional note before leaving Zurich. It was from Mr. Hassan to Mr. Hinshiri, “and at the front of the letter there was an address, to which the suitcase was to be brought.” Unsealed, of course, it was written mostly in Arabic, but with a section in English he could read, more or less, to say “that it was for a friend – that these garments were for a friend, something like that.”
A I took my personal luggage into the cabin with me as hand luggage in a large briefcase, including the timers. The case in question which I checked in was a suitcase with new children's clothes, which I was taking to Tripoli […] Badri Hassan […] asked me to deliver the suitcase and its contents to Ezzadin [Hinshiri]'s office in Tripoli.
As instructed, Bollier left the case and the note with “the driver, Mr. Ali,” he explained at trial. It was understood tat Mr. Ali would deliver it to Hinshiri. Elsewhere, “I had to take the suitcase along, and that the suitcase was then deposited in [Hinshiri’s] office. And later on the driver took it again. This is the only link.” The last two lines are ambiguous, but this does suggest a link he was allowed to see in detail – the clothes for the bomb bag, and perhaps the bomb bag itself, sent via a talkative Swissman.
Q I see. Now, over the years since you've been explaining your involvement in this incident to people, has there grown some confusion about one of the items that was in the suitcase?
A No. Later on, it was quite clear that there was no umbrella in that suitcase. We compared that, because there's another suitcase involved in the Lockerbie case, and the question arose as to whether the garments have anything to do with this. And that is why one dealt with that suitcase as well.
Q Well, was there a child's suit in the suitcase, Mr. Bollier?
A There was no child's suit in the suitcase…
The Blue Baby Suit
The “blue babygro” is a relatively famous piece of evidence in the Lockerbie case. It was originally a blue full-body pajama-type suit, perhaps of stretch material (hence “gro”), with foot covers built in, and a lamb design on the front. Bits and fibers of it were found everywhere in the blast-damaged luggage, suggesting it was in the bomb bag. It stands out as a morbid reminder that the plotters knew children might be killed.
Enough of the tiny body suit’s tag remained to show it was made in Malta, and it was one of the more memorable items (along with the umbrella) that shopkeeper Tony Gauci recalled selling to the “mystery shopper” some weeks prior to the bombing. Bollier claims he was the source of this item, or at least of one remarkably similar.
A ... What I did was to add a blue baby's overall for the driver, Mr. Ali.
Q So was that a present from you?
A That was a present for Mr. Ali and, in fact, for his son. He asked me for it.
Q He asked you for it?
A That is correct. Because a year before, I already gave him such a little suit, which was apparently too small. So he asked me to bring another one, and cigarettes.
Q All right. Now, over the years that you've been discussing your involvement in this incident, have you become a bit confused sometimes about how the child's suit got to Tripoli?
A Yes. I would say yes. This is the second mysterious story, and I need to explain it to you.
Seems like a good cut point to explain in his interview of Jan 14 1991 he said "the suitcase contained new ladies' and men's clothes from the Jemoli store. […] Specifically, I can only remember a blue children's suit and Jemoli labels."” (Jemoli is a department store in Zurich) He’s saying here it was among the items he saw inside the case after opening it. It was the one that stood out, among the items he did not buy.
At Zeist he stammered “perhaps I put the baby overall in Badri's suitcase when I went to Tripoli.” That really doesn’t explain his statement. He says investigators sent him a “film” to explain how the blue baby suit was supposed to be bought on Malta, not at Jemoli. And the “second mysterious story:”
“[T]his testimony that most likely I had put the suit into the suitcase all the way to Tripoli wasn't left and corrected, but instead it was deleted on the computer. Sometimes I would make a mistake when a record was being taken, and each and every time the sentence was left standing and was typed again. But that time they didn't even want to know it. They deleted that sentence. And this was the third mysterious story in this whole Lockerbie incident.”Oops, sorry, missed a mystery. But one allegedly missing sentence out of hundreds - of complete bulls*** - is not a compelling clue of cover-up. Bollier was then confronted with the earlier statement that he first saw it clearly standing out amongst the clothing Hassan had sent – he agreed he had said it, and signed it, but disagreed that it was true.
A No. That is not true. We corrected that later on. This is what is so mysterious. I was then being asked whether I didn't just see that on the film, and I was being sent by the federal police a film about Lockerbie so that I could see that there was no blue children's overall -- or that a blue overall was being bought in Malta. And I was convinced of something else then.
Q We understand that you think there is a mystery, but what I am asking you is simply – the question I asked.
Ever So Helpful
In a previous post, I mentioned Bollier’s “helpful phase” regarding the Lockerbie investigation. He responded “My helpful phase of support for Libya in the Lockerbie Case, from February 1991 till now and is to prove that Libya and Abdelbaset Al Megrahi do not have anything to do with the Lockerbie-Tragedy.” Why Febrruary? “After the visit of the Swiss federal police (BUPO) with MEBO, I informed Libya of the investigation against Libya in the case of Lockerbie (MST-13 timer). See Kamp van Zeist, Prod. 291, this letter is written in February 1991, and the date is February the 6th.”
Authorities had been speaking with him about the case for at least three months by then, and his first tip-off to Tripoli is the letter this article opened with. In this case his help consisted of alerting Mr. Hinshiri that police were asking about the timers and also about “that suitcase,” presumably because he had told the police about it in the first place.
I would presume there was never any response, and like his earlier phone calls to Hinshiri and Megrahi, Herr Bollier probably took the silence as alarming. He probably hoped the investigation – to which he sent a copy of the letter - would find it just as suspicious. Perhaps they did, but being a Bollier lead, it was apparently too kooky to follow up on.
Postscript: From the archives, referring to Meister's, not Bollier's, testimony.
The defence also accused Mr Meister and Mr Bollier of trying to blackmail one of their Libyan business contacts, Ezzadin Hinshiri, in February 1991 after they had received a visit from the Swiss police about the Lockerbie affair. Mr Meister acknowledged they wrote a letter informing Hinshiri of the police inquiries and offering to tell the authorities the timers were sold to someone in Beirut, not Libya. They ended the letter asking if any more business was possible with Libya.
"Wasn't this a blatant attempt to extract business, lucrative business, in exchange for telling lies?" Mr Burns asked. Mr Meister denied this, saying they had only written the letter to placate Mr Hinshiri since they feared for their safety.
Meister did admit that MEBO was in the process of arranging loans from Libya during the time of the early investigations into the crash. Challenged by the defence that he and MEBO had offered to cover for Libya by stating that they had sold timers to an extremist group in Beirut, Meister denied this.