|Arab Families Linked to Utah, Developer Khashoggi had curious ties to bin Laden clan|
Sunday, September 23, 2001
BY GREG BURTON
THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
MURRAY -- A small brick home with an American flag flying from the front porch is the mailing address of Mohamed Khashoggi, multimillionaire son of Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, once-dubbed the "richest man in the world."
The obscure Murray address, listed in state voter registration records, is an example of the surprising reach of Middle Eastern politics that links such distant places as Saudi Arabia, New York and Afghanistan with Utah.
Adnan Khashoggi, the playboy venture capitalist and arms dealer who built Utah's Triad Center, is the son of Mohammed Khashoggi, who was the family physician of Muhammad bin Laden, father of Osama bid Laden, the primary suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The bin Laden family owns the largest construction company in the Middle East. A young Adnan Khashoggi attended college in Alexandria, Egypt, with some bin Laden children. He made his first deal as a middleman delivering American Kenworth trucks to the bin Laden family, earning a $25,000 commission, according to Houston journalist Pete Brewton's book, The Mafia, CIA & George Bush.
The Murray address is one of the last of Adnan Khashoggi's fingerprints in Utah, a final connection to the man and the family Utah leaders embraced as the seeming savior of Salt Lake City's downtown, but, in the end, discovered they never really knew him.
The bin Ladens are a large, far-flung family, as are the Khashoggis, making it impossible to assume that Osama bin Laden shared a militant religious philosophy with Khashoggi -- or even with other members of his own family, says Thomas D. Mullins, executive director of the Contemporary Arab Studies Program at Harvard University.
"What people have to do is make a clear distinction between Osama and the rest of his family," Mullins says. "They are perfectly respectable, decent people. Like any family, every now and then you come across a bad apple in the crate."
While Osama bin Laden was cultivating Islamic militants, Adnan Khashoggi was brokering deals for Iran and Saudi Arabia to buy F-5 fighters, Hawk missiles and C-130 aircraft -- mostly with the blessing and sometimes the financing of the CIA.
With Khashoggi's help, "we have sent arms to the Middle East and billions of dollars in arms to Israel and Egypt," Mullins says. "[The Sept. 11 attacks] are not a comeuppance, they are a result." And now, "in demonizing a particular person, we've made him bigger than he is and made it impossible for us to deal with him."
Even as he broke ground at the Salt Lake City Triad Center in 1985, Khashoggi was secretly mediating arms sales to Iran, sending $25 million to a Swiss bank account controlled by Lt. Col. Oliver North. The weaponry cost much less, allegedly leaving a cut for Khashoggi and plenty more for North to covertly deliver to Contra rebels fighting in Nicaragua.
That same year, Khashoggi wrote a memo to President Ronald Reagan's national security adviser urging the United States to support rightists in Iran, according to an Associated Press report. The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini would die soon, he wrote, and the rightists would help fight the extremists in Iran who give "financial support to the various terrorist groups."
David Tubbs, the FBI's former agent in charge for Utah, was assigned to investigate the CIA's involvement in the Iran-Contra Affair and interviewed Khashoggi in Washington, D.C.
"Everybody knew who he was," Tubbs says. "The interview was pretty straightforward. He had his job to do. He was a middleman; that's what he did for a living. He's probably the primary example of a capitalist."
This was before bankruptcy at Triad and a fraud indictment that snared Khashoggi, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda for concealing the purchase of four Manhattan buildings. Ferdinand Marcos died before trial and a jury eventually acquitted Khashoggi and Imelda Marcos.
In another crossing of public figures then and now, the original charges against Khashoggi were brought by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani, now mayor of New York City.
"It is Rudolph Giuliani who started this whole business," Khashoggi said at the time. "He is dying to be mayor of New York and for this he has to prove how active he is, how tough, a real fighter for justice."
Today, Khashoggi's billions have most likely dwindled to millions or less, Mullins says. Salt Lake's would-be savior stays mostly in Europe and New York. In his mid-60s, he is a mere shadow of the player who vaulted to prominence in the 1970s, flaunting a stable of jet planes, a $70 million, frigate-sized yacht and personal connections to Presidents Reagan and Richard Nixon.
"[Osama] bin Laden is a rock-hard fundamentalist, a complete antithesis of Khashoggi, the millionaire playboy who never had a shortage of drink or women," Mullins says. "Khashoggi would be a target of bin Laden, if anything."
According to Utah records, Khashoggi's son Mohamed has registered to vote in Utah for the past three years using the Murray address, something that apparently surprised the woman who answers the telephone at the home.
"There's nothing here for any of the Khashoggis," said the woman, who refused to give her name. "All I do is pick up the phone calls for them and relay them."