By Dr George Venturini
On 6 February 2015 Prince Charles started an official tour of Gulf countries including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, in addition to Jordan. On 12 February the Prince visited Qatar and the U.A.E., where he meets the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the U.A.E. Armed Forces, his highness General Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed al-Nahayyan.
On 12 February 2015 Prince Charles flew to Saudi Arabia for a two-day staying. This was Charles’ twelfth visit. He met senior members of the Saudi Royal Family.
The return to the region, just one year after Charles’s last tour, displays the significance the U.K. government places on its alliance with key partners in the area. Prince Charles previous visit to Saudi Arabia only 11 months before was explicitly requested by the U.K. government to help ‘enhance military links’. These associations strengthen the long-standing relationship which exists among the Royal Family and the ‘ruling families’ in the Gulf.
The Prince’s twelfth official visit to Saudi Arabia is a remarkable seal of legitimacy not only to one of the most repressive regimes in the world, but also one which is notorious for exporting the religious extremism that Charles finds so “frightening” – as he anxiously declared.
Prince Charles’ ‘connection’ with Saudi Arabians of weight and consequence goes back to the time when he entered the Royal Air Force College Cranwell, a thriving R.A.F. Station in the heart of Lincolnshire: March 1971. Cranwell selects and trains officers and airmen aircrew to become the leaders of tomorrow, as well as supporting and directing R.A.F. recruiting and initial training.
Prince Bandar had arrived at Cranwell in 1967.
The Princes’ friendship may be traced back to their experiences there.
Bandar, the son of Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, was born in 1949. By his own account, and according to ‘western’ think-tanks, his actual date of birth is later. He had reportedly overstated his age in order to enter the Royal Saudi Air Force while still a teenager.
In his The Prince: The secret story of the world’s most intriguing Royal, Prince Bandar bin Sultan (New York 2006), William Simpson describes Bandar’s two-and-a-half-year immersion at Cranwell as a formative period in his life, during which time he became a dedicated Anglophile. The two princes attended at different times, but shared an instructor, Sir Richard Johns, and their common experience at Cranwell as pilots was a critical aspect of their later close relationship. Two other members of the Faisal clan were classmates of Bandar at Cranwell: a brother of Princess Haifa, whom Bandar eventually married; and Prince Muqrin bin Abdulazziz al Saud, head of Saudi Intelligence from 2005 to 2012. On the death of Abdullah and the accession of King Salman, Muqrin became Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister. He was replaced in April 2015 by Prince Muhammad bin Nayef as Crown Prince.
On leaving Cranwell Bandar joined the Royal Saudi Air Force, and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. His diplomatic career began in 1978 when he was appointed the king’s personal envoy.
In 1982 King Fahd made him the military attaché at the Saudi Embassy, a move which could have ended his diplomatic career. However, in 1983, Fahd appointed Bandar as Saudi Ambassador to the United States.
During his tenure as the king’s personal envoy in Washington, D.C. and later as ambassador, he dealt with five U.S. presidents, ten secretaries of state, eleven national security advisers, sixteen sessions of Congress, and the media. He had extensive influence in the United States. At the pinnacle of his career, he served both “as the King’s exclusive messenger and the White House’s errand boy.” For over three decades he was the face of the Saudi Arabia lobby. The U.S. is widely seen as one of Saudi Arabia’s most essential allies, but different members of the Saudi Royal Family feel different mixtures of trust and suspicion of the United States. Therefore, Prince Bandar’s intimate relationships with U.S. leaders and policy-makers were considered to be both the source of his power base in the kingdom, as well as the cause of suspicions within the Royal Family that he is too close to U.S. political figures.
In June 2005 Bandar submitted his resignation as ambassador to the United States for “personal reasons”. Bandar returned to Saudi Arabia weeks prior to the death of King Fahd, upon which Bandar’s father, Sultan bin Abdulaziz, became the nation’s Crown Prince. It was rumoured that Bandar’s return was timed in order to secure a position in the new government.
Prince Bandar was succeeded as ambassador by his cousin, Prince Turki Al Faisal. Nevertheless, even after leaving the ambassadorship, Bandar continued to maintain strong relationships within the Bush Administration and to meet with high-ranking White House staff even after Prince Turki took over the post; Turki gave up the ambassador’s job after only 18 months.
In October 2005 King Abdullah appointed Bandar as Secretary General of the newly set up Saudi National Security Council.
Seymour Hersh reported in 2007 in the New Yorker that, as Saudi Arabia’s national security adviser, Bandar continued to meet privately with both President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. At that time Hersh described Bandar as a key architect of the Bush Administration policy in Iraq and the Middle East. And no irony!
On 15 April 2014 Prince Bandar was removed from his position “at his own request” according to the announcement in the Saudi state media. He remained as Secretary General of the National Security Council until it was abolished in January 2015.
In London Bandar became a close personal friend of Prime Minister Thatcher, with whom he carried to fruition ‘The dove of peace’ deal.
And the sums available from the deal were mind-boggling.
In 1992, with ‘proceeds’ from that deal, Bandar bought Glympton Park, a country house which that was built for the Wheate family in the eighteenth century. At the same time the River Glyme was dammed to form the lake in the park. The house was remodelled in 1846.
In time, Police calculated that more than 6 billion pounds may have been distributed in corrupt commissions, via an array of agents and middlemen. Newly obtained documents and investigations revealed details of where the money may have gone.
According to U.S. sources, millions went to Bandar. Up to 15 million pounds at a time is alleged to have been paid into his dollar account at Riggs Bank in Washington, D.C.
The cash for Bandar, described as for “marketing services”, was allegedly drawn from Bank of England accounts containing Saudi Arabia’s money, jointly controlled by Defence Export Services Organisation and B.A.E.
Within days of the deal being announced, an Arab-language magazine reached the desk of Charles David Powell, a key foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Thatcher during the 1980s. In detail, it accused Bandar and others of taking huge commissions. And Whitehall’s advice? Not to attempt any denial: “We suggest Ministry of Defence should simply refuse all comment.”
More millions were paid by B.A.E. into Wafic Said-linked accounts in Switzerland. Bandar’s father, Prince Sultan, was described by a British ambassador as having “a corrupt interest in all contracts”.
A relatively minor, although colourful, aspect of this torrent of cash was a 60 million pounds ‘slush fund’ maintained by B.A.E. to keep Prince Turki bin Nasser sweet on his visits to ‘the West’. The arms firm provided him with extravagant holidays, fleets of classic cars, planeloads of shopping, and blond girlfriends.
B.A.E. claimed these treats were “paid for under the contractual arrangements”. But in fact bills went to the Al-Yamamah contract at the Ministry of Defence under the misleading entry: support services. The cash for all these payoffs came, simply enough, from overcharging.
Accidentally released U.K. documents reveal that the basic price of the planes was inflated by 32 per cent, to allow for an initial 600 million pounds in commissions.
That was only the start. Many U.K. sub-contractors – for jet engines, weapons and electronics – have revealed that they too were required to pay commissions.
Spare parts, maintenance, construction of local bases – every aspect of Al-Yamamah is alleged to have involved corruption.
Former U.K. Defence Secretary Ian Gilmour in the Heath government and Lord Privy Seal in the Thatcher government told the B.B.C. Two programme Newsnight: “If you are paying bribes to high-up people in the government, the fact that it’s illegal in Saudi law doesn’t mean much.”
Confronted with allegations of royal corruption in 2001, Prince Bandar said: “If you tell me that building this whole country … out of US$400 billion, that we misused, or got, US$50 billion, I’ll tell you, ‘Yes. So what ?’.” And he added: “We did not invent corruption […] This has happened since Adam and Eve. It’s human nature.”
Yet, the U.K. government still falls over itself to conceal Saudi behaviour. Michael Heseltine, Defence Secretary in the Thatcher government, was the first of a chorus, claiming: “The government had no knowledge and no dealings involving commission arrangements.” In fact, the U.K. government was heavily involved.
As to the relationship between Charles and Bandar, Simpson writes: “While Bandar has enjoyed firm friendship with many world leaders, he holds Baroness Margaret Thatcher in particularly high esteem. Equally, his friendship with Prince Charles is also very close, and Charles extended a personal invitation to Bandar to his wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles in April 2005. Charles invited only eight foreign royals, and among them were Prince Turki and his wife. The Princes’ friendship can be traced back to their experiences of Cranwell and Charles’s fascination with Islam.”
There emerges a picture of the close relationship between the top echelon of the Al Sudairi Clan and the Windsor-Battenberg Family, involving in turn the U.K. Intelligence and Saudi Intelligence, and the U.K. and Saudi Royal Air Forces, mediated by Prince Charles and Prince Bandar, in particular.
One of the organisations that Prince Charles operates is the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies – O.C.I.S., set up at Magdalen College, Oxford University, in 1985. According to the Oxford Times of 10 May 2012, Charles has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Centre since its founding.
In 1993 Charles became the patron of the O.C.I.S. and effectively took it over, to the extent that it is referred to in the press at times as Charles’ O.C.I.S.
One of the co-founders of the O.C.I.S. and chair of the Board of Trustees is Abdullah Omar Naseef. He was Secretary General of the Muslim World League – M.W.L. in 1983-93, at the height of Anglo-American support for the Afghan mujahedin against the Soviet Union. The future King Faisal had set up the M.W.L. in 1962 to coordinate the propagation of Wahhabism – from its founder Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703–1792). It is a religious movement or branch of Sunni Islam. It has been variously described as ‘orthodox’, ‘ultraconservative’, ‘austere’, ‘fundamentalist’, ‘puritanical’, and as an Islamic ‘reform movement’ to restore ‘pure monotheistic worship’ by scholars and advocates, and as an ‘extremist pseudo-Sunni movement’ by opponents. Adherents often object to the term Wahhabi or Wahhabism as derogatory, and prefer to be called Salafi or muwahhid. The movement is known for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, a well-known U.K. Intelligence project. The M.W.L. spawned significant parts of today’s global jihadi organisation. Naseef also chaired the Pakistan-based Rabita Trust, a M.W.L. financial project. In the 1980s Naseef co-founded Maktab al-Khidamat, the backbone organisation of the Arab-Afghani mujahedin in Afghanistan, which in 1989 changed its name to al-Qaeda. According to the suit brought by the families of the victims of ‘9/11’, Naseef knowingly funded al-Qaeda through the M.W.L., Rabita, and the International Islamic Relief Organisation.
The M.W.L. is reputed to be at the very centre of the formation of the global jihad which is at the heart of global terrorism to this day. Naseef has been Prince Charles’ confidant for at least two decades.
Abul-Hasan Ali al-Nadwi was another co-founder of the O.C.I.S. and its chairman from its inception in 1985, through the late 1990s – during which time Charles was its patron. In 1962 Nadwi was a founding board member of the M.W.L.
Another member of the Board of Trustees of Charles’ O.C.I.S. from 1985 until 2006, was Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Qatar-based spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. It was Qaradawi who issued the fatwas to overthrow and assassinate Libyan head of state Muammar Qaddafi and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In July 2012 he threatened the assassination of Egyptian leader Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, now President.
The list of Charles’ friends in the O.C.I.S. includes Prince Turki bin Faisal, who was appointed Director-General of Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Directorate in 1979. He remained in that position until 1 September 2001 – just a few days before ‘9/11’. Turki personally recruited Osama bin Laden to become a jihadi, and to use his large financial resources to set up a network, the Maktab al-Khidamat, which became al-Qaeda.
According Pakistani sources: “Usama Bin Ladin met the head of the Saudi security service Prince Turki in 1978. Bin Laden had begun to associate with Islamic radicals who played on his feelings of inner religious crisis and growing isolation from his family to lead him towards becoming an extremist. He was introduced to local members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who only drove Usama further towards extremism. In 1979 Usama Bin Ladin went to Prince Turki for advice after he became infuriated by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Following Prince Turki’s suggestion that Bin Ladin use his financial assets to aid the Afghan resistance, Usama travelled to neighbouring Pakistan to wage jihad on the Soviet Union.”
In an interview in 2002 Prince Turki said: “In 1980, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, we in the [Saudi] Kingdom, with the United States, initiated a program of countering the Soviet invasion and helping the Mujahideen to repel the Soviets. I was directly involved in that situation.”
An article in the 1 March 2003 Observer reported that lawyers for 11 relatives of 9/11 victims served papers on Prince Turki. They charged, according to the Observer: “Based on sworn testimony from a Taliban intelligence chief called Mullah Kakshar, they allege that Turki arranged for donations to be made directly to al-Qaeda and bin Laden by a group of wealthy Saudi businessmen.”
Turki was Saudi Ambassador to the U.K. between 2003 and 2005 and to the U.S.A. from 2005 to 2006.
Another member of the Faisal Clan is Prince Mohammed bin Faisal, who also had sponsored the O.C.I.S. Mohammed is a germane brother of Turki. He heads the Dar Al-Mall Al-Islami Trust banking group, which financed al-Qaeda, according to a 2002 report to the U.N. Security Council. Mohammed was named in a ‘9/11’ family-member lawsuit.
In November 2001 Prince Mohammed and Prince Charles headed the committee which raised the money to construct the London Muslim Centre, which was an addition to the Muslim Brotherhood-controlled East London Mosque, which has a trust called the East London Mosque Trust. The mosque is known to be a centre of Wahhabism and of the Islamist group Jamaat-e-Islam. On 28 February 2013 the U.K. Department of Communities and Local Government released a statement to the effect that the current Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain is the chair of the East London Mosque, the key institution for the Bangladeshi wing of Jamaat-e-Islam in the United Kingdom.
The collaboration between Princes Charles and Mohammed revealed that Yusuf al-Qaradawi was a member of the Board of Trustees of Charles’ O.C.I.S. at the same time that he was an executive of some of Mohammed bin Faisal’s banks.
In addition to the collaboration among Charles, Bandar, and Turki in the O.C.I.S., they also work together in another intelligence front: the Prince Charles Visual Islamic and Traditional Arts Department – V.I.T.A. Charles recruited Prince Turki to join V.I.T.A. and then appointed him chairman, where he served from the early- to mid-1990s until at least 2006. In 2004 Charles set up the Centennial Fund. The Fund’s Chairman of the Board of Trustees is Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah; Abdulaziz is Deputy Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia. He is an expert on Syria, where Saudi financing of the radical Sunni opposition groups, out of which I.S.I.S. emerged, is well-known.
The Bin Laden family, headed by Mohammed bin Laden, father of Osama, was among the Saudi, Qatari, and Kuwaiti private donors of approximately US$70 million to Charles’s O.C.I.S. The Bin Laden family endowed the Mohammed bin Laden chair at O.C.I.S. Osama bin Laden was recruited by Charles’s friend and wedding guest, Prince Turki bin Faisal, to set up the Maktab al-Khidamat network, the future al-Qaeda, in which Charles’s colleague Naseef was also closely involved. His financial network included dozens of City of London banks and corporations, according to a 2001 French parliamentary investigation. (S. Coll, The Bin Landens – Oil, money, terrorism and the secret Saudi World, Penguin, London 2008).
In 1990 Prince Bandar, then Saudi Ambassador to the United States, contributed an estimated US$13-US$24.4 million to the O.C.I.S.; at that time, he was collecting US$100 million per year in fees from the Al-Yamamah deal.
Other principally Islamic nations and individuals, including Qatar and Kuwait, contributed approximately US$70 million to Charles’ Centre.
In May 2012 Queen Elizabeth II granted the O.C.I.S a Royal Charter in honour of its twenty-fifth anniversary. On that occasion, Abdullah Omar Naseef, co-founder and chair of O.C.I.S. Board of Trustees said: “This is very good news. This shows that the British government, the Queen, and the whole state are very much aware that the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies is doing very well to make relations between the Islamic world and the Western world closer and to bring Islam and its role in the international arena.”
While Prince Turki, as head of Saudi Intelligence and Osama bin Laden’s handler, is suspected of playing a commanding role in ‘9/11’, Prince Bandar played the critical role inside the United States itself, as Ambassador from 1983-2005. It was Prince Turki and Prince Sultan – Bandar’s father and Saudi Defence Minister, who, in 1978, helped bring Bandar into a position of power in Washington. At that time, they were negotiating Saudi Arabia’s purchase of 50 F-15 fighters from the United States. William Simpson, Bandar’s biographer, writes: “Assisting Prince Turki bin Faisal, Bandar quickly made his mark in Washington. He quickly became very close to the Bush family, to the point of being called Bandar Bush by the Bush family itself.”
In the late 1970s, when George H.W. Bush was head of the C.I.A., Bandar worked with Turki in support of what later became al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Then, as the ‘principal negotiator’ of the 1985 Al-Yamamah arms-for-oil barter deal between the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia, Bandar gained control of a huge offshore slush fund for covert operations. During the 1980s, when the U.S. Congress cut off funding for the Contra operation in Nicaragua, it was Prince Bandar who supplied the funding, at the request of then Vice President George H.W. Bush.
Evidence of Bandar’s involvement in ‘9/11’ is further reinforced by the disclosure that his wife, Princess Haifa, the sister of Prince Turki, passed between US$51,000 and US$73,000 to Saudi Intelligence operative Omar al-Bayoumi, who befriended two of the ‘9/11’ hijackers in the United States. There is a view that he was an accessory to the attacks. Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia has firmly maintained that al-Bayoumi was not an agent of theirs, and the F.B.I. has concluded that he was not knowingly involved in the ‘9/11’ attacks. In point of fact the money passed by Princess Haifa was used to help establish the first two ‘9/11’ Saudi hijackers to arrive in the U.S., Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, in San Diego, California.
It was ascertained that Bayoumi received a monthly payment of up to US$3,000 from Kamel’s Dallah Avco for a project in Saudi Arabia, even though Bayoumi was living in San Diego. Dallah Avco, a Saudi aviation company, is a subsidiary of Kamel’s Dallah al-Baraka bank. Dallah Avco is being sued by the families of the victims of ‘9/11’. According to the suit, the company provided a “ghost job” to Saudi Intelligence operative Omar al-Bayoumi. Moreover, plaintiffs assert that Dallah Avco was aware of Bayoumi’s activities in the United States, as illustrated by the fact that senior officials of Dallah Avco quickly squelched internal inquiries from Bayoumi’s immediate supervisor concerning the nature and propriety of his employment with the company. The Saudi Ministry of Defence and Aviation threatened to cut off contracts to Dallah if they dismissed Bayoumi.
At the time of the payments, Bayoumi and another Saudi, Osama Basnan, were bankrolling the two lead ‘9/11’ hijackers with the Dallah funds, and the direct payments from Prince Bandar and Princess Haifa.
The 28-page chapter from the Joint Congressional Inquiry into ‘9/11’ – that Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama suppressed until 15 July 2016, when the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence approved publication of the newly, heavily redacted, declassified section, contain a fairly detailed account of both the Bandar and Dallah Aviation bankrolling of the San Diego al-Qaeda cell. (J. Sciutto, D.Walsh, ‘Congress releases ’28 pages’ on alleged Saudi 9/11 ties’, 15 July 2016, C.N.N.) Former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who chaired the Joint Inquiry, wrote about the experience in his 2004 book Intelligence matters: The C.I.A., the F.B.I., Saudi Arabia, and the failure of America’s war on terror (New York 2004).
Continued Wednesday – A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 8)
Previous instalment – A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 6)
Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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