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FTR #392 Desert Flowers: the Bushes of Arabia

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Highlighting the structural economic connections between the Bush family and the Saudi elite, this broadcast develops some of the business and para-political relationships that W’s relatives have with the milieu implicated in the attacks of 9/11. These structural economic relationships enable and, to a certain extent, precipitate the conspiratorial processes of which the events of 9/11 are a part.

1. Discussion begins with a complex and highly questionable business deal that may damage the reputation of Marvin Bush, the President’s younger brother. “Early in 1996, a Mexican investment group with ties to the government received several preliminary bids, some worth more than $250 million, to acquire the equity of Fresh Del Monte Produce, the global grower of bananas, pineapples and other fruit and vegetables. But just as the investors-who had taken control after their original chairman had become a fugitive-were about to close a deal, the group’s board abruptly sold Del Monte to a little-known company run by Palestinians for a much lower price. The terms were so unfavorable, a number of minority investors thought at the time, that they tried, unsuccessfully, to block the sale.” (“Lawsuit Says Del Monte Sale Was Rigged” by Anthony De Palma and Diana B. Henriques; The New York Times; 12/19/2002; p. C1.)

2. In addition to Khalid Bin Mahfouz (a member of a powerful Saudi family, business associate of the Bush family and defendant in a lawsuit filed by survivors of the 9/11 attacks) the story involves a Chilean-based Palestinian, Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh and his Palestinian company the IAT group. (As will be seen later, Bin Mahfouz is not implicated in the alleged wrongdoing.) “A lawsuit filed in a Miami court yesterday by seven private and corporate minority investors includes allegations that may shed light on why Del Monte was sold for so much less than it seemed to be worth. The suit accuses Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh and his Palestinian company, a powerful Mexican politician who was chairman of the investment group and an important member of the country’s ruling party, to rig the sale in their favor. The lawsuit is based in part on the affidavit of an executive who worked closely with Mr. Bours and who has evidence of a curious payment of $321,000 that ended up in Mr. Bours’s bank account after the sale was completed. The suit contends that the amount represents just a portion of a payoff that Mr. Bours received to help the Abu-Ghazalehs buy Del Monte at bargain rates . . .” (Idem.)

3. Incorporated in the Cayman Islands, Fresh Del Monte Produce has Marvin Bush on its board of directors, although he has not been mentioned in the lawsuit. “Still, the allegations of bribery and fraud may cause trouble for Fresh Del Monte Produce, which is incorporated in the Cayman Islands and listed on the New York Stock Exchange. . . .And while there is no evidence against him, it could also prove awkward for Marvin P. Bush, a younger brother of the president, who has been on Del Monte’s board since 1998. Marvin Bush is not mentioned in the suit, and he had no connection to the company at the time of the 1996 sale. He did not return several phone calls seeking comment.” (Ibid.; p. C6.)

4. The questionable deal involved an associate of former Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari, himself an associate of a corrupt Latino business milieu intimately involved in George W’s political and business operations in Texas. (For more about “Los Amigos de Bush,” see FTR#281.) “Most of all, the suit opens a new chapter in the bizarre recent history of Del Monte, dating to even before its acquisition in 1992 by Carlos Cabal Peniche, the fugitive chairman. At that time, associates say, Mr. Cabal turned to a spiritual advisor to come up with a unique bid that invoked the Mayan spirits of his home state Tabasco, in southern Mexico. . . .The purchase fit right into the plans of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who was busy trying to modernize Mexico’s old economy and reform its agricultural sector. Buying Del Monte was seen as a way to give Mexican produce instant global recognition. The government provided special financing to a group of 150 Mexican investors led by Mr. Cabal, a shrimp exporter who had already purchased two Mexican banks with government support . . .” (Idem.)

5. Next, the discussion highlights the 1989 purchase of the Del Monte division by the company of another Middle Eastern financier, as well as Mr. Cabal’s indictment for bank fraud. “The fresh produce division was purchased in 1989 by Polly Peck International, a conglomerate run by Asil Nadir, a financier. But allegations of fraud and financial irregularities caused Polly Peck to collapse, and Del Monte produce was put up for sale again in 1992. But in 1994, Mr. Cabal, bleeding cash, was charged with bank fraud. When he fled Mexico, the government seized the company.” (Idem.)

6. After discussing other bids for the company, the program spotlights the role of the Abu-Ghazaleh family and their IAT firm in the Del Monte imbroglio. “But the lawsuit claims that their bids became moot as soon as the IAT Group entered the picture. IAT, the third-largest fruit exporter in Chile, was controlled by the Abu-Ghazaleh family, Palestinians from Jerusalem with business interests in the Middle East. Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh, the current chairman of Fresh Del Monte Produce, had planted the family’s flag in Chile in the 1980’s, taking advantage of Chile’s seasonal counterbalance to North America.” (Idem.)

7. Although not implicated in wrongdoing in this case, the aforementioned Khalid bin Mahfouz was heavily involved with Mr. Cabal’s business ventures. “Del Monte also faces a threatened suit by Eastbrook Caribe, an offshore investment company owned by Sheik Khalid bin Mahfouz, a Saudi banker who financed many of Mr. Cabal’s acquisitions in the late 1980’s . . .” (Idem.)

8. The profound role in the U.S. economy of re-invested Saudi petrodollars is underscored by the Bush family’s efforts on behalf of the Alireza family. Prominent investors in Florida real estate, they have recently supplemented their long-standing development projects in Orlando (Florida), adjacent to Disney World. As we shall see, Abdullah Alireza is also a director of DMI, one of the Saudi capital investments in the Al Shamal Bank, a financial vehicle for Osama Bin Laden. “A $100 million convention center and hotel project proposed by a prominent Saudi family has sunk under the weight of tenuous allegations of ties to possible funding for terrorist organizations, a sign of the tense times Saudi business interests face in the U.S.” (“Saudi Family’s Project Unravels In Florida Over Terrorist Fears” by Evan Perez and Christina Binkley; The Wall Street Journal; 12/11/2002; p. C9.)

9. Xentury City-the Alireza family company-became the focal point of vehement protest because of the DMI/Al Shamal/Bin Laden connection. “Osceola County, near Orlando, was close to making a deal with Xentury City Development Co. to build a 500,000-square-foot convention center and 1,000-room hotel, one of the largest such developments in the works since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. However, local fears that the wealthy Alireza family, backers of the project, may somehow have even indirect ties to Osama bin Laden stirred up a furor in this fast-growing region. The uproar was fueled by a hotel labor union that opposed Xentury City. Local officials voted late Monday to abandon talks with Xentury City and turn to another developer, Landmark Organization Inc., of Austin Texas.” (Idem.)

10. “The Alireza family has been developing real estate near Disney World, in the Orlando area, for 20 years, even donating land to build a major expressway to ease access to the theme park. But that track record wasn’t enough to surmount the terrorism fears raised by a hotel union’s disclosure that Abdullah Alireza, the family patriarch was a director in a Saudi bank that, through a subsidiary, held an interest in a Sudanese bank that the U.S. government says was used by Osama bin Laden. . .” (Idem.)

11. “Xentury’s parent company Xenel Corp., of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is a holding company for some of the businesses of the Alireza family, which has interests ranging from petroleum and telecommunications to shipping and real estate. The Alirezas’ experience in Florida could portend the tougher times ahead for Middle Eastern business interests in the U.S. as the Sept. 11 backlash continues to reverberate.” (Idem.)

12. Further detailing the relationship between the Alireza business interests, the DMI and the Al Shamal Bank, the program continues: “In the case of Xentury City project, the furor arose with revelations that Abdullah Alireza is a director in Dar Al-Maal Al Islami Trust, or DMI Trust, of Saudi Arabia, which through a subsidiary held an interest in Al Shamal Bank of Sudan. U.S. State department officials have alleged Osama bin Laden has used the Sudanese bank to funnel funds to terrorist causes. Families of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks have put the DMI Trust on their list of defendants in a trillion-dollar lawsuit seeking damages from those alleged to have helped the terrorists. A lawyer for the victims’ families says he wants to depose Mr. Alireza as part of discovery in this lawsuit, though he isn’t a defendant. In a letter to county commissioners, the lawyers suggested that should the lawsuits succeed, he would go after any assets of any defendants. That raised fears among county officials that they could end up sharing liability should any terror allegations be proved . . .” (Idem.)

13. Governor Jeb Bush and the White House interceded on behalf of the Alireza family and Xentury City. It is worth noting that the time frame in which the message from the White House and Jeb Bush was delivered to the county commissioners is the same time frame in which the sequence of events leading up to Paul O’Neill’s resignation took place. “At a packed meeting late Monday in Kissimme, commissioners listened to impassioned pleas from opponents, replete with patriotic references to Septmeber11. and the victims of the terrorist attack. Paul Owen, the county commission chairman, says he received a call in recent days from the office of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush with a message from the governor and the White House asking commission members to dismiss geopolitical concerns from the their debate. [Emphasis added.] But the September 11 issue couldn’t be ignored.” (Idem.)

14. Tying the DMI and Al Shamal bank to the controversy surrounding a Saudi Princess’s channeling of funds to a man connected to the September 11 hijackers, a recent article by the remarkable Lucy Komisar further delineated the links of the Saudi elite to the Al Qaeda milieu. “. . . The links between [Saudi ambassador’s wife Haifa] bin Faisal’s powerful Saudi family and the financing of terrorism are even more extensive, however. The trails of both Omar al-Bayoumi, the man who aided the hijackers, and that of the financial network of bint Faisal’s family each led to Osama bin Laden. According to a 1996 U.S. State Department report, al-Shamal Islamic Bank in Khartoum (Sudan) was capitalized by bin Laden and wealthy members of Sudan’s National Islamic Front. Bin Laden invested millions in the bank. Mohammed al-Faisal, bin Faisal’s brother, is an investor and board member at Al Shamal.” (“Funding Terror: Investigating the Role of Saudi Banks” by Lucy Komisar; In These Times; 12/20/2002; p. 2 of 3.)

15. “Al Shamal appears to have been a bin Laden bank of choice. Al-Qaeda members had accounts in Al Shamal, according to testimony during U.S. trials surrounding the 1998 attacks on American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. One Al-Qaeda collaborator, Essam al-Ridi, recounted how bin Laden transferred $230 million from Al-Shamal to a bank in Arizona to buy a plane to fly Stinger missiles from Pakistan to Sudan.” (Idem.)

16. “One of the bank’s three founding members and major shareholders is Saleh Abdullah Kamel. A major financial and media power in the Arab world, he is, in addition, the chairman of the Dallah al-Baraka (DBG). Al-Bayoumi was assistant to the Director of Finance for Dallah Avco, a DBG company that worked with the Saudi aviation authority. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the United States believed Dallah al-Baraka Bank, another DBG company, was also used by al-Qaeda.” (Idem.)

17. The aforementioned Bush business associate Khalid bin Mahfouz is connected to Mohammad Al-Faisal and the milieu described here. “Mohammed Al-Faisal is president of Dar al-Mal-Islami (DMI), the House of Finance of Islam. The Geneva-based bank is charged with distributing subsidies of the royal family in the Muslim world. DMI, founded in 1981 and with assets of an estimated $3.5 billion, also has connections to the bin Laden family. Its 12-member board of directors includes Hayda Mohamed bin Laden, Osama bin Laden’s half-brother and Khalid bin Mahfouz, whose sister Kaleda is one of Osama bin Laden’s wives. (bin Mahfouz was indicted by the United States in the notorious BCCI banking scandal, which defrauded depositors of billions, and in 1995 paid a $225-million fine.)” (Idem.)

18. In addition, the DMI/Al-Shamal milieu is connected to the milieu of Al Taqwa. “DMI and Al-Shamal are not the only banks that link al-Faisal to Osama bin Laden. Al-Faisal’s DMI is a major shareholder of Al Taqwa, the bank registered in the Bahamas and based in Switzerland that was closed down last November after Washington blacklisted it as a centerpiece of bin Laden’s financial network. The United States has not, however, blacklisted Al-Shamal.” (Ibid.; pp. 2-3.)

19. A fascinating development concerns a recent statement by Prince Naif, the Saudi interior minister recently named as a defendant in a trillion-dollar lawsuit by survivors of victims of the 9/11 attacks. Naif claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood was trying to destabilize Saudi Arabia and that members of the organization had recently been deported. Joining theocratic Islamic totalitarianism with the corporatist economic philosophy of Mussolini, the Brotherhood was allied with the Axis powers in World War II and is the parent organization of Al Taqwa, and closely connected to bin Laden. The Muslim Brotherhood has been heavily subsidized by Saudi Arabia in the past. “Saudi Arabia has deported several members of the Muslim Brotherhood which is trying to destabilize the Kingdom, Interior Minister Prince Naif said in an interview published yesterday. Prince Naif told Arab Times that the group has been working to undermine the Saudi leadership. ‘They have politicized Islam to serve their motives and many of them exploited Islam as a cover to destabilize and disintegrate the nation,’ he told the Kuwait-based daily. ‘Saudi Arabia recently deported some movement members to their countries after they tried to harm the Kingdom, both secretly and openly,’ Prince Naif said.” (” ‘Brotherhood is trying to destabilize’ Saudi Arabia”; Arab News; 12/19/2002.)

20. The possibility that the Saudis may be engaging in “modified limited hangout” in order to deflect attention from their role in the 9/11 attacks is not one to be too readily dismissed. “It was the second time in several weeks that Prince Naif has lashed out against the Muslim Brotherhood, which has branches across the Islamic world and advocates the creation of an Islamic state through peaceful means. He said last month: ‘All out problems come from the Muslim Brotherhood. We have given too much support to this group . . . The Muslim Brotherhood has destroyed the Arab world.'” (Idem.)

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