Friday, 16 June 2017

Swiss firm did business with Lockerbie accused

[On this date in 2000, Erwin Meister, co-owner with Edwin Bollier of the Swiss company MEBO, gave evidence at the Lockerbie trial at Camp Zeist. What follows is taken from a report on that date on the BBC News website:]

The owner of the firm which made the timer allegedly used in the Lockerbie bomb says he did business with one of the men accused of the atrocity.

At the Scottish court in the Netherlands, [Erwin] Meister said he recognised Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi from business dealings which took place in Libya and Zurich prior to the bombing.

He alleged that his Swiss-based company, MEBO, received an "urgent" order for timers from the Libyan army just a few weeks before the explosion of Pan Am 103 which saw the death of all on board.

At that time the firm had been doing regular business with the Libyans, supplying radio and communications equipment and a batch of 20 of its own design "MST-13" electronic timers in 1985.

But Mr Meister told the court that when the urgent order came, MEBO did not have the right materials to produce its own type in time.

Instead the company purchased Olympus timers for delivery to Libya by Mr Meister's business partner Edwin Bollier.

Mr Bollier returned from his trip - via Malta - on the eve of the Lockerbie bombing - still with the timers which the Libyans had returned as unsuitable. [RB: This is not correct. Although he had expected to fly back to Zurich via Malta, Bollier was able to get a direct flight from Tripoli to Zurich: see From Zurich to Malta to Tripoli to Malta to… .]

But then in the first fortnight of January 1989, Mr Bollier looked again at the batch of Olympus timers which had been left on a shelf in the MEBO offices in Zurich since his return the night before the Lockerbie bombing.

Mr Meister explained: "Mr Bollier called me and said: 'Look what I've discovered'. He had in his hand one of the Olympus timers. He asked me to look at it. It was programmed for 7.30pm and the day of the week was a Wednesday."

The Lockerbie explosion in fact occurred shortly after 1900 GMT on Wednesday 21 December, 1988. (...)

The court has already heard that a radio-cassette recorder packed with Semtex attached to an "MST-13" was placed in a suitcase on a Frankfurt-bound flight from Luqa Airport, Malta.

From Frankfurt it was placed aboard Pan Am Flight 103 to Heathrow, exploding on the plane's next leg, from Heathrow to New York, above Lockerbie.

Mr Meister, 62, had told Alan Turnbull QC, prosecuting, that MEBO first established commercial contacts with the Libyan army in about 1980.

He was asked how business was conducted with the Libyans: "It was not like the army purchasing offices in the west," he replied. "We moved from one contact to another." (...)

Mr Meister named his contacts as a communications expert called Ezzadin Hinshiri and another man named Said Rashid - both identified in the Lockerbie indictment as a link between MEBO and the two accused men in obtaining electronic timers.

And he said that on several occasions, in Tripoli and once in Zurich, he met a man called Abdelbaset - and he is one of the men in dock. (...)

Mr Meister said he recalled hearing about the Lockerbie bombing from television reports and he had discussed the tragedy with Mr Bollier.

Then in 1990, Mr Meister told the court, Scottish police first visited MEBO headquarters in the Novapark Hotel in Zurich, requesting an interview about the production of "MST-13" timers and the Pan Am tragedy. 

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