Banco Ambrosiano insider Robert Calvi was found hanging beneath London’s Blackfriar’s Bridge. His accomplice Michelle Sindona died from cyanide poisoning just as he was being sentenced to prison. But the Italians weren’t the only expendable CIA paymasters.
In 1980, half way around the world near Sydney, local Australian citizens reported a parked car on a lonely dirt road to police. The cops found Frank Nugan in the driver’s seat, his body slumped over the steering wheel with a 12-gauge shotgun propping up what was left of his bloody forehead. In his shirt pocket they found two business cards. The one belonging to CIA Director Bill Colby sported an itinerary for a coming meeting in Sydney.
Colby visited that city often in his less official role as legal and political adviser to Nugan Hand Bank. The other business card was from California Rep. Bob Wilson, ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. The morning that Frank Nugan died, he completed a deal to buy a $2.2 million country estate, hardly, it would seem, a motivation to suddenly commit suicide, as his death would later be “officially” ruled.
Nugan Hand Bank closed up shop that same day and behind its shuttered office windows Rear Admiral Buddy Yates joined Michael Hand and Bernie Houghton, who ran Nugan Hand’s branch in Saudi Arabia. The three spent the day feverishly shredding documents.
Stephan K. A. Hill, a Nugan Hand director who witnessed the spectacle, recalls Hand’s anxiety about making sure all evidence of wrongdoing was destroyed before Australian Secret Intelligence Organization (ASIO) officials showed up to investigate Nugan’s death and the same-day closing of the bank. Hill recalls Hand yelling at the others that if they didn’t do the job right, “your wives will be cut up and returned to you in bits and pieces”.
Hand must not have “needed to know” what his superiors obviously did know, since the ASIO, the Australian CIA equivalent, mysteriously delayed its response to the bank closure, giving Hand and his cohorts plenty of time to sanitize Nugan Hand headquarters.
Nugan Hand Bank had plenty to hide. Subsequent investigations revealed that the bank had been the main repository for Vang Pao and KMT heroin proceeds. Neil Evans headed Nugan Hand’s Chiang Mai, Thailand branch in the heart of the Golden Triangle. He later testified that he saw millions of heroin dollars pass through his bank and that Hand had told him in no uncertain terms that Nugan Hand was the CIA’s paymaster for covert operations worldwide.
Nugan Hand was receiving top-secret military intelligence on troop movements and arms shipments worldwide. Documents revealed that Ed Wilson, who headed Naval Task Force-157 where Shackley, Clines, Yates and others had worked, was Nugan Hand’s primary arms merchant. Wilson’s Egyptian Air Transport had flown the Shah of Iran’s oil revenues to the Nugan Hand branch in Switzerland. This petrodollar kitty financed huge chunks of the Vietnam War. Wilson played the most visible role in the arms for oil for drugs effort, making him the perfect fall guy.
Soon after the document shredding occurred in Sydney, Bernie Houghton, the Nugan Hand Saudi branch manager who had also been a member of TF-157, boarded a plane for Geneva. There he went straight to the offices of Ed Wilson where he left a bag. A little while later Tom Clines and Rafael Quintero showed up to retrieve the bag. At the pickup, Clines stressed to Wilson that, “we’ve got to keep Dick’s name out of this”.
“Dick” was Richard Secord, who ran the Air America opium side of things, sold arms to the Shah and was now Assistant Secretary of Defense. Documents also revealed that Clines had been depositing millions of dollars into Nugan Hand from a Houston-based company known as API Distributors. The company sold oil-drilling equipment around the world and listed the exact same partners as Nugan Hand. API shared office space in Houston with World Shipping & Chartering, which leased oil tankers and was under the control of Ed Wilson.
Nugan Hand’s list of associates reads like a “Who’s Who” of the US military establishment. As one investigator later commented, Nugan Hand had management of a high enough caliber and number to “prosecute a small war”. In addition to Shackley, Clines, Secord, Wilson, Yates, Quintero and Hand, numerous other military officers were also linked to Nugan Hand Bank.
Leroy Manor, a three-star general who would later work with Secord and Oliver North on the failed Desert One attempt to release the Iranian hostages, headed the Philippine branch of Nugan Hand. Manor, a specialist in counter-insurgency, had been Chief of Staff for the entire Pacific Command during the Vietnam conflict.
General Edwin Black, who was Commander of US Forces in Thailand during Nam’ ran the Nugan Hand office in Hawaii. General Earl Cocke was in charge of the Washington, DC branch. Robert Jansen, former CIA Station Chief in Thailand, ran the Bangkok operations. In Taiwan, Dale Holmgren ran the show. He had worked with Civil Air Transport, the airline which had joined with Paul Helliwell’s Sea Supply in flying KMT opium out of the Burmese Shan States, then ferrying weapons back to the rebels. CIA Director Colby was the director of Nugan Hand’s Panama branch.
Colby died in a suspicious canoe accident in 1992 shortly after he had done a 60 Minutes interview on the issue of American POWs in Vietnam. Colby’s close friend, Nebraska State Senator John DeCamp, says the final program was censored, leaving out Colby’s allegations that many American POWs had been forced into service as mules for the SE Asian heroin trade. DeCamp later wrote a book called The Franklin Cover-up which reveals a global pedophilia ring run by the global oligarchy.
Though guns, drugs and petrodollars were Nugan Hand’s forte, the most revealing window into the complete lack of integrity under which the bank operated opened wide in Saudi Arabia where Bernie Houghton was in charge.
In the wake of the 1973 Arab oil embargo, oil prices shot through the roof and the Saudi monarchs were awash in petrodollars. Western multinationals flocked to the Kingdom en masse smelling the kind of contracts similar to those previously doled out by the Shah of Iran. The Saudis wanted to modernize, especially their oil and petrochemical facilities. Nepotism and bribery were rampant and most contracts ended up going to the Four Horsemen, the same companies which had already benefited from the embargo.
Big Oil hired thousands of American workers and flew them into Saudi to work on their mega-projects. Bernie Houghton’s job at Nugan Hand was to solicit deposits from these American workers with the promise of extremely high interest rates. He then wired the funds to Nugan Hand in Sydney. When the bank went under in 1980, the money was nowhere to be found. Thousands of hard-working Americans, who had toiled in the 120 degree Saudi desert sun, had been ripped off by a CIA which their tax dollars were paying for.
Nugan Hand was equally courteous to its Australian government hosts. Gough Whitlam’s Labor government had initially supported the US war effort in Vietnam and was paid for his efforts by Michael Hand. But in 1972, after the massive carpet bombing which Henry Kissinger ordered on the North Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, several of Whitlam’s Cabinet Ministers lost their stomach for the war and called for a boycott on US imports to Australia.
Whitlam announced support for the establishment of a nuclear-free Indian Ocean Peace Zone, a move that threatened US bases in the region. He proposed joining the Non-Aligned Movement, a large group of nations led by India who wished to side with neither the Soviets nor the US during the Cold War. He announced Australian membership in a mineral exporting cartel modeled on OPEC that would improve collective bargaining for nations endowed with large mineral deposits.
This didn’t sit well with multinational mining interests like Rio Tinto, Anaconda, Phelps Dodge and Kennecott. When allegations arose in the Australian media that the ASIO had been infiltrated by, and was working for, the CIA, Whitlam had ASIO offices raided and searched. But it was Whitlam’s public revelations about the US National Security Administration’s Pine Gap facility that sealed his fate.
Pine Gap is a heavily fortified site in remote central Australia which collects NSA intelligence from a good chunk of the Southern Hemisphere. It captures satellite intelligence via numerous massive parabolic dishes, transmitting the information to TRW Corporation in Los Angeles, which passes it on to NSA headquarters in Ft. Meade, Maryland. Australian officials are scarcely allowed on site. US flights into Pine Gap are exempt from Australian Customs. Whitlam called for a review of the installation before its license to operate could be renewed. He set hearings for November 11th, 1975.
Suddenly, the Australian press was full of allegations alleging Whitlam’s involvement in a “loan scandal”. Nugan Hand was at the center of this and other misinformation in a campaign to bring down the Labor government. Just one day before Whitlam was forced out, CIA East Asia Chief of Station Shackley sent a memo delivering an ultimatum to his counterpart at ASIO. ASIO was to shut Whitlam up and make sure that the November 11th hearings on Pine Gap were canceled or CIA/ASIO inter-agency cooperation would cease immediately.
Governor General John Kerr arrived in Sydney from England representing the British Crown. Kerr had ties to the OSS, the Asia Foundation (a CIA funding conduit) and the CIA-front Congress for Cultural Freedom. The same day ASIO received Shackley’s terse memo, Kerr held a meeting with Australia’s Permanent Secretary of the Department of Defense regarding the CIA demarche. Whitlam, Kerr was told, refused to back down on the Pine Gap hearings, which were scheduled to commence that very day. On the morning of November 11th, Kerr, for the first time in Australian history, exercised the British Crown’s right to depose a duly-elected government at its discretion.
Kerr installed a coalition government led by Malcolm Fraser, which was immediately endorsed by Business International, a group of twenty US multinationals operating in Australia. The Australian House immediately passed a no confidence resolution, condemning the new government. Kerr then proceeded to dissolve both the House and the Senate.
The CIA had effectively overthrown the Australian government. Their new puppet Malcolm Fraser was soon off to New York to meet with David Rockefeller, even before stopping in at the White House. In 1981 CIA contract agent Joseph Flynn admitted to Australia’s National Times that he had fabricated information released implicating Whitlam’s government in the loan scandal under directions from Ed Wilson.
Governor General John Kerr saw his paycheck increase by 171%. Ted Shackley was promoted to CIA Director of Covert Operations Worldwide.
Much will never be known of Nugan Hand bank. A National Times Freedom of Information Act request to the US government yielded only 71 pages out of a 151-page document in the FBI’s possession. Much information on even those pages was blacked out and marked B-1, which means, “Deleted for national security reasons”. Australian agencies were equally uncooperative, although the country’s Narcotics Bureau revealed the fact that eccentric billionaire Daniel Ludwig had financed Michael Hand’s Australian real estate purchases, land which was used as Air America landing strips in bringing heroin into Australia. Ludwig’s other bizarre endeavor was a Brazilian Amazon industrial project promoted by singer Pat Boone.
Just days before Frank Nugan died and Nugan Hand closed in Sydney, Bernie Houghton welcomed Donald Beazley, who had been called in to help “shut the bank down”. Beazley had run London Capital Securities, which was taken over by Bay of Pigs veteran Ricardo Chavez at Tom Clines request. Beazley was later tapped by Colombian drug trafficker Albert Duque to run City National Bank, a Florida cocaine laundry that Duque had purchased with $22 million provided by Bahrainian financiers.
Houghton, Beazley and others wired away millions of dollars in Nugan Hand deposits. Where did the money go? While Sydney was shutting down, other Nugan Hand branches stayed open for business. It was a Cayman Islands branch of Nugan Hand which Air America alumni Oliver North used to finance his Nicaragua contra resupply network. Chicago researcher Sherman Skolnick says Nugan Hand morphed into Household International, a Chicago-based dealer in sub-prime credit whose lawyer at one time was Bill Colby.
Household was recently purchased by HSBC. Other HSBC entities include Saudi British Bank, British Arab Commercial Bank and Wells Fargo HSBC Trade Bank.
Michael Hand disappeared from radar and wound up in Angola, where he set up a drugs-for-guns program to finance Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA rebels. Nugan Hand had financed UNITA, along with the racist Rhodesian regime of Ian Smith, which was later toppled by ZANU revolutionaries who renamed their country Zimbabwe. ZANU leader and President Robert Mugabe remains a favorite target of the global elite owing to his refusal to hand over his country’s natural resources for multinational exploitation.
Nugan Hand was often paid for its efforts in arming southern African terrorists in poached ivory and tiger skins by the South African apartheid regime. A 1990 German intelligence report denotes a Michael Brian Hand from England on a list of individuals and corporations who represented the Iraqi government in Saddam Hussein’s weapons procurement efforts.
In 1979, just a year before Nugan Hand/Sydney closed, a former US Navy official who had worked out of the US Office of Naval Operations during the Vietnam War was busy setting up the Far East Trading Company in Bangkok, Thailand. Richard Armitage had more official duties as well. He was Special Consultant to the Department of Defense on the Southeast Asia POW issue.
Armitage served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for President George W. Bush. He served in the same capacity in both the Reagan and Bush Sr. Administrations. After the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center and Pentagon tragedies, Armitage was all over the news networks advocating a heavy military response.
In August 2006 Armitage was revealed to be the person who leaked the name of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame to journalist Robert Novak. Plame was trying to infiltrate Saudi ARAMCO to find the truth about Saudi oil reserves. But in 1979 Bangkok Armitage was laying quite low. His Far East Trading Company would fill the void created by the closure of Nugan Hand Bank, and shared office space in Chiang Mai, Thailand with the DEA.
In 1988 decorated Marine and Green Beret Colonel James Bo Gritz was commissioned by President George Bush Sr. to lead an undercover fact-finding mission into the Golden Triangle to check on unverified sightings of US POWs. He would report directly to Richard Armitage. General William Westmoreland cited Gritz as the top soldier in the entire Vietnam War effort.
Gritz infiltrated the camp of General Khun Sa- the Shan leader who inherited the old KMT opium trade in Burma from General Li Mi. In a live videotaped interview, which Gritz later distributed throughout the US, Khun Sa stated that for twelve years he had wanted to get out of the heroin business, but that the United States government would not let him out.
Gritz investigated further and found that DEA drug suppression funds sent to Thailand for the purpose of destroying poppy fields had instead been used to build a “heroin highway” from the Burmese border to the Gulf of Thailand. Gritz dug further and uncovered a familiar cadre of US officials implicated in the Golden Triangle drug trade. These included Shackley, Clines, Secord and the man Gritz was to report to – Richard Armitage.
Armitage turned over the day to day operations of Far East Trading Company to Daniel Arnold and Jerry Daniels. In 1989 Daniels died under mysterious circumstances. Gritz also uncovered evidence that Rep. Larry Smith (D-FL), Chair of the House Subcommittee on Intelligence & Narcotics Control, whose district is Dade County, was also involved in the heroin trade. Dade County had by now become a major landing strip for Colombian cocaine being sold to finance the contras in Nicaragua. Jeb Bush was then Florida Secretary of Commerce. The rabbit hole was getting deeper.
When Gritz reported his findings to the White House that there were no POWs, but that Armitage and the others were using the issue as political cover for their involvement in the drug trade. Gritz got no response. Instead, he and his crew were kicked out of the US and had their passports revoked. When Gritz was finally allowed to return, he began to travel the country speaking about the ordeal. On one occasion in Minneapolis, the group who sponsored his appearance, Veterans for Peace, reported surveillance and threatening phone calls prior to Gritz’ appearance. After the event, their offices were ransacked.
Billionaire H. Ross Perot, relying on intelligence from his own network of spooks came to the same conclusions as Gritz. According to Time magazine, Perot filed a complaint with the Bush Administration naming Armitage, Colin Powell and others as players in the Southeast Asian drug trade. The only response Perot got was from Bush Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, who had earlier served as Reagan Administration National Security Council Chairman and Defense Secretary.
Carlucci, who currently heads the Carlyle Group which served as financial consultant to the Saudi bin Laden family until November 2001, was also the CIA point man for the assassination of Congo’s first Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba in 1961. Carlucci ordered Perot, “Keep your mouth shut!”
Dean Henderson is the author of five books:Big Oil & Their Bankers in the Persian Gulf: Four Horsemen, Eight Families & Their Global Intelligence, Narcotics & Terror Network, The Grateful Unrich: Revolution in 50 Countries, Das Kartell der Federal Reserve, Stickin’ it to the Matrix & The Federal Reserve Cartel. You can subscribe free to his weekly Left Hook column @www.hendersonlefthook.wordpress.com