This new article on the Niger forgeries is now up online in Sunday London Times.
The claim actually isn't a new one. It's been rattling around Italy for at least a year, and reported in a few Italian publications aligned with the current government. The basic argument is that the Niger forgeries were the work of two employees at the Nigerien embassy in Rome, the consul, Adam Maiga Zakariaou and Laura Montini, his assistant. And the motive was money.
How did these two come to forge the documents?
According to the story in the Times, Montini was put together with ex-Italian intelligence agent Rocco Martino by a serving SISMI Colonel named Antonio Nucera. After putting the two together, Nucera fades from the scene. But Montini goes to work for Martino providing purloined documents from her place of work.
Then Montini and her boss, the Nigerien consul, learn that Martino works for the French and there's a lot of money in it for everyone involved if they can 'find' documents shedding light on Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium from Niger. Thus the forging begins and the rest, as they say, is history.
That is, needless to say, a very condensed version of the story. So read the piece in the Times for the full details.
Now, remember, this version of events is the work of an Italian government 'investigation'. And all evidence suggests that the Italian government has very dirty hands in this whole affair, acting at least as the purveyor of the forgeries and possibly their creator as well.
There are a slew of holes in this story; and you don't need to be too deep into the arcana of the story to see them.
First, consider Nucera's role. He's a colonel in SISMI, Italian military intelligence. He puts the two key players together. They're also former SISMI employees. But that's just a coincidence. Neither Nucera nor SISMI have any role in what happened. He was just trying to help out a couple old friends.
Montini actually says different. She gave an as-yet-unpublished interview in which she alleges that Nucera provided her with the forgeries, with the instructions to turn them over to Martino.
Here's another point to consider. If the Italians really have this all figured out, and if the Italian government isn't implicated in any way, why have Montini, the Nigerien consul and Martino never been arrested or accused of any crime? Each is now in Italy. No charges have ever been brought against any of them.
There are various other holes and contradictions in this story. But there's one big one that you only need to read the papers to see. According to the story in the Times, the documents go from the Nigerien Embassy to Martino, to the French and then to the UK. Martino later sells them to an Italian journalist just a few months before the war.
Only, that's not how it happened. It's a simple chain of custody issue. Read up on the story and you'll find that the US didn't get the documents from the British or from the French. They got them from ... right, SISMI. The Italians sent details of the documents and then text transcriptions of them to Washington in late 2001 and early 2002. And everyone else got them, either directly or indirectly, from the Italians as well.
Once you add that fact to the mix you realize the story in the Times just doesn't add up.
This is the cover story concocted by the Italian government. It wasn't a very good one eighteen months ago and it's no better now.