Last March, POGO blogged about the incredible case of Efraim Diveroli, the 22-year-old defense contractor who allegedly engaged in improprieties on a $300 million U.S. Army contract to supply the Afghan government with rifle and machine gun cartridges. According to a lengthy investigation published on March 27 in the New York Times, Diveroli and his company, AEY Inc. (a company his father founded less than ten years earlier as a printing business), had allegedly supplied the Afghan government with defective ammunition, some of which had been illegally obtained from China.
Last week, a federal grand jury in Miami indicted AEY, Diveroli, and three others -- David Packouz, 26, AEY's vice president; Alexander Podrizki, 26, AEY's Albanian agent; and Ralph Merrill, 65, a business associate of Diveroli -- on 71 counts, including charges of conspiracy, fraud and false statements related to 35 shipments of ammunition for which the Army paid more than $10 million. The government alleges the defendants conspired to remove the "Made in China" labels from crates of ammunition and tried to pass them off as Albanian. If convicted, the men could face up to either five or ten years in prison per count.
In a related development, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) recently heard a claim that the U.S. ambassador to Albania, John L. Withers II, approved a scheme to remove evidence of the illegal Chinese origins of an ammunition shipment AEY supplied to Afghanistan, and that State Department officials tried to conceal this information from Waxman's Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which is holding a hearing this week on AEY's contracts. Waxman made these startling revelations in a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Waxman's letter concludes with a request to conduct transcribed interviews with Withers and five other Albanian embassy officials before July 11, which is the same week Diveroli and his associates are scheduled for arraignment.
The saga of the Miami Munitions Maven meanders on.
- Neil Gordon