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FTR #392 Desert Flowers: the Bushes of Arabia

MP3 One Seg­ment

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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