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volume 3
february 2001

How MI6 was told of Stasi spy who supplied the timer


  From: The Herald, 1 February 2001
by Paul Harris
  On February 1st, 2001, shortly after the end of the Lockerbie Bomb Trial in Kamp Zeist in the Netherlands, the Scottish newspaper The Herald published an extensive coverage of the verdict. Part of it was this article by Paul Harris, who maintains that Edwin Bollier, former owner of Radio Northsea International, was responsible for delivering the bomb's timer.
1 The problem with the Lockerbie trial has been that the man who supplied the timer for the bomb which brought down the aircraft was never put on trial. Western intelligence agencies knew of the activities of Edwin Bollier as far back as 1971. The envelope which should have brought Edwin Bollier's career to an end — he was then an agent for the Stasi East German intelligence — was handed to MI6 in the summer of 1971. I know because I handed the envelope containing the evidence to "W", my MI6 controller, retired Perth Detective Superintendent, in an office in Guild Street, Aberdeen.
2 In the harsh reality of the cold war unscrupulous businessmen like Bollier, operating out of neutral Switzerland and with Swiss passports could operate internationally with virtual impunity. Bollier and his partner Erwin Meister were then in their early thirties and termed themselves "radio engineers". Their partnership gave birth to the Zurich company Mebo Telecommunications AG, registered on March 24, 1971, which operates to this day and which was named in the Lockerbie warrant issued by the lord advocate in November 1991.
3 In 1970 they launched a pirate radio ship on to international waters off the Dutch coast. How the Zurich radio repairmen who did a line in "spy bug" transmitters came by the cash to float a sophisticated pirate radio ship was a mystery. Radio North Sea International was bigger, better and flashier than any other pirate. It came on the air on January 23 1970. Its conventional medium wave transmitter was more powerful than any other pirate radio ship, and most European national radio stations. Surprisingly it also broadcast on two short wave bands and on VHF. It was difficult to discern any commercial rationale behind the operation.
4 Its role in the June 1970 general election was extraordinary. It mounted a campaign against the Labour government, which lost the election, and was, in turn, jammed by the post office, and the military. As a journalist and worker with another pirate radio ship, Capital Radio, anchored just a few miles away, I was able to infiltrate the Mebo office operation which was located in a seaview suite in the Grand Hotel in Scheveningen on the Dutch coast. Bollier, with his psychedelic kipper ties and expensive Italian suits, was clearly the dominant partner although he left Meister to do most of the talking with people like me.
5 I became aware of shipments of radio transmitter parts in East Germany and discovered in that outgoing mail copies of air freight waybills addressed to the "Institut für Technische Untersuchungen" in East Berlin. This equipment of US origin, was being shipped by Mebo Telecommunications (then unregistered) of Zurich to East Berlin, via Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. Such technology exports were banned under federal US law. I spirited away the mail that looked interesting, steamed it open using a technique learned from the Eagle annual, photocopied it, popped it back in the post, and laid the copies aside for my next trip back to the UK. Back then, usually in Aberdeen, I would be contacted by a Special Branch officer who would set up my meeting with "W", the man from MI6. From the extensive questioning and discussions it became quite clear that "W" was particularly interested in the East German connection and the interference by the radio ship in the general election.
6 I was never paid a penny for my minuscule part in winning the cold war: Tony Benn — then postmaster general — had sworn a warrant for my arrest under the marine broadcasting offences act for my part in setting up Capital Radio. I was simply granted immunity from prosecution. However, evidence soon emerged that the activities of European and American intelligence agencies had borne fruit. On July 8, 1971 the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf published a leaked report from the CIA. It revealed that 10 pirate radio ships based on the Radio North Sea operation, were under construction in the Polish port of Gdansk. The programme was under the direction of the Institut für Technische Untersuchungen. This was believed to be a cold war riposte to the US-based operation Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. It was also likely that such vessels would incorporate a SIGINT (signals intelligence capability), which was also clearly a feature of the North Sea operation. Publication of the report compromised the operation and work on the ships ceased.
7 In May 1971, Radio North Sea was sabotaged by frogmen who attached plastic explosives to the hull in a botched job by the BVD Dutch secret service. In January 1977 it sailed from Rotterdam for Libya. As the ship sailed, a photograph of Bollier's new patron, Colonel Gaddafi, was pasted up in the studio. The ship was sold to Gaddafi and used to broadcast the Koran. When Gaddafi tired of his toy he had his air force jets bomb it and send it to the bottom of the Mediterranean. However, the relationship between Gaddafi andd his Swiss friends was one which would flourish for 10 years: right up to the night of December 21, 1988 when Flight 103 crashed on to the town of Lockerbie. That may not have been predictable. But preventable it certainly was. The world's intelligence community knew all about Edwin Bollier. The enduring question must be why his activities were tolerated.
  This article was published in the Scottish newspaper The Herald on 1 February 2001 as part of an extensive coverage of the Lockerbie bomb trial verdict.
  2001 © The Herald