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In February 2002, the Belgian government secretly indicts Victor Bout, the world’s biggest illegal arms dealer, on charges of money laundering and illegal weapons trafficking. For the first time, he can be legally arrested and Interpol issues a secret arrest warrant for him anywhere in the world. Later that month, solid intelligence indicates Bout is going to be on a flight from Moldova to Greece. An encrypted message is sent by British intelligence field agents once the plane takes off, alerting their superiors in London that they are preparing to arrest Bout in Athens. But shortly after the message is sent, Bout’s plane veers away from its flight plan and disappears off radar screens into mountainous terrain. It reappears on radar about ninety minutes later and lands in Athens. British special forces raid the plane, but find it empty except for the pilot and a few passengers. One European intelligence official familiar with the operation will later say, “There were only two intelligence services that could have decrypted the British transmission in so short a time. The Russians and the Americans. And we know for sure it was not the Russians.” (Farah and Braun 2007, pp. 202-203) It has been alleged that the US began secretly working with Bout shortly after 9/11, despite his previous connections to the Taliban (see Shortly After September 11, 2001).
A US and European operation to crack down on the trafficking of women in Europe for the sex trade has mixed success. Authorities conduct 20,558 raids between September 7 and September 16, 2002 across Central and Eastern Europe, arresting 293 traffickers and netting 237 victims. National and international police officers mount 71 raids on Bosnia nightclubs, hotels, and other locations and arrest seven trafficking suspects. In Bulgaria, 2,079 individual raids are conducted with 258 people identified as traffickers and 64 women as trafficking victims. Romania reports 2,597 raids, identifying 47 traffickers and 37 women classified as sex slaves. Other countries conducting raids include Albania, Croatia, Macedonia, Yugoslavia, Greece, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Turkey, and Ukraine. (Binder 10/20/2002)
The UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions enters into force. In accordance with the ratification procedure, this happens three months after 30 countries deposited their instruments of ratification at UNESCO. UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura notes, “None of UNESCO’s other cultural conventions has been adopted by so many states in so little time.” The 30 countries are Albania, Austria, Belarus, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Djibouti, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Guatemala, India, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Namibia, Peru, the Republic of Moldova, Romania, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Togo. By the time it comes into force, 22 more countries have deposited their ratification instruments at UNESCO. (UNESCO 3/2007)