The full text of the
investigate report by French newsletter Did explosives
made in Slovakia kill Hariri?
By Tom Nicholson
REPORTS that Slovakia might have been the origin of
the RDX high explosive that killed former Lebanese Prime
Minister Rafik Hariri in a February 15 car-bombing in
Beirut have mystified Slovak state security forces.
The French website, intelligence.online, ran a story
in its September 1 issue claiming that a Syrian defector,
Colonel Mohammed Safi, had said that the 1,000
kilogrammes of RDX used to kill Hariri and 20 other
people had come from an unspecified Slovak company by way
of a Syrian intermediary living in Istanbul.
Safi allegedly made the claim to Detlev Mehlis, a
chief investigator of the United Nations body probing the
murder. Safi's information points to the involvement of
four generals close to Lebanon's pro-Syrian president,
According to the SME daily, RDX was made in Slovakia
until 2003 only by the firm Chemza, a.s., a daughter
company of chemicals firm Chemko, a.s.
Ján Kereke of Chemko said the firm, which
has an Economy Ministry certificate allowing it to trade
in weapons, had in the past traded with "various
countries around the world, including in Europe, but
never with an Arab country".
Vladimír ·imko, the spokesman of the
Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS), said the SIS had been
aware of the information in the report and was looking
"The SIS has information about the suspicions in this
report. We are in the process of verifying all aspects of
it. Nothing has been definitively confirmed," he
Juraj Tomaga, the spokesman of the Foreign Affairs
Ministry, which has the veto over applications for
weapons export licences, said he could neither confirm
nor deny the report.
"We have no information that any such trade took
place, and as for our control mechanisms, they meet NATO
and EU standards," he said.
At the Economy Ministry, which formally issues
licences for weapons exports, officials seemed caught off
guard. The ministry is in transition following the abrupt
dismissal of former minister Pavol Rusko over conflict of
interest allegations, and the temporary assignment of
ministry business to the purview of Finance Minister Ivan
"Since 2001 no Slovak company has applied for an
export licence for explosives to either Syria or Turkey,"
said temporary spokesman of the Economy Ministry Peter
According to documents acquired by The Slovak
Spectator on September 7, the Foreign Affairs Ministry
has issued at least four approvals of export licence
applications for explosives in that time, including two
in February 2005.
The approvals are expressed in letters from the
director of the section of international organizations
and security policy at the Foreign Affairs Ministry to
the director of the department of trade in sensitive
goods at the Economy Ministry.
As part of the weapons export procedure, the Economy
Ministry is obliged to ask the Foreign Affairs Ministry
to assess the foreign policy implications of all licence
applications, in an effort to avoid having Slovak weapons
wind up in embargoed or politically embarrassing
In letter No. 117.924-17/2003, dated May 2003, the
ministry says it has "no objections" to the "application
of the company Chemko a.s. for the issue of a licence for
the export of explosives to Israel (RDX - 55 t,
oktogén - 15 t)". The letter does not enlarge on
what quantity "55 t" and "15 t" represents; Octogen (also
known as HMX) is sold as a booster charge or an explosive
In similar letters dated March 2004 and February 2005,
other Slovak companies received positive standpoints from
the Foreign Affairs Ministry on their applications:
Chemko to export hexogen (RDX) to Israel, and SMS s.r.o.
of Dubnica nád Váhom to export RDX to
In the documents at the Spectator's disposal, there is
indeed no record of the Foreign Affairs or Economy
Ministries approving weapons shipments to Syria since
On the contrary, in January 2003 the foreign ministry
recommended the license of the Unimpex firm to export
military hardware to Syria should not be extended, "given
the current foreign policy situation in the region".
While the records indicate that Slovakia has not
recently approved a shipment of RDX to Syria, Ondrej
Varačka, former head of the department of trade
in sensitive goods at the Economy Ministry, said that did
not rule out that the explosives had originated here.
"If the story is true, there are two possibilities,"
he said. "Either the goods were legally exported, or they
were smuggled out. If the former, then someone in the
state administration screwed up, because the state simply
has to take responsibility for where the weapons
shipments it approves end up.
"On the other hand, if it was illegally exported,
there's not much any country can do about that. We do our
best, but I would say we only catch two or three out of
every ten illegal shipments."
Varačka said that Slovak legislation, which used
to allow military hardware to transit for seven days or
less through Slovakia without a licence, or to be
repaired and re-exported without authorization from the
licence commission, had been patched to cover all the
However, he claimed that the level of professionalism
among staff responsible for vetting licence applications
had declined under the 2004-2005 Rusko ministry, and said
he was concerned about political and personal pressures
on some arms export decisions.
"The regime remains the same, but some personnel
changes have been made, and steps have been taken that
have weakened the overall controls," he said. "I think
the overall level of attention that has been paid to
these exports has fallen."
[Sept 12, 2005]