US embassy cable - 97STATE133614

MEETING WITH BIN LADEN GROUP AMERICAN BUSINESS AFFILIATE

Identifier: 97STATE133614
Wikileaks: View 97STATE133614 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Secretary of State
Created: 1997-07-17 01:00:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: ECON ETRD MASS PTER EG SA
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
P 170100Z JUL 97
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 
INFO AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY 
C O N F I D E N T I A L STATE 133614 
 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 7/L6/2OO7 
TAGS: ECON, ETRD, MASS,  PTER, EG, SA 
SUBJECT: MEETING WITH BIN LADEN GROUP AMERICAN BUSINESS 
AFFILIATE 
 
1.   CLASSIFIED BY NEA/ENA DIRECTOR, RICHARD L. JACKSON. 
REASONS 1.5  (B) AND (D). 
 
2.   (C) SUMMARY: TECHMASTER ENGINEERING, INC. (TEL), A US- 
AFFILIATE OF A HOLDING COMPANY OF THE BIN LADEN GROUP HAS 
BEEN ENGAGED IN ENGINEERING AND CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS UNDER 
FMF-FUNDED CONTRACTS FOR THE EGYPTIAN MILITARY FOR SEVERAL 
YEARS.   TEL CLAIMS IT WAS BANNED FROM COMPETING FOR NEW 
EGYPTIAN MILITARY CONTRACTS ACCORDING TO EGYPTIAN MILITARY 
INTELLIGENCE INSTRUCTIONS IN MARCH 1996.   THE BUSINESSMEN 
UNDERSTAND THAT THE BAN MAY BE THE OUTGROWTH OF CONCERNS 
ABOUT THE BIN LADEN FAMILY CONNECTIONS WITH TERRORIST OSAMA 
BIN LADEN.   HOWEVER, THEY WANT TO BE SURE THAT THE BAN IS 
NOT THE RESULT OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY OR OF A PRIOR TEL 
RELATIONSHIP WITH ANOTHER COMPANY IN EGYPT.   THEY ASKED 
THAT WE CHECK AND,  IF POSSIBLE, LET THEM KNOW THE SOURCE OF 
THE MISUNDERSTANDING.   IF THE PROHIBITION IS INSOLUBLE, TEL 
WILL PLAN TO REFOCUS ITS COMMERCIAL EFFORTS.   END SUMMARY 
 
3.   (C) FOLLOWING THEIR ATTENDANCE AT AMBASSADOR WALKER'S 
ADDRESS TO THE US-ARAB CHAMBER OF COMMERCE THIS MORNING, 
WASHINGTON REPRESENTATIVE FOR THE BIN LADEN GROUP  (AND 
RETIRED FSO)  PHIL GRIFFIN AND VICTOR PIETKIEWICZ, VP OF 
TECHNASTER ENGINEERING INC. (TEI), OF NEW JERSEY  (A BIN 
LADEN AFFILIATE) MET WITH DESK OFFICER KELLY, NEA/ENA 
DEPUTY PHILO DIBBLE AND JEFF DONALD,  FROM E/CBA. 
PIETKIEWICZ REQUESTED THE MEETING TO DISCUSS HIS BUSINESS 
CONCERNS IN EGYPT.   TEL, HE EXPLAINED, IS A USG(DSAA)- 
QUALIFIED CONTRACTOR WHICH HAS BEEN DOING BUSINESS WITH THE 
GOE FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS.   THEY ARE CURRENTLY BIDDING ON 
$60 MILLION IN PENDING GOE TENDERS AND HAVE BEEN LISTED AS 
A BIDDER FOR A WAREHOUSE DEPOT  (3 BUILDINGS) FOR THE 
EGYPTIAN MILITARY. 
 
4.   (C) RECENTLY, PIETKIEWICZ CONFIDED, HE LEARNED FROM A 
CONTRACTS FACILITATOR AT THE ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS THAT 
THE EGYPTIAN MILITARY IS BACKING OFF DOING BUSINESS WITH 
TECHMASTER.  PIETKIEWICZ NOTED THAT HE HAD OBTAINED A COPY 
OF AN OFFICIAL GOE MEMO DATED MARCH 1996, STATING THAT THE 
26TH MILITARY INTELLIGENCE UNIT HAD DETERMINED THAT TEI MAY 
NOT ENTER INTO CONTRACTS FOR ANY NEW MILITARY CONSTRUCTION 
PROJECTS IN EGYPT  (NFI).  WE DID NOT SEE THIS LETTER. 
 
5.   (C) AT THIS POINT, GRIFFIN ADDED THAT AT ABOUT THE SAME 
TIME, HE HAD BEEN INTERVIEWED BY THE FBI CONCERNING THE BIN 
LADEN FAMILY AND THEIR CONNECTION WITH OSAMA BIN LADEN. 
FOLLOWING THAT DISCUSSION, HE SAID,  IN APRIL 1996, HE 
FACILITATED A MEETING BETWEEN HASSAN BIN LADEN AND THE FBI. 
 
6.   (C) PIETKIEWICZ SAID HE HAD EXCELLENT RELATIONS WITH 
THE EGYPTIAN MILITARY BOTH IN CAIRO AND IN THE EMBASSY 
(EPO)  IN WASHINGTON.  HE WAS THEREFORE PERPLEXED BY THE 
CHANGE OF HEART IN DEALING WITH HIS COMPANY.   HE HAD NO 
BUSINESS OR FINANCIAL PROBLEMS WITH THE GOE.   HE OPINED 
THAT PERHAPS THERE WAS A MISUNDERSTANDING DUE TO HIS 
COMPANY'S EARLIER AGENCY RELATIONSHIP WITH  (RET.GEN.) 
MOHAMED EL SHERBINI, CEO OF THE SYSTEMS ENGINEERING GROUP 
IN EGYPT.   IT SEEMS THAT SHERBINI ALSO REPRESENTED SEACOR, 
A COMPANY WHICH HAS BEEN BANNED FROM DOING BUSINESS IN 
EGYPT,  HE CLAIMED, DUE TO A "FAILED PROJECT".  ANOTHER 
POSSIBILITY THAT CAME TO MIND WAS THAT THE GOE HAS MISTAKEN 
HIS COMPANY FOR ANOTHER COMPANY BY THE SAME NAME. 
 
7.   (C) WHILE GRIFFIN NOTED "AT TIMES" SOME OF THE BIN 
LADEN FAMILY ARE HARASSED UPON ENTRY IN EGYPT, HE ADMITTED 
THAT OTHER BIN LADEN AFFILIATE COMPANIES ARE CURRENTLY 
OPERATING IN EGYPT, WITHOUT RESTRICTION.   WHILE TECHMASTER 
ENGINEERING IS BANNED FROM NEW CONTRACTS WITH THE EGYPTIAN 
MILITARY, THIS BAN DOES NOT TO THEIR UNDERSTANDING APPLY TO 
NON-MILITARY ENDEAVORS, NOT TO ON-GOING MILITARY CONTRACTS. 
 
8.   (C) PIETKIEWICZ EXPLAINED THAT HIS PRINCIPAL CONCERN AT 
THIS POINT IS NOT TO TURN THE TIDE, BUT TO RECONFIGURE HIS 
FIVE-YEAR PLAN TO REFLECT THE REALITY OF THE SITUATION IF 
THE BAN ON TECHMASTER IS NOT REVERSIBLE. WHILE HE PREFERS 
TO DEAL WITH THE CERTAINTY OF EGYPTIAN MILITARY 
PROCUREMENT, HE NEEDS TO BE PRAGMATIC ABOUT HIS BUSINESS 
DEALINGS. 
 
9.   (C) COMMENT:  EMBASSY MAY WISH TO PROVIDE GUIDANCE 
WHICH WE CAN PASS ALONG TO PIETKIEWICZ IF THIS APPEARS TO 
BE A CASE OF MISTAKEN  (CORPORATE) IDENTITY OR IF EL  - 
SHERBINI OR SEACOR HAVE IN SOME WAY TAINTED THE BUSINESS 
ENVIRONMENT FOR TEI.   IF, AS IT APPEARS TO US, THE BAN ON 
TEL HAS TO DO WITH EGYPTIAN SECURITY CONCERNS, WE WILL 
REFRAIN FROM PROVIDING A SUBSTANTIVE RESPONSE TO 
PIETKIEWICZ. 
 
 
ALBRIGHT 

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