WASHINGTON: The Delaware General Assembly approved a 50-year lease to cede control of the entire Port of Wilmington to United Arab Emirates-based Gulftainer. Gulftainer is a ports management company in business with Russian arms giant ROSTEC. The agreement was reached only days after DHS agents raided the Delaware port and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) warned President Trump about Gulftainer’s ties to Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi WMD programs.
Port of Wilmington lease acquired by UAE-Based Gulftainer
The Port of Wilmington is entering into a 50-year lease that turns over control of the strategically-located U.S. port to UAE-based Gulftainer. The Port of Wilmington is located 30 miles from Philadelphia, 110 miles from Washington D.C., 125 miles from New York City, and, as the crow flies, only 16 miles from the Salem Nuclear Power Plant.
Gulftainer, co-owned by a UAE ruler and Iraqi oil billionaire Hamid Jafar, a Saddam Hussein loyalist, is in a joint venture with ROSTEC. A multi-agency task force of federal and state law enforcement personnel, led by Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers raided Delaware’s Port of Wilmington on April 18, 2018.
Federal agents seized fentanyl-laced heroin and marijuana making several arrests during the surprise operation.
The raid comes amid a controversial decision by Delaware officials to turn the Port of Wilmington over to Gulftainer, the largest container and port management company in the Middle East.
Gulftainer’s broken promises on cargo, jobs, and investment at Port Canaveral
The Port of Wilmington is not Gulftainer’s first U.S. port. At Port Canaveral, Florida Peter Richards failed to deliver the cargo volumes or jobs that he promised. In June 2014, Florida Today wrote:
“Port [Canaveral] officials say the deal with privately owned Gulftainer and its new U.S. unit, GT USA, would create 2,000 direct and spinoff jobs when fully operational, including 500 at the port itself.”
One year later, in June 2015, Florida Today wrote:
The aim now, after its splashy ribbon-cutting on Friday, is turning Port Canaveral into a worldwide player in the global cargo shipping sector and investing much more than the already talked about $100 million leading to hundreds of new jobs on the Space Coast.
“That’s what we’re hoping,” said Peter Richards, managing director of Gulftainer Co. Limited, the parent company of GT USA. “That’s what we want to happen.”
Sixteen months later, in October 2016, Florida Today reported that Gulftainer had lowered its projections:
More than two years after Gulftainer and Port Canaveral officials inked an agreement… [Gulftainer] executives told them [local critics of Gulftainer] the company has invested $5 million in cargo operations at the port so far.
…While business isn’t expected to take off as projected for Gulftainer, particularly without the rail line, it has no plans to pull out of Port Canaveral and look for greener seas, Richards said.
“I know a lot of people here are frustrated,” Richards said. “They want their cake and want to eat it.”
Gulftainer’s shadowy history: Russia and Iraqi WMDs
Gulftainer was founded in 1976, but only began its rapid expansion across the Middle East and into Russia during the early days of the Obama administration in 2009.
In 2014 the Obama administration worked with Gulftainer to establish its first U.S. cargo container operations at Port Canaveral, Florida, in a secretly-negotiated deal code-named “Project Pelican.” Gulftainer has links to Russian state-owned enterprises and to Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi WMD programs through Iraq’s notorious Jafar family.
Center for Security Policy: Middle East-owned “Gulftainer” bids for control of strategic port in US northeast
In a letter to President Donald J. Trump, Representative Duncan D. Hunter (R-CA), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, wrote:
“Several news reports indicate a family connection between the officers of the company [GULFTAINER] and Dr. Jafar Dhia Jafar, a top Iraqi nuclear scientist during Saddam Hussein’s regime,” says
Center for Security Policy | Representative Duncan Hunter to Trump: Gulftainer Port of Wilmington Deal Requires CFIUS National Security Review
Rep. Hunter asked President Trump to place a hold on Gulftainer’s Port of Wilmington deal until the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) conducts a full national security review of Gulftainer.
In 2014 Rep. Hunter also wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob “Jack” Lew asking that Gulftainer’s Port Canaveral deal undergo the required CFIUS National Security Threat Analysis. The Obama Treasury Department declined to conduct that national security review of Gulftainer, which requires input from 17 U.S. intelligence agencies and would have immediately revealed Gulftainer’s connections to Russia and to Saddam Hussein’s WMD programs.
The Iraqi Jafar brothers and Saddam Hussein’s WMDs
Hamid Jafar’s brother and business partner, Iraqi nuclear physicist Dr. Jafar Dhia Jafar was the director of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons and uranium enrichment programs. Gulftainer co-owner Hamid Jafar plotted with Iraq’s military-industrial complex and Lt. Gen. Dr. Amir al Saadi, the “Superweapons Czar” of Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime, to sell Iraqi oil through Crescent Petroleum to finance Iraq’s nuclear weapons program, according to congressional records.
Gulftainer and Crescent Petroleum are subsidiaries of the Jafar family’s conglomerate, The Crescent Group.
Gen. Al Saadi is also known as the Seven of Diamonds in the “Iraq Most Wanted” playing cards deck that U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) distributed to coalition troops. The scheme, known as Oil-For-Superweapons, prompted investigations by the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and three U.S. congressional committees (Foreign Affairs, Banking, and Ways and Means).
According to NBC News, citing U.S. intelligence sources, Gen. al Saadi, the Iraqi superweapons czar who worked closely with Gulftainer co-owner Hamid Jafar and his brother Dr. Jafar in the Oil-For-Superweapons scheme,
“…created the chemical weapons that killed thousands of Kurds in 1988 and extended the range of Scud missiles that killed dozens of Americans, Saudis and Israelis in nighttime raids during the 1991 war.”
In 2003 the Pentagon placed Dr. Jafar on U.S. CENTCOM’s Operation Iraqi Freedom “BLACKLIST,” designating the WMD scientist as a legitimate military target wanted for capture or kill.
While Dr. Jafar was Saddam Hussein’s Deputy Defense Minister, the U.S. government listed Iraq as a State Sponsor of International Terrorism.
DHS sweep of Port of Wilmington disrupts drug smuggling and human trafficking
It is notable that the DHS, alongside other federal and state agents, conducted perhaps the biggest national security sweep in the Port of Wilmington’s history at the same time that Delaware officials were devising a plan to hand over one of America’s key critical infrastructure ports in the Northeast to Gulftainer.
Fentanyl-laced heroin was seized during a Wednesday, April 18, 2018 multi-agency raid at Delaware’s Port of Wilmington.
A DHS U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued Press Release says:
“In addition to CBP, the multi-agency team consisted of Homeland Security Investigations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration, Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Delaware State Police, and Delaware National Guard Counterdrug Task Force”
“Authorities arrested a man near one warehouse who was in possession of a distributable amount of fentanyl-laced heroin”
Speaking with the Wilmington’s News Journal, Ronald “Kimokoh” Harris, “a business agent with International Longshoremen’s Association Clerks and Checkers Local 1883 who’s worked at the port for 40 years,” “I’ve never seen this intense of a search or sweep since I’ve been at the port.” John Haroldson, Director of Marketing and Trade Development for Diamond State Port Corporation/Port of Wilmington, also says a sweep like this is “quite rare to this magnitude.”
The agencies conducted the operation “to detect and disrupt the smuggling of illicit contraband and humans through the seaport environment” and “to identify and protect our nation and our citizens against all potential threats” CBP Area Port Director for the Area Port of Philadelphia Joseph Martella said.
Gulftainer hiring port workers with criminal records
Peter Richards is “working with Delaware’s Secretary of State Jeff Bullock, a Democrat, to hire people with criminal backgrounds” NPR affiliate Delaware Public Media reported.
“I’m working with Secretary Bullock there to try to find a way around that,” Richards said. “We always believe in giving people a second chance and if there’s a way that they can do it legally and through the legislation, then we’re all for it, we really are.”
The deal received approval from Delaware General Assembly tonight and it now awaits CFIUS approval
Port of Wilmington officials and the Delaware General Assembly Capital Improvements Committee have both unanimously signed off on the Gulftainer deal. Having just received approval by the Delaware General Assembly, the deal now awaits a review by the federal government’s CFIUS board.
Under the Foreign Investment National Security Act of 2007 (FINSA), the federal government treats a long-term lease and a purchase of U.S. critical infrastructure in the same way–as a covered transaction that must undergo a more comprehensive CFIUS National Security Threat Analysis.
Gulftainer and Russian state-owned weapons firm ROSTEC
Local Delaware media provided coverage of Gulftainer’s proposed 50-year lease deal with the Port of Wilmington. The reports highlight Gulftainer’s promises of blue-collar job creation while ignoring Gulftainer’s connections to Iraq’s WMD programs and to the company’s joint-ventures with Russian state-owned weapons companies, including ROSTEC.
Ken Mammarella of the Delaware Business Times dismissed questions about Gulftainer’s “corporate structure“ as “innuendo.”
Mammarella reports that Peter Richards, CEO of Gulftainer subsidiary GT USA, declared that Gulftainer is not “involved in terrorism, dirty money or Russia,” despite images of Gulftainer executive Badr Jafar and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attending signing ceremonies for two Gulftainer business deals with Russia.