A Zimbabwean cargo aircraft crashed earlier today
at Shanghai-Pudong airport, killing three and seriously injuring four. It is not yet known why the aircraft, an ex Varig MD-11F (pic
) operated by an airline called Avient, failed to become airborne, but the airline itself has received quite some attention recently. Headquartered in Salisbury, Wiltshire, United Kingdom, they almost went bankrupt, leaving behind massive debts in France, only to almost out of nowhere get this MD-11F, which crashed within a week of being acquired
, reg req) But that's not the only shady thing about this airline...
Avient is run by Andrew Smith, a former captain of the Royal Engineers, who has made a fortune from a bloody African civil war
. "A United Nations report has accused Smith of organising bombing raids in the DRC on behalf of President Joseph Kabila to suppress rebel forces. It is alleged that three years ago Avient received $30,000 a month for recruiting crew from Ukraine to fly in Russian-made Antonovs behind enemy lines in 1999 and 2000." (Observer, link above)
Amnesty International mentioned Avient in A catalogue of failures: G8 Arms Exports and Human Rights Violations
: "Besides the “official” trade in weapons, there are a large number of arms traffickers and brokers willing to supply arms to warring factions across Africa. One example is the network operated by Victor Bout who, through his UAE based Air Cess Company, is reported to have delivered arms clandestinely to Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Congo and to have been paid in “conflict diamonds” mined illegally. Much of the weaponry traded originated in Russia, Central Asia and other Eastern European countries. Another example is the Zimbabwean company, Avient, with management links to the UK, which was reported to have hired Russian aircraft and air crew to support the government of Laurent Kabila in the Congo with “air drops”, and also admitted to repairing and maintaining Russian MIG fighters for the Kabila regime."
It is not yet known if Avient was engaged in mercenary activities at the time of this crash but one should hope this event will cause authorities to investigate this operation. Bout is in jail, Smith is still free.
A footnote: 8 MD-11 have been written off
, representing 4% of the production.