What you need to know:
- Khashoggi had arrived at the Embakasi airport in his executive Boeing 727 jet, which was essentially a flying office complete with suites for the billionaire and his cronies.
- In 1976 the club of spies, after its initial meeting at the Mt Kenya Safari Club decided to establish its headquarters in Cairo and to purchase several large real estate concerns from where it could coordinate its activities.
- It was at Ol Pejeta that Khashoggi once hosted Israel’s Ariel Sharon and Sudan’s president where they struck a deal, according to his biographer.
Friday, December 10, 1976 at State House, Nairobi: President Jomo Kenyatta received a visitor – a billionaire arms dealer named Adnan Khashoggi.
Khashoggi, who died this week of heart failure, was carrying a present for Mzee Kenyatta – a golden sword, as his appreciation “for the great leadership” the President had offered the people of Kenya. It was actually a mark of style.
Accompanying Mr Khashoggi was Mzee Kenyatta’s eldest son Peter Muigai and the chief of protocol F.K. Nganatha. It was Khashoggi’s second visit to Kenya and he had hoped to extend his business network.
That was what the media was told. But today, we know he is the man who left a king size bed in Nanyuki.
That January, Khashoggi had arrived at the Embakasi airport in his executive Boeing 727 jet, which was essentially a flying office complete with suites for the billionaire and his cronies.
He then headed straight to the Mt Kenya Safari Club, a luxury resort in Nanyuki once owned by a Texas oil millionaire Ray Ryan, Swiss banker Carl Hisrchman and US film star William Holden.
One of his biographers, Ronald Kessler – the author of Khashoggi: Rise and Fall of the World’s Richest Man – says Khashoggi visited the club with French pharmaceutical tycoon Henry Roussel and Edward K. Moss, his public affairs manager.
They then headed to Ol Pejeta where they inspected the ranch. Moss was by then a member of Mt Kenya Safari Club.
By the time Khashoggi visited Mt Kenya Safari Club, it was more than a club.
It was the meeting point of private Western intelligence operatives – who called themselves “Safari Club” – and whose agenda was to tame the influence of the Soviet Union in Africa. Khashoggi was part of the group. While the US was not directly involved in activities of the “Safari Club”, its Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, is said to have given the group his tacit approval.
In 1976 the club of spies, after its initial meeting at the Mt Kenya Safari Club decided to establish its headquarters in Cairo and to purchase several large real estate concerns from where it could coordinate its activities.
It was then no surprise that it was the same year that Khashoggi purchased the Mt Kenya Safari Club at least according to a rogue American intelligence officer, Joseph Trento, who wrote Prelude to Terror: The Rogue CIA, The Legacy of America’s Private Intelligence Network and the Compromising of American Intelligence.
The purchase came at a time when Ray Ryan, the man who had a controlling interest in the Club, was facing scrutiny in the US over tax deductions on his Kenyan businesses, while his partner Hirschman was also under financial pressure. Both of them decided to sell their stake to – who else but Adnan Khashoggi!
What followed the sale was a tragedy. On October 18, 1977, Ryan – who was well known for gambling – had gone to the gym and parked his new Lincoln Mark V coupe outside.
That is when a bomb was connected to the ignition of his car. As he returned and turned on the key, the car exploded killing him instantly. The murder remains unsolved to date.
Whether Mt Kenya Safari Club became an operating ground of the “Safari Club” – whose patron was Theodore George “Ted” Shackley Jr – is not known. By the time Khashoggi was purchasing the club, Shackley was George Bush’s deputy at CIA – as Deputy Director of Covert Operations.
He would later be fired by President Jimmy Carter who came to office in January 1977 and disrupted the private intelligence network. But even with that, Shackley is still regarded as the most decorated CIA officer and his many admirers had nicknamed him “the Blond Ghost”.
His biographer, David Corn, describes him as “one of the CIA’s best and brightest, a good bet to become director of central intelligence, until his career ran off the tracks.” He also came across as “cold, calculating, almost bloodless”, according to one of his colleagues.
Interestingly, by the time Khashoggi was in Kenya to see Kenyatta, he was on the run after he was summoned by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) – an independent body that protects the public from fraudsters – which wanted to ascertain whether the huge sales commissions that were paid to the Saudi in 1975 were not a clever means to pay bribes by US corporations.
The summons had been triggered by a US Congressional investigation on illegal foreign and domestic campaign contributions.
While Khashoggi had denied ever taking bribes for anyone, an American company, Northrop Corporation, admitted giving him $450,000 as bribes for Saudi generals.
The Washington Post had also in May 1975 reported that Khashoggi had previously acted as an intermediary between President Richard Nixon – he of the Watergate scandal – and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.
Some 13 years later, Vanity Fair magazine would brusquely describe Khashoggi as “one of the greatest whoremongers in the world” and for a reason. We shall come to that, but in a nutshell, that is the man who was taken to State House to see President Kenyatta.
Today, even with the benefit ofhindsight, what we still don’t know is whether the visit to see the President had anything to do with the government’s desperation to get more military arms and equipment as Uganda’s Idi Amin continued to claim parts of Western Kenya.
Khashoggi was then the world’s best known arms dealer and he could broker better deals at a time when the country was afraid about the diplomatic fallout with Uganda and some Arab countries following the June 1976 Israeli-led Entebbe raid to rescue hostages held after an Air France plane was diverted to Uganda and held by Amin.
In a bid to intimidate Amin, and to inflate perceptions of Kenya’s military might, President Kenyatta had written a letter to President Gerald Ford asking the Americans to make a fly-past during the Jamhuri Day parade.
The Kenyan President was particularly anxious to obtain F-5Es and had in February 1976 sent his Vice-President Daniel arap Moi to meet with the US Ambassador Anthony D. Marshall to emphasise Kenya’s need for more military support in light of Amin’s territorial claims to the west and Somalia’s Siad Barre’s claims to the east.
Some eight months before the State House visit, Kissinger, the US Secretary of State, had on April 25 gone to see Kenyatta at State House, Nakuru.
It was during this meeting that Kenyatta expressed his fear of an attack by Uganda and Somalia. But Kissinger was on a different mission to Africa.
With the problems in Rhodesia and South Africa, the CIA was feeling that a full-blown war might be sparked in Africa and Communist countries, especially Cuba, might find an entry point.
That could now explain the setting up of the “Safari Club”. It is within that cold war context that Khashoggi found his way to Nairobi, the bastion of covert CIA activities and military deals in the region.
According to Kissinger papers, he was hoping to find a platform to “arrest the armed struggle in southern Africa, preclude foreign intervention, and give the moderate regimes something to hold on to and the radicals something to think about. The strategy was to slow down the struggle and get control of the process as we did in the Middle East.”
Soon, Ol Pejeta became Khashoggi’s hideout as he touted himself as “the richest man in the world”.
AK, as he was popularly known, was also a mysterious character whose life has been summarised as that of success, scandals, extravagance and eccentricity. He was a cassanova, a deal-maker and a power-broker.
At Ol Pejeta, Khashoggi had brought on board Charles Njonjo as one of the directors together with well-known accountant Percy James Gill, and Courtland Edward Parfet, a big rancher at Solio.
With these connections, Khashoggi would usually get VIP treatment in Kenya together with his two sons, Nabilla and Mohammed, who camped in Nanyuki to hunt wild animals at a time the practice had been banned.
The matter featured during the Njonjo Inquiry in 1984 in which Minister for Wildlife Mathews Ogutu had written to the Chief Licensing Officer, Wildlife Conservation, requesting him to allow Khashoggi “with a party of 11 persons” to conduct hunting.
The letter said: “For your information, Mr Khashoggi is a VIP and every assistance should be given for the issuing of the necessary licences and also during hunting operations. By a copy of this letter, I am kindly requesting the Chief Licensing Officer, Central Firearms Bureau, to liaise with you regarding the issue of firearms licence which may be required for the group.”
Those who met Khashoggi abroad have described how he was always flanked by eight Korean bodyguards “who hovered around him as if they were secret service agents protecting the President of the United States” – even as he sampled his favourite “Beluga caviar piled high on golden dishes … and carried to our plates by exquisitely pretty girls in micro-skirts,” according to one invitee to his palace in France.
From Kenya, Khashoggi flew to Sudan where he met “Tiny” Rowland of the Lonrho mining conglomerate and President Jaafar Numeiri.
In one interview, he said he took “a lot of money” to Numeiri to start projects and he had become the conduit between Sudan and the Saudi royals. It was at Ol Pejeta that Khashoggi once hosted Israel’s Ariel Sharon and Sudan’s president where they struck a deal, according to his biographer.
“The Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, previously a friend of Khashoggi’s, was so enraged that he ordered his assassination.
But AK requested a meeting with Arafat, challenging him to carry out the assassination personally,” one newspaper wrote.
From Africa, Khashoggi would fly to Nice where his yacht, named after his daughter Nabila, was always moored. It was this yacht that would once feature in the James Bond movie Never Say Never Again, and that is why the words “Thanks AK” appear in the film’s end credits.
The yacht was later sold to Donald Trump — the current US President — after Khashoggi’s life started to spiral downwards. That is when he sold his Kenyan holdings – thanks to various loan problems that bedevilled his empire.
With the Cold War over, Khashoggi’s dalliance with evil and as a go-between for military purchases came to an end too. How much he took from the commissions, and who he paid in the various countries that he operated in, remains a big secret.
There was a time in the 1980s when the New York Times reported that Khashoggi had 35 homes around the world, the most notable being “retreat at Marbella in southern Spain, an entire mountain with seven villas, a 1,300-acre hunting preserve in Kenya and what we are told is the world’s largest outdoor marble disco floor”.
One television documentary maker described Khashoggi’s 21st birthday party for his eldest son in Vienna as “the most extravagant event in European history”.
“Adnan was certainly a lavish host, a party-giver on a gargantuan scale, and a supreme hedonist,” said the article. “The man himself also revelled in publicity. He drank deeply from the well of media juice. When building his colourful network of grateful guests, beautiful people and movie stars, he also acquired some enemies who were quick to pass judgement on him”.
In 1987, Triad America Corporation, the American company that he had told Kenyatta would invest in Kenya, filed for bankruptcy. He would later be jailed and his associates were hunted down.
It was the end of the road for AK – the man who left a king size bed in Nanyuki.