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Macedonian Street Justice for Sketchy Iraq Subcontractor

November 1, 2004

( Research Service)- The mysterious Sergio Tanguma, the headhunter of unknown provenance who supplied Soufan Engineering’s Iraq operation with Macedonian workers – three of whom were subsequently kidnapped and killed – got “beaten very well” on Friday night by Macedonians in the Kumanovo-area village of Agino Selo.

After being hospitalized and calling on the US Embassy to watch over him, the wily Tanguma tried to flee the country for Istanbul at 3 PM on Sunday – but was apprehended at Skopje’s Petrovec Airport.

It is unclear what drew Tanguma to Agino Selo on Friday night. The village was formerly a common hang-out for NATO soldiers and Brown & Root workers, owing to its proximity to their encampments, and he would surely have had contacts there. According to television reports on Sunday, Tanguma together with his driver and bodyguard visited the village before midnight, argued with some locals, and left.

Two hours later, however, they returned, and local villagers at the Night Club Carumba vented their feelings with a baseball bat on Tanguma. He was taken to the hospital in Skopje, and commissioned the US Embassy to stand watch over his bed, out of a stated fear of the suddenly not-so-friendly Macedonians.

While the doctors urged Tanguma to stay in the hospital for another day, he checked himself out and then tried to check himself out of the country. Not so fast, Sergio, said the airport police, who remanded him in custody for failing to report in to Kumanovo police over the beating. Ironically, the police claimed that they were actually trying to help him; by taking his testimony, they would have a better chance of finding who beat him.

However, Tanguma’s attempted exodus only drew added suspicions to a man with a decidedly murky legacy in Macedonia. Setting up a fly-by-night office with the help of a local Kumanovo man, he attempted to siphon employees to Soufan, but has been accused of failing to provide health insurance for them. Also, he and the local partner have been accused of failing to get the proper permits for opening an office.

The Kumanovo police on Sunday had found two suspects, a 31 year-old man, and another 33 year-old, both from Agino Selo. Unsurprisingly, locals surveyed in the village were not forthcoming about what went on Friday night.

Tanguma allegedly developed his Macedonia connections while working for Brown & Root in Kumanovo. Some local media have speculated that he got into hot water for illegally selling weapons to Kosovo.

In any case, when Soufan was scouring the earth for willing employees, Tanguma’s Macedonian connection came in handy. He was able to convince 38 Kumanovo locals to sign on the dotted line and head to Iraq. The president of the U.A.E.-based company did not respond to questions last week regarding the killed Macedonian workers.

However, the fun is not over yet, not by a long shot. On Monday, the 19 workers recently returned from Iraq are expected to file suit against Tanguma for failing to pay them their complete salaries- but apparently not for imperiling their lives in the swirling sands of Iraq.

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