Yesterday I mentioned an intriguing angle to the Jack Abramoff-Tom DeLay relationship that hasn't gotten very much attention. The House Ethics Committee is set to dig into the Abramoff-related allegations against DeLay this fall, and I'm curious to know how carefully the panel will explore the shadowy NaftaSib angle.
NaftaSib is a Russian oil and gas company which apparently underwrote a six-day "fact-finding" trip to Moscow that DeLay took with Abramoff in 1997, during which the two met with NaftaSib executives for reasons that remain unknown. The trip and DeLay's meeting with NaftaSib officials was widely reported earlier this year. What I never saw was any follow-up on additional evidence released by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on June 22 that shed some additional light on Abramoff's relationship with NaftaSib, and on the company's true nature.
That evidence included an eye-popping 2001 email between Abramoff and a Russian man named Vadim. The email concerned the purchase of paramilitary equipment, apparently including night vision goggles, that Abramoff intended to send to his Israeli West Bank settler friends.
A close read of the emails shows that this Vadim fellow had -- you guessed it -- a naftasib.com email address. What's more, Vadim's email signature identified him as "Assistant to Ms. Nevskaya" -- presumably one Marina Nevskaya, a NaftaSib executive who reportedly had been an instructor at a Russian military intelligence school. The Washington Post has reported that NaftaSib "has business ties with Russian security institutions." According to the Post's sources, DeLay met with Nevskaya in Moscow and subsequently in Washington.
It would be awfully interesting to know how aware Abramoff and DeLay were of these NaftaSib connections at the time of the 1997 Moscow trip. It would also be interesting to know whether Abramoff had been discussing the sub rosa purchase of military equipment back then, and whether DeLay himself knew anything about it. And, of course, it'd be useful to know why just DeLay was meeting with these people in the first place.
Just some of about a hundred fascinating questions for the House Ethics Committee to tackle in the months ahead.
P.S. You can read the most recent trove of Abramoff emails here and here. Nuke up some popcorn and enjoy yourself, it's great stuff. Vadim's note can be found on page 79 of the first PDF, embedded in a longer message from Abramoff to his settler friend Schmuel Ben-Zvi.