Strange Bedfellows: The Bush and bin Laden Families

A Wall Street Journal article called "Bin Laden Family Could Profit from a Jump in Defense Spending Due to ties to U.S. Bank" (Sept. 27, 2001), reported that former president, George H.W.Bush, works for the bin Laden family business in Saudi Arabia through the Carlyle Group. Bush senior met with the bin Laden family at least twice. Osama bin Laden is said to have been "disowned" by his family, whose multi-billion dollar business empire includes major investments in the Carlyle Group. Many question whether Osama's family have really cut their ties to him. The Journal reported that the FBI has subpoenaed the bin Laden family business' bank records. 

The Dubious Friends of G.W.Bush

Among the figures G.W.Bush dealt with indirectly when he ran oil companies was Saudi banker Khaled bin Mahfouz. U.S. authorities are looking into contributions Mahfouz is said to have made to welfare associations close to terrorist Osama bin Laden. Considered the "king's treasurer," Mahfouz was forced to sharply reduce his stake in the National Commercial Bank, one of the biggest in the kingdom. 
Mahfouz was also linked to the scandal involving the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), in which he held a 20% interest, 1986-1990. The BCCI was accused in senator John Kerry's report of money-laundering and of financing terrorist groups and covert spy operations before it was wound up on July 5, 1991, with a $12 billion loss to its customers. 
In 1987, Mahfouz's representative in the U.S., Abdullah Taha Bakhsh, acquired an 11.5% stake in a company in which G.W.Bush was a shareholder, director and adviser, Harken Energy. Bush played a central role in Harken which had acquired his previous oil business, Spectrum 7 Energy Corporation, in 1986. Spectrum 7, in which Bush was boss and held 13.8%, had previously bought up the first firm Bush founded, Arbusto Energy Inc. in 1984. An American banker named Jacksen Stephens who was also deeply involved in the BCCI affair moved in 1987 to invest $25 million in Harken. The financial accord was signed by both Stephens and Bakhsh. 
Other links between Bush and Mahfouz can be found through investments in the Carlyle Group which is a leading contributor to Bush's electoral campaign. Carlyle's advisory board includes Sami Baarma, director of the Pakistani financial establishment Prime Commercial Bank that is based in Lahore and owned by Mafouz. 
A second figure with an ambiguous part in Bush's financial past is Texas businessman James Bath. Considered very close to the CIA, he appeared at Bush's side in 1978 when the latter made an unsuccessful run for the governorship. (He tried again in 1994, and won). Bath helped finance the Bush campaign and later bought into two of Bush's companies, Arbusto 79 and Arbusto 80, affiliates of the Arbusto Energy oil exploration company founded by "W" in 1977. Under a mandate signed in 1976, Bath represented the U.S. financial interests of the Saudi Arabian sheikh Salem bin Laden, father of Osama bin Laden. Thanks to his connections with Saudi business circles, Bath obtained a $1.4 million loan from Mahfouz in 1990. 
These ties reflect many of the strategic issues that prevailed in the 1970s and 1980s. The highly influential bin Laden family in Saudi Arabia helped bankroll Islamic movements fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, with the blessings and participation of Washington. (Osama bin Laden was given special training in covert operations in that context). But policy at the time also consisted of de-stabilizing the Moslem republics on the southern rim of the USSR by fomenting unrest on their borders. 

Source: Intelligence Newsletter, March 2, 2000. <>