The Falcon & the Viper

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Chapter 53

Earlier that morning the Guía had driven along the coast from the boatyard to the ferry port of Algerciras. He had caught the first sailing of the day for the short ferry crossing across the Gibraltar Straights to the Tanger-Med port in Morocco. On arrival, he drove off the ferry straight to the rundown warehouse on the edge of the container docks. Driving into a small car park, he got out of the car and walked inside the dust-laden interior, ignoring the small band of workers sorting and crating the different nuts. Entering a small office, a swarthy man who had been awaiting his arrival warmly welcomed him. Both men kissed each other on the cheek in the traditional Arab greeting.

‘As-salam alaykom.’

‘Wa Alykom As-salam, Josep’ replied the Guía,

‘Is everything ready?’

‘Yes, Alsayr. The minders are waiting upstairs.’

Josep, the trusted manager of the warehouse walked over to the bottom of an old iron staircase and called to the men above, who came down into the office and greeted their boss. He then opened a door to a small adjoining room revealing a large Chubb Sovereign safe embedded in a wall. The safe, weighing some two and three quarters tons and manufactured from high carbon steel, was capable of resisting attack from explosives or even a thermic lance. Josep turned the combination lock first one way and then backwards and forwards until the tumblers fell into place, unlatched the heavy door and swung it open on its hinges. One at a time, he took out three heavy holdalls from inside the safe, each holding a million dollars made up of hundred dollar bills. Handing them over to the three minders, they all walked outside to a Nissan Patrol, its bodywork dirtied from previous trips in the desert. The Guía said farewell to Josep and they got in to begin their journey.

Driving some two hundred kilometres on dusty, sand covered roads, and avoiding running over tumbleweeds blown by the hot, desert winds, they arrived at Fes-Sais airport in the Fes-Meknes region of the country. Parking the Nissan, they got out with the holdalls and entered a small customs office in the general aviation terminal. The lonely police officer on duty accepted the envelope full of dollars proffered by the Guía, ignored the bulky holdalls and ushered them through customs. Within minutes, they took off in a Gulfstream jet for the four thousand-kilometre flight to Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic in Africa. Catching some sleep during the flight, they landed where the formalities were even less demanding. Exiting the airfield in an all-terrain Jeep, the Guía and his guards continued their journey.

Within the war zones of troubled African regions, there is a flourishing mining industry in uncut diamonds, more commonly known as conflict or blood diamonds. It is impossible to trace them and once cut into round brilliant diamonds, they have a global street value of over 8,000 USD per carat. Which was just as well, because the price of the deal in Oslo had been some three million dollars. Only a short distance from the airfield, the Guía arrived at a large bungalow inside a high security compound on the outskirts of Bangui. At the fortified gates of the entrance, guards toting Kalashnikov AK47s checked them out and allowed them through into the compound. The Guía got out of the Jeep and went into the bungalow where he met a middle aged Jew, an unlicensed dealer specialising in the illicit stones. As was customary, the Arab bartered with the Jew, both gave a little ground and the deal was struck. They drove out of the compound and made the return journey to the small warehouse in the port of Tangiers, where Josep mixed the uncut diamonds with scorched almond nuts and packed them in small cartons. Both almond nuts and diamonds are high in carbon content, a coincidence that guaranteed the boxes passing safely through the customs x-ray machines before loading.

By the time the Guía had returned to his boatyard in Almeria, the cartons of nuts were in a crate in the cargo hold of the Hayalet, which was making a fast passage back to the Rumeli Kavağı docks in Istanbul. A rendezvous had been arranged at sea shortly before her arrival, between the Hayalet and a Russian cargo ship, where the crate of almonds and uncut diamonds would be exchanged in full and final payment for a small wooden crate from the hold of the Russian ship. The cargo ship would take the crate containing the diamonds up the Bosphorus and across the Black Sea to Sevastopol in the Ukraine, where the mafiya would collect it.

The device inside the small crate on board the Hayalet came from one of only a few technically capable countries that could manufacture it, and would go back mixed with other cargo from the warehouse in Istanbul on the Hayalet’s return voyage across the Med to Tangiers. There would be another rendezvous on the way.

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