'Mina Corp' refuses to reveal locations of its offices
The Pentagon awarded a secretive corporation that is under investigation by the United States Congress with a $630 million contract to supply the Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan with jet fuel Wednesday.
The contract was awarded despite the request of Kyrgyzstan's president, Roza Otunbayeva, to stop using contractors and work through state-owned Kyrgyz firms instead.
Mina Corporation, which has been awarded over $3 billion dollars in contracts to supply Manas and Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan since 2003, has repeatedly refused to disclose its ownership.
The corporation, and its associated firm, Red Star Enterprises, are controlled by Douglas Edelman, a 58-year-old native of Stockton, California, and Erkin Bekbolotov, a Kyrgyz businessman.
Bekbolotov, a 35-year-old Kyrgyz national, told The Washington Post that his company has a number of offices and employs a staff of about 450, but refused to reveal their locations, citing security concerns.
The corporation has been accused of corruption by numerous politicians in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan.
In 2005, protesters angered by alleged jet fuel graft forced then-President Akayev to flee the country. After forming a new government, Kyrgyzstan launched an investigation into the jet fuel contracts.
Writing to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in September of 2005, the new Kyrgyz prosecutor general said Red Star's contracts had "created serious social discontent."
"The Pentagon and State Department ignored widespread Kyrgyz public perceptions of contract corruption engendered by a fundamental lack of transparency," said Rep. John Tierney, a Massachusetts Democrat and lame duck chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which is conducting a probe of Mina Corp. and Red Star. "Supplying vast quantities of fuel is an extremely sensitive endeavor with significant political, diplomatic, and geopolitical ramifications. It is not merely a logistics matter."
After coming to power this year, President Otunbayeva launched her own investigation into the company.
"We understand how it looks. We are trying to change how it looks... We are not hiding anything extraordinary," a senior Defense Department official told The Washington Post. "The bottom line for us is that we have an uninterrupted and secure supply so we can continue the war fight."
"Mina Corp has extraordinary capabilities as a supplier of fuel products We are pleased to have the opportunity to continue our support of the US armed forces at Manas Transit Center and in Afghanistan. Mina looks forward to continuing its longstanding partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense," Mina Corp said in a release.
The Manas Air Base near the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek is critical to the operations in Afghanistan. Airtankers that refuel aircraft flying in Afghanistan are stationed there and troops entering and leaving Afghanistan pass through the base.