EXCLUSIVE: Revealed…the tangled espionage web behind a dolphin yarn


Slog investigation reveals web of covert US disinformation stretching from Albania to Singapore

At the beginning of last week, US news site TopNews.com ran an odd sort of ‘curio corner’ story. It claimed that the Russian Defence Ministry ‘wants to acquire five bottlenose dolphins, two females and three males, aged between three and five years, ranging in body length from 2.3 meters to 2.7 meters’. The Putin government, it seemed, had advertised the fact on the Zakupki.gov.ru website earlier that week.

The dolphins were to be ‘transported to Sebastopol…..the base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, located on the Crimea peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014’.

This was the first I’d seen of the story, but an article describing this in full appeared in The Moscow Times the day before. It seemed like the stuff to set hares running .And indeed it did: by the end of the week, Sky News, the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, CNN and a plethora of other sites all ran with the story.

There’s just one problem with it: it’s bollocks. And it’s pretty clear that none of the above media checked out the story at source.

I’ve been all over the Zakupki site (French translation, including search engine in Russian using ‘Delphini’ in Russian cyrillic) and can’t find any reference to Dolphin requirements, bottle-nosed or otherwise. Also, it strikes me as unlikely bordering on absurd to suggest that, if Russia was experimenting with dolphins as weapons, they’d place an ad on a popular website advertising for them. Even as ‘black’ information, it’s too daft to be taken seriously. Although to be fair, it’s quite possible that it had been there, but was then hastily taken down.

But the story itself does seem to have started spreading from this apparently reputable US-based publication – strapline ‘Topnews.com, Your reliable source’. However, all is not what it seems. For the company (which has the shortest entry I’ve ever found at Wikipedia) is a subsidiary of Top Media, which also owns Top Channel and DigitAlb. But from there, on it gets far more  complicated.

Top Media is a $100 shelf company founded 27 years ago and registered in Singapore. It also operates actively in South Korea. It is in turn owned by Singapore Network Information Centre (SGNIC) – which is odd, because that’s the NGO Singaporean institution responsible for the regulation of domain names. SIGNIC is a wholly owned subsidiary of IDA – and this is clearly part of the dictatorial neoliberal Government.

The IDA Board is chaired by Mr CHAN Yeng Kit, the Permanent Secretary at the Singapore Ministry of Defence.

The stated aim of the SMoD is “the continuing security of the Singapore State”. In other words, Chan Yeng Kit is a top Spook. His specific skills are recorded as ‘military spy planes and satellite surveillance technology’.

Three months ago on 8th December, SMoD and the US Defence Department signed the enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (eDCA) to ‘increase cooperation on cyber defence, biosecurity and public communications’. The agreement was signed by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen and his US counterpart, Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter, at the Pentagon in Washington D.C. The two signatories added that (my italics) they were:

‘….pleased with not only the strong military-to-military cooperation between the Singapore Armed Forces and the US Armed Forces, but also how the interoperability built up between the militaries through joint exercises had allowed both countries to work well together in operations such as the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.’

Ng Eng Hen is Chan Yeng Kit’s political boss in the One-Party State of Singapore.

While in Washington, Ng Eng Hen held meetings with Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Senator John McCain.

The Slog is among several blogsites who have fingered McCain as a constant and duplicitous presence in Iraq and Syria.

But the complexity doesn’t end there. The Channel Top News broadcasts on in the US is headquartered in…Tirana, Albania. Apart from the US, it transmits in Kosovo and the EU. It was founded by Dritan Hoxha, a prominent Albanian businessman with powerful contacts. After clashing with Democratic Party Prime Minister Sali Berisha, Hoxha was killed in a car accident in 2008. And while the Board of Digitalb still contains five members of his family, it’s notable that the Albanian Government now has a 20% golden shareholding.


Albania has been described as “the world’s most pro-US Muslim State”. The American defence industry (most sponsored Congressman, John McCain) has a long record of supplying arms, and giving support, to Albania since the collapse of the USSR.

The Albanian Parliament is situated on George W. Bush Street, and in its main international airport, you will find the Bar Kafe George W. Bush.  Sali Berisha, called Bush “the greatest and most distinguished guest we have ever had in all times.” Berisha’s rival, Socialist Party leader and Tirana Mayor Edi Rama, said, “Albania is for sure the most pro-American country in Europe, maybe even in the world.”

Just over a week ago on 3rd March 2016, LSI, the junior party in Albania’s Socialist-led government, hired US firm Global Security and Innovative Strategies (GSIS).

GSIS is a Washington-based consulting firm whose principals include the former head of the US Secret Service Marc Sullivan, and the former Deputy Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection, David Aguilar.
It’s quite a trail, is it not?
There is not a scintilla of conspiracy theory supposition in this piece. Starting with an odd piece of disinformation – in which the Moscow Times seems curiously complicit – the links run unbroken from Sebastopol, Singapore, Iraq, Syria and Albania with two near ever-present features: American security/defence staff, and John McCain.
And all from a seemingly benign news site running a silly-season story about dolphins.
My point here is not to position the US as a sort of Sovereign Goldman Sachs – although the cap does fit rather well. Rather, it is to remind every citizen of just how difficult it is in the 21st century to establish the provenance of any article that appears in the media at any time.
I can only speculate as to the games being played by the Smiley’s People involved in this bizarre exchange of baffling garbage. It’s possible that ‘dolphins’ is a code dropped in to alert, warn off or fire a warning shot. But one would think they’d at least take the trouble to actually put the ad on Zakupki. However, that would have looked even odder; because you see, Zakupki is a State-sponsored site promoting the exchange of useful b2b information between SMEs in Russia. ‘Wanted: five dolphins’ would’ve stood out like the proverbial canine male undercarriage.
Barmy as it might seem, the story was presumably designed to scare the West: whether it was being done by the CIA, or Moscow (or both) is anyone’s guess. The point is a much simpler one: our media set swallowed the story whole, merely parrotting what they’d heard second-hand. It’s sloppy and lazy, but it is what passes for journalism in the 21st century.