European edition, Tuesday, May 1, 2007

RAF MILDENHALL, England — The Defense Commissary Agency has canceled a contract with the company whose truck was used by eight Afghans to sneak onto RAF Lakenheath, England, in March.

After the discovery of the stowaways at the Lakenheath commissary on March 8, DECA stopped using the Slovakian company Robin Freight on March 20. Robin Freight was subcontracted by a German company, Lösch Spedition, which was contracted for DECA through U.S. European Command, DECA spokeswoman Geraldine Young said last week in an e-mail.

The Lösch Spedition contract was terminated on April 14, according to Young, and an interim carrier was used between March 20 and April 15 for deliveries to England. A new contractor has been used since then.

Robin Freight delivered only to bases in England, Young said.

Lakenheath representatives have refused to talk about base protocol for searching trucks or any policy that might have changed as a result of the stowaways. Senior Airman Eric Donner, a Lakenheath spokesman, said last week in an e-mail that “at the time of the incident, all security procedures were observed and at no time were base security measures compromised.”

Air Force officials and representatives with the British Ministry of Defence have remained tight-lipped regarding the incident and the current whereabouts of the Afghans.

Officials with Robin Freight said in April that the truck driver involved picked up his DECA load at a distribution site in Germersheim, Germany, and drove to Calais, France, to cross the English Channel. At some point while the driver waited to board the ferry, the Afghans got into the trailer of the soft-sided truck “from the top,” said Peter Manas, a managing clerk for Robin Freight in Slovakia.

Manas said the driver involved, Volek Ladislav, does not speak English.

“The seal was OK, everything was OK,” Manas said of the truck’s outward appearance, adding that the driver had no suspicions about the delivery. “My driver does not know there are people in his vehicle.”

The men must have had help getting into the truck, Manas said, because the straps on the side of the truck had been re-attached by someone on the outside after the Afghans got in.

Soft-sided trucks are used for nonperishable deliveries from the Germersheim distribution center to commissaries in Germany and the Benelux, Young said in an e-mail. Since the incident, soft-sided trucks are no longer used for deliveries to England, she said.

But on Monday afternoon, Kevin Robinson, a DECA spokesman in the States, said in an e-mail that the contract was terminated because the company had a requirement to provide hard-body trailers.

This is not the first time that Lakenheath has suffered a security breach in relation to DECA. In September 2001, Lakenheath security forces discovered six Iraqi men in a locked compartment under a truck that had originated in Germany and was headed for the commissary, Young said.

Ben Murray contributed to this report.

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