The Scientist That Got Away With Too Much: Revisiting the 2001 Anthrax Attacks

AFG Biosolutions, Kazakstan and Uranium?

In 2000, financier Jon Stout purchased a controlling interest in Hadron, Inc. and as noted earlier, he merged the company with Analex, taking Analex’s name and re-listing the company on the U.S. stock market. Four years later, Analex sold it’s subsidiary, Advanced Biosystems, to a “management-led buyout group” led by Alibek who helped co-found the subsidiary; former Analex director C.W. Gilluly; Alibek’s friend and former director of USAMRIID, Charles Bailey; and McCollum’s former top aide, Vaughn Forrest. The company was renamed AFG Biosolutions.

Less than a year after Alibek’s consortium purchased AFG Biosolutions, President Bill Clinton and Frank Giustra touched down in Kazakhstan after Giustra assembled a financial team back home prepared to finance those infamous uranium mining rights that eventually came back to haunt Hillary Clinton. Two prominent Kazakhs were behind the sale: Mukhtar Ablyazov, a well-known oppositional leader to President Nazarbayev’s regime and who became chairman of Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank just four months prior to the sale; and Mukhtar Dzhakishev, a scientist who headed up Kazakhstan’s state-run uranium and energy agency, KazAtomProm.

Frank Giustra and former President Bill Clinton

After setting up two corporate entities and two joint ventures, Dzhakishev transferred the uranium mining rights to the companies which were then sold to Giustra by Ablyazov. Ablyazov reportedly received $350 million for the deal. In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Giustra later denied that President Nazarbayev or Bill Clinton had anything to do with the sale adding that he had bought the shares of uranium from “private individuals.” Indeed. As I previously reported in April 2017:

“Didn’t the Kazakhstan government own the uranium that Giustra bought?  Interestingly, in a 2005 article entitled, ‘The Third Term,’ written by Joe Conason, Conason wrote that after Bill Clinton had dinner with President Nazarbayev on September 6, 2005, he also had a 2:30 a.m. meeting with ‘Kazakh opposition leaders to hear their complaints about the authoritarian Nazarbayev’…If this story is true then perhaps Clinton indeed pulled some strings—but not with Nazarbayev.  Rather, with Ablyazov and Dzhakishev.”

So in 2004, Alibek acquired AFG Biosolutions. In 2005, Giustra acquired uranium mining rights from two well-known Kazakhs. And in 2006, Alibek—a native Kazakh reportedly from a prominent family—created two new companies, Maxwell Biocorporation, and its subsidiary, Maxwell USA, LLC, located in Washington D.C.

No, Max-well Corporation, Ukraine and Uranium

After founding Maxwell Biocorporation, Alibek won approximately $28 million in federal grants and/or contracts for his projects with the help of his political friends from the Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare. Mark O’Connell, Saxton’s congressional chief of staff, introduced Alibek to former U.S. Congressman Jerry Lewis, who provided “annual earmarks of federal money for Alibek’s projects.” James Saxon, himself, approached the director of DARPA who, in turn, provided grant money for Alibek. Saxton also “guided Alibek” as he sought at least $10 million in research funds from the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), a government agency that works in a myriad of countries, including the Ukraine via U.S. embassies. 

According to Joanna Wintrol, the head of DTRA’s office in Kyiv, they’re focused on WMD threats and working with Ukrainian authorities. Her team has trained the National Police, Security Service of Ukraine and the State Border Guard Service, as well as engaged in “facilities renovations” and “provision of supplies.” They also fund “peaceful research and vaccine development by Ukrainian scientists.”

In 2008, Alibek opened a subsidiary in the Ukraine; a pharmaceutical factory named Max-Well Corporation, now known as Pharmex. Peter Leitner, president of Higgins Counterterrorism Research Center, was appointed president of the Ukrainian project. In July 2008, the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC) reported that the facility was the “only US-owned pharmaceutical production facility in Ukraine” and the “largest single high-technology American investment in Ukraine to date.” Located in the Kyiv Oblast town of Boryspil, Max-Well included a scientific research center and was expected to manufacture “drug products” much like its parent company “where the substances for biopharmaceuticals are developed and produced.”

Ken Alibek (center)

Rather than focusing on the expected—deadly bacteria and viruses like anthrax which are Alibek’s speciality—Max-Well’s mission was reportedly to increase the lifespan of Ukrainians and improve their quality of life with a focus on cancer and cardiovascular disease through “top quality medications.” However, in an interview with Gordon Thomas which the author shared in his book, “Inside British Intelligence: 100 Years of M15 and M16,” Alibek stated, “My research grants in U.S. government contracts now exceed $25 million. My facility in the Ukraine is working to produce antiviral drugs and antibiotics to save hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people from being killed by biological weapons which North Korea and Iran possess.”

The Ukrainian government wholly embraced the project and during Max-Well’s grand opening in April 2008, then-President Viktor Yushchenko congratulated them on “the largest center in the post-Soviet space…I am convinced that in the future you will continue to develop your activities in Ukraine.” Later that year, both Alibek and Peter Leitner attended an invitation-only presidential breakfast held in honor of Yushchenko and hosted in Washington D.C. During the event’s Q & A session, Alibek asked Yushchenko about licensing for foreign pharmaceutical companies within the Ukraine to which Yushchenko responded that Alibek should “work closely” with his staff to “resolve issues.” It was reported that the total expected investment costs for the facility were over $130 million.

Three years before the facility opened, Alibek gave an interview to Russian news outlet, Interfax, from his hometown of Almaty, Kazakhstan, shockingly stating that the “Russians had stopped ‘all work to develop biological weapons.’” The Los Angeles Times asked former USAMRIID director, Charles Bailey, if Alibek’s statement made him question what he had said previously about global biological threats. He quietly replied, “Definitely, it does.” But Alibek’s sudden change of heart about the Russians’ bioweapons program wasn’t the only sketchy thing that came to light. On July 28, 2008, a weekly magazine called BusinessUkraine reported that the funding for the construction of Max-Well was controlled by none other than Mukhtar Ablyazov, the very same Kazakh businessman and head of BTA Bank that co-sold the uranium to the Clintons’ close associate, Frank Giustra.

BTA Bank Theft and Money Laundering

In 2007, two years after Ablyazov and his partner, Mukhtar Dzhakishev, sold Frank Giustra the mining rights to uranium fields in Kazakhstan, Dzhakishev flew to the United States for a meeting with then-President Bill Clinton which was reportedly arranged by Giustra. Clinton initially denied that the meeting took place and it is unknown what the three men discussed.

Despite what appeared to be ties with the U.S. president on at least some level, nothing could apparently protect Ablyazov and Dzhakishev from President Nazarbayev’s regime. In February 2009, the Kazakhstan government nationalized BTA Bank and accused Ablyazov of embezzling billions from it. Then, in May, both men were charged with stealing uranium deposits stemming from the Giustra deal; Dzhakishev was arrested in Kazakhstan while Ablyazov had already fled the country.

Mukhtar Dzhakishev and Mukhtar Ablyazov

In 2010, of all the people in the world, Tamerlan and Jahar Tsarnaev’s uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, submitted testimony to a London court on behalf of Ablyazov in one of the more bizarre plot twists to come out of the Boston bombings. This, of course, makes no sense unless Tsarni had insider knowledge and/or experience with working with Ablyazov, the Nazarbayev regime, or both. Tsarni does, in fact, have a fairly extensive and sketchy history in Kazakhstan and I suspect he was testifying on behalf of the U.S. government and/or an intelligence agency, and it never ceases to amaze me how this story failed to stir the media’s curiosity.

To add to this story, Ablyazov is accused of laundering millions of dollars he allegedly embezzled from BTA bank through Alibek and Leitner’s Max-Well center in the Ukraine. Although the relationship between Alibek and Ablyazov remains somewhat unclear, in 2019, McClatchy published an article about another BTA money-laundering case filed in the United States (Virginia). Former head of human resources for the Department of Energy, Jody Hudson, testified in the case in which BTA’s lawyers argued that “Hudson’s longtime girlfriend, Gaukhar Kussainova, received millions in funds stolen” by her brother who just so happens to be Mukhtar Ablyazov. Of particular interest is her ties with Alibek’s bio-companies:

“In 2006 Alibek became a businessman, creating a company called AFG Biosolutions for microbiological research. He then formed Maxwell Biocorporation, to manufacture cancer medicines for Eastern Europe. These companies were both domiciled in low-tax Delaware, and a company controlled by Kussainova, Akem LLC, appears on the incorporation and tax documents associated with Maxwell’s U.S. affiliate.”

Perhaps unbeknownst to Hudson, he told McClatchy that he didn’t think Kussainova had a business relationship with Alibek but that appears to be entirely untrue.

The kicker in all of this is that prosecutors in Kyiv didn’t even file charges against Alibek until February 2018, citing him for being an accessory to money laundering “committed by a criminal group in the process of…laundering millions through Max-Well Corporation.” One has to wonder based on Whitney Webb’s terrifying investigation if there’s more to this story than Ukrainian authorities suddenly uncovering Alibek and Ablyazov’s scheme almost a decade after it occurred.

Featured artwork by artist, journalist, and writer Jareth Copus (@RodionPress). You can find more of his work and donate at:
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