History Security

Redfellas, Piranya and Cali Cartel

A couple of weeks ago, on 17 December,2016, V.V.Putin averse blog www.putinism.wordpress.com(in Russian) published an interesting story titled “Our First Ton of Cocaine”. The post in question recounts, in some detail, a rather well known story about Miami based Ukrainian mobster Leonid Feinberg aka Ludwig Feinberg aka Tarzan and his attempt to, amongst other things, sell Project 641(Foxtrot) diesel-electric submarine to the infamous Cali Cartel back in 1995. It was apparently to be used to ship up to 40 tons of pure cocaine at a time, out of Latin America to more profitable destinations where the white powder was in big demand.

Ignoring most of the allegations made in the article and their political ramifications, something else caught our attention. The post alleges that Tarzan acquired help for his mission of one Mikhail Magarshak aka Misha-Admiral, a Soviet Navy captain with some 30 years of experience in the navy. In 1995 they visited Kronstadt, St.Peterburg’s main sea port, where 123rd Submarine Brigade is based to this day and Misha-Admiral apparently offered Project 865 Piranya (NATO:Losos) midget submarine for sale. He suggested it ought to be stripped of its military equipment, converted into civilian sub and formally issued as an oceanographic research vessel. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, Piranha was deemed too expensive and Project 641 was to be acquired instead.


Proekt (Project) 865 Piranya (NATO:Losos) cutaway, via excellent Covert Shores website and an even better book Covert Shores: The Story of Naval Special Forces Missions and Minisubs

To give it some credence, the article in question references a couple of BBC’s Russia language reports from 2003 and 2012 respectively, both of which, in part, corroborate some of the claims made in the post.

It is hard to fathom that such modern and highly sensitive piece of technology designed to deliver elite naval spetsnaz frogmen could have been sold to organised criminals from Colombia. Thus, this bit of information should be taken with a pinch of salt, but in mid-90s Russia, it would have come as hardly surprising.

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