How the AP's Insane Bomb Smuggling Story Is Just Like a Spy Movie

Russian gangsters have been selling nuclear materials to terrorist groups and all the elements smack of a Cronenberg flick. 

by Sam Blum
screen shot from AP Video.

While it’s got all the the trappings of high drama, it’s completely bereft of the fiction that makes violent spy stories like the Bourne Identity, James Bond, or even The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Revealed late Tuesday night by the Associated Press is the story of Russian gangsters (with ties to KGB’s successor agency) seeking to smuggle radioactive materials to Middle Eastern extremists through the tiny Balkan nation of Moldova. Intertwined in the narrative’s backdrop of swanky nightclubs and hardened criminals who hawk vials of deadly chemicals is Constantin Malic, a Moldovan police officer who for five years found himself investigating the shady operation alongside the FBI and Moldovan authorities.

Malic, who ostensibly acted as one of the FBI’s inside men throughout the investigations, helped thwart four black market transactions but not without a psychologically drained and heavily inebriated conscience. As Malic entered meetings hemmed-up in recording devices, he was paralyzed by fear, and reportedly, “gulped shots of vodka to steel his nerves.”

Malic’s penetration of the black market frayed his nerves, and so far, his inquests have only yielded sparse results in terms of actually catching the bad guys. Over five years of investigations, many top-level smugglers were able to evade the authorities, while possibly holding onto their radioactive chemicals.

“From the first known Moldovan case in 2010 to the most recent one in February, a pattern has emerged: Authorities pounce on suspects in the early stages of a deal, giving the ringleaders a chance to escape with their nuclear contraband — an indication that the threat from the nuclear black market in the Balkans is far from under control.”

This a story replete with factors that should posit red flags for the West, primarily the United States. Taking into account the rise of ISIS, which has recently used chemical weapons, and combined with consistently waning relations between the U.S. and Russia, this whole charade might make the hairs on the back of Obama’s neck rise in trepidation.

Additionally, several wiretapped discussions between informants and smugglers indicated plots to attack the United States.

All of the elements are primed for high drama: there’re Malic, a sympathetic cop, clutching a bottle of vodka on his way to meet with evil thugs. There’s the nefarious aims of these Russian weapons smugglers, who see a glistening opportunity in the nascent black market made possible by Middle Eastern terrorist groups. Then there’s the FBI, possibly obscuring and tampering with Malic’s granular knowledge of Moldova’s seedy crime-ridden underbelly, all so the U.S. can skirt any terrorist attacks.

There’s even a central villain character enmeshed in the whole saga too. AP reports that among the most serious transactions broken up by Malic and the FBI is the case of a group led by a Russian intelligence operative named Alexandr Agheenco, who sought to supply bomb-grade uranium to a man in Uganda.