Lockerbie — MEBO TELECOM and the Story of the MST-13 Timers

“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, Aberdee”

Paul Harris — The Herald, February 1st 2001

DM141-P312

A MEBO Telecommunications timing device — known as a MST-13 timer — is alleged to have been used to trigger the bomb that destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988. The investigators attempted to reconstruct as best as possible the story of these timers. The final result is not perfect as many details remain fuzzy. Nevertheless, it is one of the best established aspect of the Lockerbie saga and, thanks to the testimony of Libyan officials, one that can be factually established. Follow us on TWITTER: @INTEL.COM

RELATED POST: PT/35(b) — The Most Expensive Forgery in History [Lockerbie]

PT/35(b) is a small fragment of a circuit timer that was allegedly found among the debris of Pan Am 103 near the town of Lockerbie.

In a recent post, I explained why, after more than ten years of investigation, I have come to the conclusion that PT/35(b) is a forgery that was planted among the debris to implicate Libya in the bombing of Pan Am 103 and to steer the investigation away from the original suspects.

As promised, I will now provide all the supporting evidence that I was able — thanks to many good friends — to collect over the years.

This post summarises the information available regarding the request, design, manufacture and delivery of about 20 MST-13 timers by MEBO to Libya in 1985-1986.

Enjoy!

MEBO Telecommunications

Edwin Bollier and Erwin Meister formed MEBO in the early 1970s.

MEBO Telecommunications AG (formed in 1969 and registered in Zürich on 24 March 1971) was owned by Swiss businessmen Erwin Meister and Edwin Bollier. MEBO employed a single technician: Ulrich Lumpert.

All of them were regarded as being not trustworthy by those who attended the Lockerbie trial. The trial court found Mr Bollier to be “at times an untruthful and at other times an unreliable witness.”

William Taylor QC, who has been defending Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, described  Mr Bollier was a man “prone to invention” who hoped to receive a cash reward from the American authorities for information about the 1988 bombing.

MEBO co-founder Edwin Bollier

Both Bollier and Meister made up a story about an ‘Olympus timer’ that had been programmed for 1930 hours on a Wednesday – the Lockerbie bombing occurred at 1903 on Wednesday 21 December 1988 — wich was proven to be technically impossible.

Moreover, both men forgot about having supplied MST-13 timers to the Stasi – the secret police of the former East Germany. [More about this when we will discuss a secret document provided by the King of Jordan to the UK in 96 and never shown to the defense for reason of National Security.]

Finally, Ulrich Lumpert, told the Scottish Court in the Netherlands that he had produced all of the firm’s MST-13 timers and agreed that the fragment — known as PT/35(b) — shown to him in court “could be” from a MST-13 timer.

However — seven years later  — on 18 July 2007, Lumpert claimed he had lied at the trial. In an affidavit before a Zürich notary, Lumpert stated that he had stolen a prototype MST-13 timer PC-board from MEBO and that he had given it on 22 June 1989, to “an official person investigating the Lockerbie case.

By now, you probably understand than one must be careful with the testimony of these three men for one may not necessarily get the truth — and nothing but the truth — from these honorable Swiss businessmen.

That much is obvious. But, unlike Taylor, I would advise not to rush to conclusions . They may very well have been economical with the truth in order to secure a fat reward from a US agency and/or Libya. There is clearly evidence supporting such an allegation. But the whole truth may be far more complex.

To begin with, MEBO was clearly monitored by several intelligence agencies since the beginning. MEBO was selling illegally material to the STASI and passing them classified documents. In fact, we know today that any Swiss citizen travelling to East Germany at the time was placed under full surveillance by the Swiss Intelligence Service.

I understand that the Swiss Authorities have about 35 (4″) folders of documents about Mr Bollier and I am told that they have recorded more than 1800 of his phone calls.

Next, there is no doubt that MEBO was on the CIA radar since 1984 when one of their timer supplied to the Libyan army– and identified by a Motorola pager S/N — was discovered in Chad. MEBO also supplied a “bomb-suitase” to the infamous terrorist ‘Carlos the Jackal’ which was found in one of his apartments.

But there is more. In the case of Bollier, there is evidence that some aspects of his personal life — and I will not elaborate — made him very vulnerable to ‘pressure’ from intelligence agencies.

Meister’s wife died during the investigation; she fell from a window. The Swiss investigators concluded that it was an ‘accident’.

Finally, Lumpert made several unexplained trips to Florida during the investigation. [More about Florida when we will discuss the Togo timer.] After the Lockerbie investigation, Lumpert went on to work for a US company.

But then again, we are supposed to believe that no one knew that MEBO was working with and for some “Intelligence organizations”? Only a child would believe that for there is simply no way that MEBO would have been allowed to continue its activities unless these were highly useful to Western intelligence agencies.

Maybe, just maybe, there is a good reason why a Swiss Inspector Hans Knaus suspected the CIA of having planted PT/35(b).

Nevertheless, the trial court accepted that — in or about July 1985 — on a visit to Tripoli Mr Bollier received a request for electronic timers from Said Rashid or Ezzadin Hinshiri.

the court also accepted his evidence that he had supplied twenty samples of MST-13 timers to Libya in three batches, and that he may well have been correct when he said that the Libyan order was met with the supply of timers which had circuit boards of both the single-sided and the double-sided types.

Finally, the court accepted that in 1985 Bollier himself delivered five of these samples on a visit to Tripoli, that in the same year he delivered another five to the Libyan Embassy in East Berlin, and that in 1986 he delivered the remaining ten personally in Tripoli.

I believe that the story of the MST-13 timers accepted by the court is basically correct but some details are certainly wrong. And some of these details may be significant.

Neither said Rashid nor Hinshiri can help us with the truth anymore. Both men have been killed.

Said Rashid — alleged to have been a former head of JSO’s operations section and close friend of Gaddafi — was killed in a shoot-out with rebels in February 2011 following a speech by the dictator’s son, Saif.

Ezzadin Hinshiri —  a senior Libyan figure who became a top official and one of Gaddafi’s most loyal lieutenants — was killed along with 52 other regime supporters in an infamous massacre at a seafront hotel in Sirte in the final days of the uprising in April 2011.

Order for electronic timers

Evidence that MEBO received an order for electronic timers in July 1985 is supported by the orders for circuit boards which MEBO placed with Thuring AG in August and October 1985.

In evidence Astrid Thuring spoke to the order card relating to an order  that MEBO placed with Thuring on 13 August 1985 for 20 MST-13 circuit boards (CP 402, photograph 2-575).

She stated that, according to a delivery note (CP 319, image 1), Thuring supplied 24 such circuit boards on 16 August 1985.

In addition,  she spoke to the order card relating to an order that MEBO placed with Thuring on 8 October 1985 for 35 MST-13 circuit boards (CP 402, image 208).

According to a further delivery note (CP 400, image 1), Thuring supplied 34 such circuit boards on 5 November 1985. [SCCRC REPORT 20.28]

DELIVERY TO LIBYA

No documentary evidence was led at trial that directly vouched Mr Bollier’s evidence about the supply of MST-13 timers to Libya, although Mr Meister understood that Mr Bollier had personally delivered these in 1985.  (Trial day 22/ page 3741).

Accordingly, it seems that the court was prepared to accept Mr Bollier’s evidence on this issue on the basis that it had not been challenged and appeared to have been accepted by the defence. The account given to the defence by Hinshiri is of assistance in understanding why no such challenge was made.

In his defence precognition, Hinshiri confirmed that he had ordered a quantity of MST-13 timers and that these had subsequently been delivered to him. A similar account was given by him when questioned by the Scottish police in Libya on 30 October 1999. [SCCRC REPORT 20.29]

Richard Marquise — The FBI agent who led the US side of the Lockerbie investigation– gives a good description [SCOTBOM, Richard Marquise. Page 69] of the supply of the 20 MST-13 timers to Libya.

 In August 1985, Said Fazani*, a high ranking official of the Libyan Jamahiriya Security Organization (JSO),  asked Bollier to design and build a small electronic timer for use by the military in their war with Chad.

A total of twenty were built by Lumpert, ten for use in a waterproof container (boxed) and ten which were free-standing (unboxed).

The first five were delivered by Bollier to Fazani* in Libya  in the late fall of 1985.

The second five were delivered by Bollier to an individual at the Libyan people’s Bureau in East Berlin around November 1985.

The last ten were delivered Hijazi*, a high-ranking Intelligence officer, in Tripoli [in late 1985/early 86].

We now know that Said Fazani* and Hijazi* are Said Rashid and Ezzedin El Hinshiri.

Based on various interviews, the “Fuhl Report” has come to the following conclusions:

  1. The first five MST-13 timers have a circuit board with “solder mask” on one side only and were built into boxes.

2. The second five MST-13 timers have a circuit board with “solder mask” on both side  and were built without boxes.

3. The last ten MST-13 timers have a circuit board with “solder mask” on both side and were built into boxes.

At the time of this writing, I am not satisfied with the official story regarding the timeline of the delivery of these timers to Libya.

Indeed, the first Thuring boards were received by MEBO on 16 August 1985. So according to Marquise, the delivery of the “first five” and “second five” timers must have occurred between August and November 1985.

There is just one problem. There are no VISA entry stamps in the passport of Bollier to DDR or Libya from August 1985 to November 1985. You can find them all over his passport before or after, but not during this interval of time. Bollier will — of course — claim  that he could enter these countries without a stamp on his passport. But then, why the many stamps before and after this period of time both from DDR and Libya?

CIRCUIT DIAGRAM

Here  is the circuit diagram of the timer as designed by MEBO Uli (Ulrich) Lumpert on August 7 1985.

DP113-01

You may want to compare this with the drawing presented in the CIA report about the TOGO Timer.

DE52-8

A good friend — Dr Jim Swire — once told me that he suspects that the CIA may have designed the MST-13 circuit! And he may very well be right.

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COMMENT — You may want to check the “imperfection” of the tracks under the “1 shaped” pad which was deemed crucial in the identification of PT/35(b) as part of a MST-13 Timer.

Indeed during his Defense precognition, FBI Thomas Thurman said:

“I am asked what characteristics led us to this conclusion. I would say the layout of the circuit was the same. There were also imperfections in the circuit itself which were observable in the photograph from Scotland and also in the complete timer. (Note: That is the infamous timer the CIA ‘brought back’ from Togo…) It was alike a fingerprint.”

Does this imperfection appear on every template? What can you conclude from this?

THE THURING BOARDS

Here are some documents regarding the orders of the Thuring boards.

This the design of the main MST-13 board.

DP114-CB1

Here is a good quality pic of the board design:

PT92-P9

1st order

Ordered on 13 August 1985

20 ordered, 24 delivered on 16 August 1985

“solder masked” on one side [Lötstopp eins.(eitig)]

No bore holes

“Tin” plated

DP473-575

2nd order

Ordered on 8 October 1985

35 ordered, 34 delivered on 5 November 1985

“solder masked” on both side [Lötstopp doppelseitig)]

3 x Fenster Fräsen (Mill three windows)

No bore holes

“Tin” plated

DP473-208

IMPORTANT COMMENT — Notice the now infamous “ZINN” (To tin). However, in this technical field, neither “Zinn” nor “Tin” means ‘Tin’ in a literally sence. It is just slang for the process and does not tell anything about the material itself. In the case of these Thuring boards, it is actually a mix of Lead and Tin. This is absolutely crucial to this case because we now know that PT/35(b) is covered with pure tin!

THE NYMPH QUARTZ

In order to build the MST-13 timers, Lumpert ordered the NYMPH quartz from COMPONA AG. (SARONIX Quartz Data sheet )

Photo 8 - DP 124

Here is the first invoice.

DP105-1

Here is the second invoice.

DP104-1

Notice that the frequency on the quartz does not match the frequency on the order. I have found the explanation to this discrepancy. It seems to be an honest mistake from COMPONA AG. (SEE: Building the MST-13 Timers. Solving a 30 years Old Mystery. )

HEF 4518BT

Here is the invoice for the MSI  IC HEF 4518BT.

DP108-1

 

HEF 4521BT

This is the invoice:

DP107-1

Here is a pic of this component mounted on K-1 (The Togo Device)

 Photo 6 - DP 124

Comment: Notice the not professional handiwork.

CAPACITORS

Here is the invoice for the capacitors.

DP109-1

Quartz Crystal (Design Note)

THE ROSE BOXES

On 30 July 1985, Edwin Bollier ordered 12 ROSE boxes for the MST-13 timers.

DP123-1

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DM141-P313

These boxes raise an important question. (I will discuss this once we have read CIA “John Orkin” CP and DP.)

HOW MANY TYPES?

I must now tell you about another feature of the MST-13 Timers: 2 vs. 4 positions switch.

Some timers could be set between 1 and 99 Minutes/Hours.

DM141-P315

Some timers could be set between 1 and 9999 Minutes/Hours.

DM141-P312

Lumpert stated that all (5 or 6) 4 digits timers were pre-series.

“It is correct that only five or six timers with 4 positions switch were made and they were pre-series ones. The pre-series timers had protective lacquer only on one side.”

This is a rather simple fact. Yet, its consequences are not without merit.

HOW MANY MST-13 TIMERS BUILT BY MEBO?

LORD SUTHERLAND:  Then I call upon the Clerk of Court to read the indictment and the special defences.

THE CLERK:  Adelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah are indicted at the instance of the Right Honourable My Lord Hardie, Her Majesty’s Advocate, and the charges against them are that: […]

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah did between 1 January 1985 and 31 December 1985, both dates inclusive, through the hands of Said Rashid and Ezzadin Hinshiri, both also being members of the said Libyan Intelligence Services, and others at the said premises occupied by MEBO AG, in Zurich, aforesaid, at the said premises of said Libyan Intelligence Services, in Tripoli, aforesaid, at the said Libyan People’s Bureau, East Berlin aforesaid and elsewhere to the Prosecutor unknown, order, cause to be manufactured and obtain from the said firm of MEBO AG twenty electronic timers capable of detonating explosive devices;

Richard Marquise gives a rather precise description of the supply of the 20 MST-13 timers to Libya.

“In August 1985, Said Fazani, a high-ranking official of the Libyan Jamahiriya Security Organization (JSO), asked Bollier to design and build a small electronic timer for use by the military in their war with Chad.

A total of twenty were built by Lumpert, ten for use in a waterproof container (boxed) and ten which were free-standing (unboxed).”

Here is a simple question: Where does the number “twenty” come from?

Once the link between MEBO and PT/35(b) had been made, the investigators interviewed the MEBO people. One of their goals was to estimate the numbers of MST-13 timers that had been built and supplied.

Contrary to what Marquise seems to believe, this number was not deduced from the number of Thuring boards MEBO had ordered. Nor was it calculated on the basis of the number of NYMPH quartz MEBO had bought from COMPONA AG.

The upper limit of twenty timers was actually deduced from the following analysis. The investigators learned that MEBO had ordered 20 HEF 4521BT and 60 HEF 4518BT.

So with the help of Bollier, they studied this photo of the Togo timer.
DP127-01

The timer has obviously 1  HEF 4521BT and 2 HEF 4518BT on the main board. Additionally, it has 1 HEF 4518BT on the secondary smaller board.

Therefore, all men (Bollier and the policemen) were totally satisfied that, at most,  twenty timers had been built  as twenty timers clearly required 20 HEF 4521BT and 60 HEF 4518 BT to be built. Pretty good, don’t you think? The reasoning is nevertheless flawed.

You may remember that some timers had a “2 digits” counter while some (5 or 6) had a “4 digits” counter. The main board is exactly the same in both cases. This point was clearly noticed in the CIA Report. ( See page 7/ Provisions exist for another dual counter chip to handle two more thumbwheel switches.)

CIA_Circuit_RED

But the construction of a “4 digits” timer requires TWO HEF 4518BT  on the secondary small board!

DM141-P314

Obviously, if Lumpert built six “4 digits” timers, he needed 24 (4×6) HEF 4518BT and only 36 were left to build “2 digits” timers. Therefore only 12 (36/3) of those could possibly have been built. If he built five “4 digits timers”, he could have built 13 “2 digits” with the 40 HEF 4518BT left. In either case, he could not have built twenty MST-13 timers, but only eighteen at most.

You may say that it is only a small error that has no important consequences. And you may very well  be right. But sometimes, small errors lead to a huge disaster. Come to think of it, the Lockerbie trial is a case in point.

THE COPPER CLAD LAMINATE

According to a well-informed source, THURING AG always ordered the Copper Clad Laminates from a Swiss branch of ISOLA: Schweizerische Isolawerke AG in Breitenbach. (SIB)

The FBI report on the Togo timer does not mention the watermark on the main board of the timer. This is not surprising as the report signed by Thurman is almost a copy of the CIA report. (Here is  this undated FBI report. I think that it must have been written between 26 September and 11 December 1990.)

2IB

DP/124-03 (Flipped vertically)

DP/124-03 (Flipped vertically)

However, a FBI document dated 20 August 1990 mentions the following:

“Special photography techniques were utilized on specimen K-1 to identify the number/letter “21B” which is contained within the figure of an oval. The number/letter appears in the upper left quadrant of the circuit board, within the lamination and not on the surface of the board. This identification was added during the manufacturing process, and may offer a code to identify the source of this board. It should be noted, however, that the company which applied the actual  printed circuit, may not be the company which manufactured the green circuit board.”

One may perhaps honestly confuse “MEBO” for “M580” or “MEBQ”. But why would anyone misread “SIB” for “21B” when the “B” is asymmetrical is puzzling to say the least…

I believed that this was a good place to begin our investigation. As I have written before:

“Don’t you think that it would have been a good and obvious place to start if the CIA (and later the FBI ) really wanted to trace the origin of the TOGO timer? (NB: DP/124 is the TOGO timer.)

There is not a single reference to this watermark either in the CIA report nor the FBI report about K1 (the TOGO timer). And to the best of my knowledge, neither Dr Hayes nor Feraday ever noticed it. I am quite sure that Feraday’s report does not mention it.”

The study of the copper clad laminates (both PT/35(b) and DP/347(a)) is detailed here: Forensic Analysis of PT/35b

 

TIMELINE

July 1985  — MEBO received an order for electronic timers

30 July 1985, — Edwin Bollier ordered 12 ROSE boxes for the MST-13 timers

7 August 1985 — Circuit diagram designed by Lumpert

13 August 1985  — MEBO placed an order with Thuring for 20 MST-13 circuit boards

13 August 1985 — Lumpert ordered 20 NYMPH quartz from COMPONA AG

16 August 1985 — Thuring supplied 24 such circuit boards

8 October 1985  — MEBO placed an order with Thuring for 35 MST-13 circuit boards

5 November 1985 — Thuring supplied 34 such circuit boards

Fall of 1985 — The first five were delivered by Bollier to Said Rashid in Libya [Accepted but dubious]

8 November 1985 — Lumpert ordered 15 NYMPH quartz from COMPONA AG

November 1985 — The second five were delivered by Bollier to an individual at the Libyan people’s Bureau in East Berlin. [Accepted but dubious]

Late 1985/early 86 — The last ten were delivered to Ezzedin Hinshiri in Tripoli

Unknowns

Why is it that the exact dates of the MST-13 delivery could not be determined? Is Bollier the only Swiss businessman who does not keep a record of his travels? What about his travel agency?  The Lockerbie investigation/trial is the most expensive ever and the investigators could not even answer such a simple question? No Brownie points… That is — of course — utter nonsense.

When I pointed out the ‘mystery’ of the NYMPH Quartz, the owner of COMPONA AG was able to go back to the computer software his company was using in 1985 and — in less than 48 hours — this person was able to identify an encoding error. That is impressive but hardly surprising from a serious Swiss businessman.

There is much more to be said about the MST-13 timers. But we will need to discuss first the mysterious appearance of this device in Togo (1986) and Senegal (1988). Stay tuned!

REFERENCES

LUMPERT STATEMENTS

MST-13 and the NYMPH QUARTZ

MST-13 Circuit Diagram and Updates

K1 – CIA REPORT 1988. Full Report

Building the MST-13 Timers. Let’s get started!

Building the MST-13 Timers. The Thuring Boards

Building the MST-13 Timers. The NYMPH Quartz Mystery

Building the MST-13 Timers. Solving a 30 years Old Mystery.

Building the MST-13 Timers. Let’s keep going! (HEF 4521BT)

Building the MST-13 Timers. Buying the Capacitors.

Building the MST-13 Timers. Solving a 30 years Old Mystery. UPDATE. NEWS from Edwin Bollier (MEBO)

Building the MST-13 Timers. JUST DO IT!

MST-13 Timers Delivery Timeline

MST-13 Timers: How many types?

MST-13 Timers: “History is the Lie Historians Agree upon.”

MST-13 Delivery to Libya. UPDATE. VISA Issues

SCCRC: Undisclosed protectively marked documents

THURING AG PCB BOARDS SUPPLIER IDENTIFIED

The THURING Board Watermark: FBI Analysis

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Lockerbie — MEBO TELECOM and the Story of the MST-13 Timers

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