Lao Sapphire • Max Green, Ted Doyle, Gary Shugg • Looted Millions • Love & Hate

1 January 2002
By Richard Hughes
Lao Sapphire • Max Green, Ted Doyle, Gary Shugg • Looted Millions • Love & Hate

When Max Green set about looting trust fund accounts in Australia, he had no idea it would lead to a sapphire mine in Laos… and a dead body in Cambodia.

Love & Hate • Max Green, Gary Shugg, Ted Doyle, Looted Millions & the Lao Sapphire Mines

Would you like me to tell you the little story of right-hand/left-hand?
The story of good and evil? Robert Mitchum, 'Night of the Hunter'

From outside, the Madrid Bar looks no different than any other watering hole on Bangkok's Patpong Road. But step inside and one enters a dark world of societal misfits, heat-seeking mercenaries, out-and-out spooks and the merely semi-diaphanous. If you wanted to make an in-depth tour of the bars and bordellos of Thailand, any of the Madrid regulars would make a perfect guide.

lao sapphire, lao sapphires, sapphires from Laos, Huay Xai sapphire, Max Green, Ted Doyle, Lee Wolf, Joe Schall, Gary Shugg, Bjarne Jeppeson, CIABangkok's Madrid bar on Patpong Road was where Ted Doyle merged his business interests with Lee Wolf.

The Madrid was that kind of place. You couldn't stay too long without losing a few brain cells. And if you did leave with halo intact, you had no business being there. But no matter how twisted, how crazy the night became, regulars knew the drill – never drop your guard. With feline or friend, never forget to feel for the Adam's apple.

In 1995, Ted Doyle was just one among many Madrid raconteurs. Each with a song about the Cong. But Teddy was different. He was a man with a mission – helping Melbourne lawyer Max Green launder millions from a looted trust fund account – and in the process, helping himself to a quid or two, too.

That night, Doyle took a seat at the Madrid bar, next to American gem dealer, Joseph Schall. The bearish Doyle naturally attracted attention, with "Love" tattooed on the knuckles of one hand and "Hate" on the other. And just to reinforce the image, a 25-ct. sapphire watched his back from a ring on one finger. It was that sparkle that caught Schall's eye. "Nice Ceylon," Schall remarked. Without a word, Doyle yanked the ring off and slid it down the bar. Over the course of a few drinks, Schall explained he had an office in one of Bangkok's biggest gem houses and the pair made a date to meet the next day.

And show he did – with plenty of dough. Over the next few months, Doyle was a regular, plucking out one fine gem after another, but always paying in cash installments of US$50–75,000 each.

Eventually, the odor of Doyle's money reached stench level. It wasn't as though Schall didn't want to sell to Doyle, but having been in the business for years, the situation reeked of money laundering. And so Schall stepped back, watching to see what would happen next.

A replacement was not long in coming. In November 1995, Doyle ran into Lee Wolf.

Understand. Doyle never lacked for lip. But over the course of the next five hours, he was reduced to nods and monosylabic grunts as Wolf waxed ecstatic on how he, with his fluent Thai, held the key to Bangkok's gem kingdom. Doyle swallowed it whole – hook, line, sinker – and angler's elbow.stench

Thus it happened. Amidst the Patpong banter of building bank accounts for distressed damsels, the ill-fated duo of Doyle and Wolf parried the Jesus of all gem deals. Within just two short years, US$20 million of Max Green's money would wash across their palms – some flowing up to Laos, all ebbing back out again – like a mekong whisky-nam-soda mix – pissed slowly out to sea. And as that water reached Phnom Penh, it blended with the blood of Max Green's lifeless body. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

lao sapphire, lao sapphires, sapphires from Laos, Huay Xai sapphire, Max Green, Ted Doyle, Lee Wolf, Joe Schall, Gary Shugg, Bjarne Jeppeson, CIALee Wolf's Pacific East Trading Company Ltd., spitting distance from Patpong Road. Although nondescript from the outside, millions of Max Green's dollars passed through this location. Today it is closed due to unpaid bills, with Wolf said by one observer to be "cooking over a much smaller flame."

Max's millions

Just who was Max Green? Here was a man with the moxie to loot millions from a trust account, but so ordinary looking that he couldn't have attracted the attention of a good waiter in a good restaurant. Perhaps that was his secret. Nobody ever dreamed he could do what he did. 

lao sapphire, lao sapphires, sapphires from Laos, Huay Xai sapphire, Max Green, Ted Doyle, Lee Wolf, Joe Schall, Gary Shugg, Bjarne Jeppeson, CIAMax Green, a nerdy Bill Gates look-alike.

Green was born in 1952, growing up in Sydney, Australia. He graduated from law school and in 1976 moved to Melbourne, where he took a job as solicitor in a respected law firm. That same year, he married Louise Giselle Baron, daughter of a wealthy Melbourne property developer. 1981 saw him join the board at the fashion jewelry company, Emma Page. By 1984, he had left the bar and taken a full-time position at Emma Page. 1985–89 were spent in Austin, Texas, handling the company's US operations.

Upon returning to Melbourne, Green went back to practicing law. On 1 April, 1991, Max was brought in as a partner at the private law firm of Gary Vernon Shugg. In 1992, Shugg also hired Ted Doyle, whom he had met years earlier, to develop a computer system.

good waiterDoyle allegedly brought in another associate, Alex Hoffman. In 1994, Hoffman opened a Kiev office for Shugg & Green, but in November 1995, was arrested amidst allegations of money laundering, document fraud and arms smuggling, with some of the weapons heading for Cambodia. The workings of the Kiev office remain a mystery to this day. While Hoffman was later acquitted, one witness told police: "The idea was quite clear that [the office] was to attract clients for money-laundering purposes."

Shrug and Grin

The august firm of Shugg & Green was not long for this world. In July 1995, Shugg was found guilty of 17 counts of misuse of clients' funds and disbarred for five years. The company was placed into receivership with debts of A$2 million. Shugg later set up business in London. Max Green was never charged. Shugg later told an associate he had "gone patsy for Green."

lao sapphire, lao sapphires, sapphires from Laos, Huay Xai sapphire, Max Green, Ted Doyle, Lee Wolf, Joe Schall, Gary Shugg, Bjarne Jeppeson, CIADigging in the dirt at Laos' Huay Xai sapphire mine. Photo: © R.W. Hughes

The "beaut" project

Shortly after the demise of Shugg & Green, Max learned from his brother, Phillip, of a loophole in Australian tax law that allowed inexpensive equipment purchases to be entirely depreciated in the first year. And so he pitched a scheme whereby investors would buy such equipment and lease it to Melbourne's City Link tollway project. For every dollar invested, a further $4 would be borrowed from a Hong Kong finance company, allowing investors to claim 100% of the interest payments as a tax deduction. The suggested result was that investors would recoup in both profit and tax advantages well in excess of 15% of their original investment each year. This caused one to declare: "It looks like a beaut!" More than A$42 million was eventually sunk into the scheme.

Clients' money was placed into a trust fund. But Green secretly moved the dough into another account he controlled. From there, funds were transferred abroad to accounts in the Bahamas, the Isle of Man, Liechtenstein, etc., a veritable who's who of financial tomfoolery. To hide his tracks, Green paid interest into the trust fund, while producing forged documents that showed "purchase" of construction equipment.

Over $10 million headed straight into the Bangkok accounts of Lee Wolf. Some believe Doyle's name was not used on the transfers because his name was in police databases worldwide.

Mud from a stone

Doyle later claimed that Green spent US$20 million on gems, stones that Doyle said were later sold by Max in Israel. But no trace of either the money or Green's gem sales in Israel has ever been found.

The operation could have gone something like this: a few million in illegal cash is sent to Thailand for the purchase of gems. But since gems are not liquid assets, most likely the quid pro quo was for the newly purchased gems to be bought back after a decent interval, perhaps by a third-party cutout seemingly unconnected to the original seller, with a small percentage as the trade. Say $1,000,000 in gems is sold to the moneyman, and later sold back for $800,000, the difference being the "rental fee" for the period between their sale and the buyback. The seller is happy, with a nice percentage for the rental. The moneyman is also happy, since his money is now seemingly clean and can be moved abroad without fear.

Map of LaosMap of Southeast Asia, showing the location of the Huay Xai mine in Laos. Illustration © R.W. Hughes

Teddy Bear…

I've seen the good side of bad, and the down side of up, and everything between… Everlast, 'What It's Like'

Trevor John "Ted" Doyle was born in 1946 in Melbourne, Australia. At age 17, he joined the Australian Army, where he was reputedly a member of the elite Special Air Service (SAS). While in the army, he claimed his duties included spying on Vietnam War protesters. He also acquired a taste for heroin, which eventually led to his imprisonment and military discharge in 1966.

Ted Doyle continued to raise police attention. His photograph and fingerprints were first posted with Interpol in 1969. In 1974, Doyle left Perth for Bali, learning the local language and eventually marrying the daughter of a high-ranking Indonesian general, a connection that he later used in his attempts at gem dealing. By 1977 Doyle was back in Melbourne, and later reported destitute in Europe, where he contacted the Australian embassy for repatriation. He was also placed on a watch list because of his habit of losing his passport.

Back in Australia, he got into journalism, working on a variety of papers, including The Age, the Melbourne Times, and ABC radio. 1985–86 saw him working for smaller papers. At some point in the 1980's, he ran into lawyer Gary Shugg. Shugg led to Green, and after that, nothing was ever the same.

…and the Wolf Man

Lee Wolf was born in 1956 and grew up on a farm in Clifton, Texas. After graduating high school, he became a hard-hat diver, first in the Gulf of Mexico, then in Singapore and the Gulf of Thailand. His diving ceased following a severe case of the bends. By the early 1980's, he was in Bangkok, enrolled in a strict six-month Thai language course operated mostly for Christian missionaries. Although the Thai language training was to come in handy later on, Lee was never again known to associate with missionaries.

In the mid-1980's, Wolf's cousin asked him to be the Thai agent for his jewelry business. This led to the establishment of Pacific East Trading Co. in 1986. But the company did little until Max Green and Ted Doyle entered the picture.

Let the good times roll

When Max's millions hit Bangkok, Doyle and Wolf quaffed life from a Maxie-sized mug. The bell at the Madrid never stopped ringing. Not only did they buy rounds for the entire bar, but the pair thought nothing of spending US$10,000 a night to hire an entire Patpong nightspot in which to entertain friends. So easy was the money that one time, US$50,000 cash literally spilled out of a hole in Teddy Doyle's suit coat pocket as he hopped on the back of a motorbike.

missionaries quoteSources reported that once when a safe was opened at Pacific East Trading Co., it contained a bundle of US$100 bills the size of a small television. Doyle allegedly received parcels from Max Green containing travelers' checks from a Melbourne travel company. One contained $49,400 in 257 checks, wrapped in bundles of $5000. Each bundle had a different name on the checks. Doyle allegedly signed each check twice and then cashed them at a local bank. But giving money to Teddy Doyle was like asking a rabbit to deliver a carrot. There was bound to be a bit of nibbling along the way.

In April 1997, Doyle and Wolf set up Gem Houses of Asia to spend Green's cash. At a presentation at Bangkok's exclusive Oriental Hotel, they outlined plans to create a market niche for black and boulder opals. The project involved a cutting factory in Khao Yai. On one occasion, Australian police say, an Australian opal company brought opals worth millions for an exhibition to their Bangkok shop, staffed by bar girls as assistants. Along with so many other projects, funding for this dried up shortly after Max Green's death. The duo was also involved in high-profile charity events in Thailand.

Pandora's jewel box

Someone once described a mine as "a hole in the ground owned by a liar." That certainly applies to the Huay Xai mine in Laos, for these backwater sapphire diggings have had a troubled history indeed.

Lying along the Mekong River, the Lao mines were first discovered in 1890. Along with small dark blue gems, red garnets were also found. Taking them to be rubies, a Thai official went out and bought the best ruby he could find. This he sent to the Thai king, with a note saying it came from Huay Xai. Alas, the deception was eventually discovered; his fate is not recorded.

Flash forward a few decades. Since the 1960's, a variety of companies have rolled the dice at Huay Xai, including Czechs and Thais, with one French miner even diving into a sinkhole in the nearby Mekong River to recover gems. But most Lao sapphires were small, and with bright blue heated geuda sapphires from Ceylon flooding the market, little attention was paid to the Lao stone.mine definition

In 1994, Bjarne Jeppesen and his wife, New Zealand national, Julie Bruns, founded Gem Mining Lao PDR (GML) with Lao-born American, Somkhit Vilavong. They were granted a 15-year concession from the Lao government to mine at Huay Xai. Until then, Jeppesen, a Danish citizen, had had a career as a builder in northern Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG), along with stints hunting crocodiles and chartering ships. His experience with mining was limited to a brief go at gold mining in PNG, and poking for amethyst in southern Laos.

lao sapphire, lao sapphires, sapphires from Laos, Huay Xai sapphire, Max Green, Ted Doyle, Lee Wolf, Joe Schall, Gary Shugg, Bjarne Jeppeson, CIACleaning out the jig at Gem Mining Lao's Huay Xai mine, Laos. Photo: © R.W. Hughes, 1996

I first visited Huay Xai in 1996. Taking a small boat across the Mekong from Chiang Khong in Thailand, I hired a trishaw out to the mines, a few kilometers south of town. Along the way, my driver related that a farang (foreigner) was operating the mine. However, locals didn't like the situation much, since they had lived on the land for generations, but were now not permitted to work it.

My arrival at the mines was greeted by suspicion. Jeppesen was on site, and not the least bit happy I was taking pictures. But after a short chat, he accepted my academic credentials and agreed to show me around, explaining that they were just doing test diggings and would have a full processing plant up shortly. As I returned to town, I thought about Jeppesen's paranoia. This was certainly a curious sapphire mine.

Back in town, one answer was waiting. The manager of the small hotel where I was staying offered to sell me sapphire, and the next morning laid a few kilos of rough out on the table. This was obviously not GML's official sales arm. The material may have been poached by locals digging illegally on the concession property. More likely, it was stolen by someone working at the mine.

June 1997 saw me back for a further foray to the mines with my wife and daughter. First we visited GML's Huay Xai offices, where we asked about Jeppesen, but were told he was away in the Lao capital, Vientiane, and could not be contacted. When we asked about visiting the mines, the company official said it would be impossible. So I did what I always do when someone tells me I can't go somewhere. I go anyway. We piled into a nearby trishaw and again headed out to the mines.

This time, however, our arrival was expected. While I snapped a picture or two from a distance, a rifle-toting guard approached and made it clear that if I did not cease and desist, a bullet from his weapon would be shortly headed my way. Not wishing to destroy a perfectly good lens, I obeyed. As we drove back to town, an uneasy feeling again gnawed at me – this was one curious sapphire mine. And in the words of the immortals, it was to get "curiouser and curiouser."

All in the family

While all this was occurring, the Doyle/Wolf axis was busy with Max Green's money, as well as selling rubies and sapphires to Indonesia's military elite. According to Wolf: "…there was a lot of 'mad money' being spent by Indonesia's wealthy. They did not care what anything cost as long as the quality was top and the size or carat weight was larger than their peers."

Wolf and Doyle were also involved in the Lao sapphire mine. They had negotiated a royalty agreement with Bjarne Jeppesen's Gem Mining Lao (GML) whereby gems were sent from Laos to Wolf and Doyle's Pacific East Trading Co. for sale in Bangkok. But few sales took place.

At some point, Wolf and Doyle were reported to have loaned between US$2.7 million and US$3.5 million to GML. The investment was not necessarily "mad money." While the Huay Xai deposit never produced the big flash stones of Mogok or Sri Lanka, it was unmatched in the bread-and-butter jewelry sizes of half carat and below. Better yet, the paydirt layer was a relatively shallow six to eight meters. Mining at Huay Xai was like scooping up coffee beans, with sapphire everywhere in the drainages. The vast majority would cut 1–5 mm stones, with 20% requiring no heat treatment. Even with a large-scale mining operation, reserves were said to be sufficient for 25 years.

By 1998, through a series of transactions, GML was supposedly acquired by Asia Sapphires Ltd. (ASL), a company then listed on Canada's Vancouver Stock Exchange. Executive directors were Bjarne Jeppesen and his wife, Julie Bruns, but the public float was actually the creation of Gary Shugg, who lurked quietly beneath the surface. Shugg, who by now had purchased Belize citizenship for A$60,000, had become involved in the mine via his old mate Ted Doyle.

ASL was no mere shell. According to Australian geologist, Brian Senior, who did a detailed mapping of the sapphire reserves, many of the people involved were sincerely interested in developing what promised to be a world-class sapphire deposit. But Shugg, prevented from open participation due to his disbarment in Australia, really held the reins.

And all was not well in sapphire land. Brian Senior described to the author how an entire size sampling of sapphire rough went missing from a locked concrete building overnight during his initial geologic study and Jeppesen confirmed that theft was an ever-present problem.

In February 1999, ASL announced a US$1.99 million investment by Swarovski, a large Austrian gem company. But the whole project was already falling apart. When Jeppesen and Bruns did not receive their promised shareholding, they quit ASL, just about the same time that Gary Shugg's London-based "dissident" group attempted a board takeover. Each side traded charges, with Shugg and his proxy, Ian Webb, suggesting that Jeppesen was mismanaging the company. As evidence, Shugg cited the fact that one of Jeppesen's advisors, Harold Christensen, had earlier been sentenced to eight months' jail in Western Australia in 1995 for his role in a share-price support scam with a gold-mining company, Paragon Resources. He failed to mention his own tarnished past.

For their part, Jeppesen and Bruns claimed that they were being subject to a hostile takeover, with Shugg illegally diverting millions of shares to a Liechtenstein-based company. About this time, equipment at the mine turned up sabotaged. Sorting jigs were sliced up with cutting torches and the Lao sapphire project was in similar tatters.

The heat reached its peak on 28 May 2000, when Jeppesen and Bruns fled to Thailand amidst allegations of missing gems. Renting a house in Bangkok, the couple stayed eight months, then departed for Denmark.

The Lao government later convicted the couple in absentia for theft and misappropriations related to GML and sentenced them to 20 years. Perhaps two months after their departure, quantities of Huay Sai sapphire allegedly appeared in Chanthaburi's gem market.

When Jeppesen and Bruns fled Laos, they left behind unpaid bills, few friends and a letter appointing their security chief, Kerry Danes, to handle all GML's affairs. Danes agreed. He also cosigned a letter from Jeppesen accusing members of the Lao government of corruption. With our 20–20 hindsight, we can safely state something that even Danes would now agree to – this was not a good move.

lao sapphire, lao sapphires, sapphires from Laos, Huay Xai sapphire, Max Green, Ted Doyle, Lee Wolf, Joe Schall, Gary Shugg, Bjarne Jeppeson, CIARough sapphire from Huay Xai, Laos. Was this the cause of Max Green's death, or just an excuse for it? Photo: © R.W. Hughes

Going Dane-ish

On December 23 2000, the husband-and-wife team of Kerry and Kay Danes was detained and accused of involvement in the theft of 130 kg of rough sapphire from the Vientiane office of GML.

Mr. Danes was general manager of Lao Securicor, a company that provided a security guard for GML's Vientiane office. Shortly after his detention, his wife Kay Danes was nabbed attempting to walk into Thailand with over US$50,000 in cash stashed in her bag, something she later described as the couple's life savings. Another US$98,000 was later frozen in local bank accounts. Despite the fact that Danes had declared the money (which was returned six months later) and was in the presence of an Australian Embassy official, she was arrested.

At the time of their arrest, Kerry Danes was reportedly on "leave without pay" from the Australian Army, where he had served many years, most with the elite SAS. The arrest of the Danes became a cause célèbre for many Australians, who demanded their country sever diplomatic relations unless the couple was immediately released. But the Lao government stood firm, and on 28 June, 2001 fined the couple and sentenced them to seven years in jail. The charges notably did not include gem smuggling or theft. By this time, Christensen, too, had seen the writing on the jailhouse wall, and had fled to Thailand.

Eventually, months of diplomatic pressure paid off. The Danes were released from jail on 5 October 2001. Still not permitted to leave the country, they decamped at the residence of Australian ambassador to Laos, Jonathan Thwaites. The Lao government issued a pardon on 6 November 2001 and they exited the same day.

As a condition of their release, the Danes agreed to pay A$1.1 million in fines and compensation, the payments to be made in four equal installments. Few, however, expected the Danes to pay. This was largely a face-saving exercise for the Lao government, who could then show to the world that they had not unjustly imprisoned the couple.

With the release of the Danes, the Huay Xai mine remains in limbo. French, South Korean (Buhae Industrial Corp.) and Lao companies are said to be operating concessions today.

Who gave Max the ax?

I knew this kid named Max,
He liked to hang out late, he used to get shit faced,
He liked to keep pace with thugs
Until late one night there was a pick up fight, and Max lost his head Everlast, 'What It's Like'

I know what you're thinking. Who axed Max? But in a question such as this, what is important is not who did the deed, but who bought the bullet. The $42 million-dollar question.

Certainly there were a number of people who had good reason to speed Max Green's departure to the next lifetime. From ex-partners to ex-investors to ex-lovers, those with a motive could fill a city phone book.

When asked, Lee Wolf suggested that "in the end [Max] had double crossed and taken money off the wrong people; Mafia types usually have only one answer for this type of behavior." Ted Doyle dismissed speculation that he was involved in Max Green's murder: "Yeah, I'm always in lao sapphire, lao sapphires, sapphires from Laos, Huay Xai sapphire, Max Green, Ted Doyle, Lee Wolf, Joe Schall, Gary Shugg, Bjarne Jeppeson, CIAfor killing people who give me money. Meanwhile there's a foolscap sheet of people Max took money off who nobody seems interested in. Some of them are not very nice people.

"I have been offered some flaky arrangements during my time but Max beat them all…. A very fine piece of monofilament was attaching Max Green to the planet. You are talking about a very sick soul who played with the wrong people…

"In the course of trade, Max got killed before he could pay his last bill. It makes it rather difficult for people to pay their bills. Not breathing affects your ability to write checks."

The killing field

H-A-T-E! It was with this left hand that old brother Cain struck the blow that laid his brother low. Robert Mitchum, 'Night of the Hunter'

If you had to pick a kill zone, you could do no better than Cambodia's capital of Phnom Penh. Thirty years of civil war had left a country teetering on the brink. This is the Wild Wild East. Guns as common as pencils, law enforcement is MIA and lives bought and sold for little more than a pack of fags.

In March 1998, Max Green planned a visit to Singapore and Hong Kong. At the last minute, he added a stopover in Phnom Penh. We do not know why, but whoever played travel agent probably also acted as undertaker.

On 24 March, Max Green checked into Room 511 at the Sofitel Cambodiana. Between the hours of 3:57 and 5:57 PM, he made a number of calls. The first was to Ted Doyle's mobile phone in Thailand. Next he rang his business associate, Bill Lewski's home in Australia, but did not get through. He then tried Lewski's office, but again could not get through. At 4:53 PM he reached Lewski at his home. At 5:55 PM, Max again rang Doyle's mobile phone, but did not get through. He then called Doyle's office in Bangkok.

lao sapphire, lao sapphires, sapphires from Laos, Huay Xai sapphire, Max Green, Ted Doyle, Lee Wolf, Joe Schall, Gary Shugg, Bjarne Jeppeson, CIA   A hotel maid saw Green in his room at 6:10 PM. Two hours later he dined alone in the hotel's first-floor restaurant. The next morning at 7:30 AM, he passed the front reception desk and headed upstairs for a cup of coffee in the coffee lounge. This was the last the world saw of Max Green.

Between 9:00 AM and 2:00 PM, someone entered Max Green's room. We do not know who because, although the hotel did have security cameras, either the tape went missing or the floor wasn't yet hooked up. His visitor was apparently expected.

The next day at 2:20 PM, a maid approached Room 511. It should have been empty, its occupant on an 11:00 AM flight to Hong Kong. But beneath the brass room number plate, the privacy light still glowed red. The cleaner rang the doorbell. There was no answer. Opening the door, she saw the key in the power box and heard the television. Gingerly, the maid entered, but stopped after seeing a man's feet on the bed. Assuming him to be asleep, she retreated.

At 3:00 PM she returned with her supervisor. They rang the bell again and entered. The lifeless body of Max Green lay face down on the bed, rouge staining the pillow with something that once was, but was no longer. The back of his head had been smashed against the floor, his face bashed against a stone table, so badly disfigured as to be unrecognizable. A necktie twisted around his throat delivered an apparent coup d'grace. On the floor was Max Green's gold Cartiér watch. Cash, credit cards and passport remained in the room safe. All that was missing was his laptop computer – that, and his life.

Outside the hotel, visible from Max's window, muddy water flowed down Mekong River. All the way from Laos, pissed slowly out to sea…

Maxie – poor, poor Maxie – you forgot the first rule – you let your guard down. You forgot to feel for the Adam's apple.

lao sapphire, lao sapphires, sapphires from Laos, Huay Xai sapphire, Max Green, Ted Doyle, Lee Wolf, Joe Schall, Gary Shugg, Bjarne Jeppeson, CIAThe muddy Mekong River at the town of Huay Xai, Laos. Photo: © R.W. Hughes 


You know where it ends… it usually depends on where you start. Everlast, 'What It's Like'

Shortly after speaking to Max Green in Phnom Penh, Ted Doyle boarded a flight from Bangkok to London. In 2001, he was said to have suffered a serious motorcycle accident while on his way to Khao Yai with his son, Arta. One associate said: "Doyle was a terrible driver, and in Thailand, that ain't a good thing."

Gary and Veronique Shugg were said to be living in the West End of London.

Lee Wolf took the ups and downs in stride. As he told a friend, "You figure when you get a million or two, you'll be set for life. In reality, it don't take long to spend that." He told the author in late 2002 that he was trying to "put the wheels back on my wagon."

Following his death, Green's body was brought back to Melbourne for burial. Shortly after the funeral, his remains were exhumed under court order, just to make sure it really was Max buried in that grave. Yes, the body was that of Max Green. The location of Max's millions, and his laptop, remains a mystery.

R S end dingbat


A big tip of the hat to Joseph Schall for hours of conversations and background info. Also to Lee Wolf of Bangkok, who for the first time has spoken publicly about the Max Green affair. My buddies William Larson and Edward Boehm pulled yeoman editorial duty. Other private sources helped, but prefer to remain anonymous. And thanks to all those who continue to contact me with further clues to the Max Green mystery.


About the author

Richard W. Hughes is one of the world’s foremost experts on ruby and sapphire. The author of several books and over 170 articles, his writings and photographs have appeared in a diverse range of publications, and he has received numerous industry awards. Co-winner of the 2004 Edward J. Gübelin Most Valuable Article Award from Gems & Gemology magazine, the following year he was awarded a Richard T. Liddicoat Journalism Award from the American Gem Society. In 2010, he received the Antonio C. Bonanno Award for Excellence in Gemology from the Accredited Gemologists Association. The Association Française de Gemmologie (AFG) in 2013 named Richard as one of the fifty most important figures that have shaped the history of gems since antiquity. In 2016, Richard was awarded a visiting professorship at Shanghai's Tongji University. 2017 saw the publication of Richard's Ruby & Sapphire: A Gemologist's Guide, arguably the most complete book ever published on a single gem species and the culmination of nearly four decades of work in gemology.


Published in The Guide (2002, Vol. 21, No. 1, Part I, January–February, pp. 4–9, 16). This web edition contains material and updates not found in the original.


Further reading

Published sources on the Max Green saga include well over 100 articles in everything from Time magazine to major Australian newspapers, along with the following books:

  • Conroy, Paul (2000) Lawyers, Gems and Money: The Max Green Murder and the Missing Millions. Melbourne, Information Australia, 268 pp.
  • Conroy, Paul, (2002) 10 Months in Laos: A Vast Web of Intrigue, Missing Millions and Murder. Melbourne, Crown Content, 166 pp.
  • Danes, K. (2002) Deliver Us from Evil: Bad Things do Happen to Good People. North Melbourne, Vic., Crown Content, xx, 278 pp. 

R S end dingbat

Cast of characters

The Max Green saga involves a bewildering variety of players, a veritable forest of mirrors. For the amateur sleuths out there, I list below many of the personalities and companies. Similar to SETI (the computerized search for extraterrestrial intelligence, an effort where the computational work is distributed across millions of computers around the world), perhaps if we all put our heads together, a better understanding of this curious case can be forthcoming. Towards that end, the author would be happy to hear from anyone who can shed further light on this case. Such information will be held in strictest confidence if so desired. Please indicate this in your messages to me. If anyone finds errors in this report, again, please contact the author.

Keep in mind that most of the people and companies on this list are guilty of nothing more than being peripherally associated with Max Green, the Lao sapphire mines or one of the other major players in this drama.

  • Louise Giselle Baron: Wife of Max Green.
  • Brett Batchelor: Elected to board of ASL in 1999 as part of the "dissident" slate; said by one source to have turned up at the GML office in Vientiane three weeks before the 30 April, 1999 ASL meeting with Michael Sullivan and two Thai lawyers. Allegedly armed with fake documents, they unsuccessfully attempted to push Jeppesen & Co. out of ASL at that time.
  • Lindsay Norman Birrell: Lawyer, finance director of ASL; stuck with Jeppesen when Shugg first began his takeover bid of ASL, but then changed his mobile phone number and moved out of his flat in London to live with a lady in North Kent after telephoning Minews to say that he was being followed by men in dark glasses. Shortly after this he joined the ASL dissidents and repeated their mantra that Jeppesen had nicked some stones.
  • Simon Brewer: Board member of Hanover Co. Ltd.
  • Julie Bruns: Wife of Bjarne Jeppesen; former executive officer of ASL.
  • Harold Jeffrey Christensen: Jeppesen's assistant, former general manager of the Perth Stock Exchange. He had earlier been sentenced to eight months' jail in Western Australia in 1995 for his role in a 1988 artificial share-price support scam with a gold-mining company, Paragon Resources.
  • Elias Christianos: Adelaide-based Australian involved in opal, chrysoprase and sapphire mining in Australia and elsewhere. Jailed in 1991 for perjury. Later involved with GML to subcontract the mining operations at Huay Xai and receive all stones over a certain size (the larger ones) in exchange for paying the whole of the operating and office costs at Huay Xai. The remainder of the stones were retained by GML to satisfy its contracts, including the one with Swarovski. This arrangement started in July 1999 and ceased in October 1999. Christianos' companies, Gembank and Yerilla Gems Pty. Ltd., have been involved in court cases in Australia for nonpayment of debts.
         In 2005, Christianos was involved with the float of another sapphire mining venture, Australis Mining. In October 2005 the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) applied to the Supreme Court of New South Wales for orders seeking the winding up in insolvency of Australis Mining Corporation Limited and Australis Mining Operations Qld Pty Limited amid charges that the company was mismanaged. Another of his companies is Nikiticorp, which is now involved with Australis.
         The following Christianos biography (which conveniently leaves unmentioned the Lao chapter and his previous perjury conviction) was found on the company website:

    Alternate Director - Elias Christianos
    Mr Christianos (aged 57 years) has spent his lifetime working in all aspects of the gemstone industry, including mining and marketing opals, diamonds and sapphires. His working life began in 1958 in the family mine at Eight-Mile Diggings, Coober Pedy, South Australia where large opal discoveries were made. He first commenced mining sapphires at Anakie Gem Fields, Queensland in 1972 and after running a number of offshore mines, established offices in Bangkok and Chanthaburi, Thailand for the sale of rough sapphires. Junior Mining Operations Pty Ltd, Queensland was incorporated in 1978 initially to buy sapphires and market them through the Thailand and Hong Kong offices before becoming a sapphire miner itself.

    Mr Christianos retains a significant shareholding in the Company through his interest in Nikiticorp (L) BHD.

    Also on the board of this company were Robert R. Coenraads and Ted Tzovaras (see below).

  • George Christianos: Third-generation of the gem-mining Christianos clan; involved with Australis Mining, as well as mining in Laos and elsewhere.
  • Robert R. Coenraads: Australian gemologist/geologist who assisted Brian Senior with a geologic study of the Huay Xai sapphire deposit. Later involved in a controversial sapphire mining venture in Australia (Australis Mining) with Elias Christianos and Ted Tzovaras.
  • Denys L.H. Cole: Board member of Hanover Co. Ltd.
  • Kerry & Kay Danes: Lao Securicor officials, arrested, charged and later sentenced to seven years in jail in Laos for the theft of sapphires from GML; later released and now living back in Australia (see story above). Since returning to Australia, Kay Danes has written of her experiences and worked tirelessly to ensure that prisoners around the world are treated in a humane manner. In March 2008, Kay published her third book, Families Behind Bars, which documents her struggle to improve the conditions of prisoners following her release. This might sound like a cliché, but one needs fire to temper steel. Her work following her release shows how struggle can change a life, and how just one life can change the world. The following says it all:

    Families Behind Bars
    Published by New Holland Publishers [Australia]

    Kay Danes will take you to  some of the most evil dungeons on our planet and tell you stories right out of a gothic horror novel. Her characters are not evil sociopaths who come from wacky dysfunctional families – trapped in a world of hopelessness and despair – many are ordinary people just like you and I.

    Families Behind Bars will make you cry, it will cause you despair – but it will also inspire and offer you the hope that nothing is impossible.

    In  2000 Kay and her husband Kerry were wrongfully imprisoned in Laos. While languishing in a squalid prison, waiting for her government to secure their freedom, Kay promised her fellow inmates that if she ever escaped that hellhole – she would help raise awareness about the appalling conditions they faced, rightfully or wrongfully, and the unimaginable suffering their families endured, often forgotten or shunned by society.

    Families Behind Bars is the story of Kay's battle to fulfill  that promise and to help families who have loved ones detained overseas.

    The people in this book are real. Some are high-profile prisoners, such as David Hicks, Michael Connell and Schapelle Corby, but for each celebrity inmate there are dozens whose stories are equally tragic and never told – but should be.

  • Mick Dempster: Former hired hand for GML; fled Laos in Feb. 1998; according to a published account, he feared for his life after allegedly angering businessmen and government officials by trying to stop them from stealing millions of dollars worth of sapphires from the mine. Dempster said: "They wanted me out after they realized their pilfering was going to slow down to a trickle." Dempster told the author in Dec. 2009 that he accidentally stumbled over a security guard one evening and the next he knew, the Lao police were talking about throwing him in the can for three months for "assault." Thus Dempster thought it best to get the hell outta Dodgeburi.
  • Trevor John "Ted" Doyle: See story above. Following a short stint in Indonesia, Doyle was said to have moved to Hastings, England with his Balinese wife. This information was current as of July 2005. Doyle reportedly died in Indonesia on 30 June 2011.
  • Andrew Doyle: Ted Doyle's brother; operated a photo studio on the second floor of Pacific East Trading Co.; said to still be living in Bangkok.
  • Nigel David Edwards: Stockbroker at T. Hoare, now Cannaccord Capital, who helped with fundraising for Asia Sapphires, Ltd.; elected to board of ASL in 1999 as part of the "dissident" slate.
  • Paul E. Elmer: Production manager at Wolf and Doyle's Opal Factory at Khao Yai, Thailand
  • Mary Flipse: Legal advisor for GML, based in Vientiane at the firm of Dirksen Flipse Doran and Le, with her husband, Todd Dirksen.
  • Madam Fong Sing-Yee: Person who received money from Somchai Ketkothin via transfer at the Wing Han Bank Limited in Hong Kong; later said to be fictitious.
  • Marcus Foster: Director of Hanover Continental, which shared offices with Shugg just off Oxford St. in London, UK.
  • Simon Fox: In charge of computers and electronic transfers at Pacific East; Australian friend of Ted Doyle's; said by one source to have once been jailed in Florida on a weapons charge. Used to stay at the Swiss Lodge on Convent Rd., where Doyle and Wolf kept rooms.
  • Max Green: See story above.
  • Alex Hoffman: Caught up in arms deal with Shugg & Green (see story above)
  • Don Ingles: Mine manager for GML. Both he and Mick Dempster had previously been living in Hua Hin, Thailand.
  • Phil Jackson: Ex-hotel manager who was said to have worked/lived for a period at Pacific East Trading in Bangkok.
  • Timothy Mark James: Board member of Hanover Co. Ltd.
  • Bjarne Jeppesen (sometimes spelled Jeppeson): Danish national who, with his New Zealand wife, Julie Bruns, formed Gem Mines Lao PDR (GML). According to Jeppesen, he arrived in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in late 1959; in 1962 started a building career, where he erected two country schools for the Australian Government. Spent three months as an assistant manager on a rubber plantation in the Gulf of Papua, then went on to become a crocodile hunter. Between 1962–72 he became the most successful builder in PNG, building over 500 flats, a few houses, and eventually owning 105 units outright. He then started investing in ships. Left PNG in 1974. Jeppesen spent ten months in 1975–76 in Darwin. Later involved in mining amethyst in Champassak Province in southern Laos before forming GML to work the Huay Xai sapphire deposit.
  • Somchai Ketkothin: Days before Green went to Cambodia, he requested his bank to transfer US$1.5 million to the account of Somchai Ketkothin at the Wing Han Bank in Hong Kong. That money then was transferred to the account of one Madam Fong Sing-Yee, a name which later proved fictitious.
  • Erhardt E. "Eddie" Koslowski: Friend of Ted Doyle's in Bangkok.
  • Somsavat Lengsavad: Lao Foreign Minister involved in the jailing and prosecution of the Danes; relieved of his duties in February, 2002. According to one source, he was paid money, promised shares in ASL and a percentage of the mine take by an important member of ASL to arrange for the ouster of Jeppesen and Bruns.
  • William Lewski: Max Green's Melbourne associate. Lewski's company, Australian Property Custodians Pty. Ltd. was involved with Max Green's tax deferment scheme; Lewski is also said to have loaned Max Green US$250,000 for investment in the Lao sapphire mine Green allegedly told Lewski he wanted $1,000,000 and if Lewski couldn't provide it all, he would get the balance from "his friends in the CIA." Green also wanted Lewski to invest in a sea-cucumber farm in Vanuatu. Lewski has been accused of other shady business deals, which were detailed on Australian TV on 4 March, 2013 ('A Betrayal of Trust').
  • Fernanda Macleod: Consultant to Hanover Continental Ltd.
  • Roger Maddock: Board member of Hanover Co. Ltd.
  • Geoff Nettle: Lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the Melbourne court case surrounding the loss of Max Green's millions. He referred to the scheme in court as a "you-beaut investment scheme with an upfront tax kicker."
  • Douglas Panther: Involved with importing opals for Pacific East Trading Co.
  • John Adrian Tremanyne Rodd (Lord Rennell of Rodd): Scottish rugby international of years past, once chairman of Asia Sapphires Ltd.
  • Weerapong Sanpote: Elected to board of ASL in 1999 as part of the "dissident" slate.
  • Joseph Schall: Bangkok gem trader who sold Ted Doyle gems in 1996.
  • Brian R. Senior: Independent geological consultant to ASL & director of Panamex
    Resources Inc.; performed geological study of the Huay Xai sapphire province with Australian gemologist, Robert Coenraads.
  • Gary Vernon Shugg: Former partner of Max Green; later involved in Asia Sapphires Ltd., said to be wanted by Australian police on charges stemming from theft from a legal trust fund in 1993–1994. Warrants said to have been issue for his arrest in September 1999. As of December 2005, Shugg was thought to be living in London's West End (UK) with his wife, Veronique. In Jan. 2006, two sources reported that Shugg had undergone a sex-change operation and now goes by the name of Miss Gina Ramsey. As of April, 2010, "Gina" Shugg was reportedly living in Cragg Vale, Halifax, England.
  • Veronique Beatrix Shugg (nee Groenestein): Board member of Hanover Co. Ltd. and wife of Gary Shugg.
  • Michael Allen Sullivan: Elected to board of ASL in 1999 as part of the "dissident" slate
  • Jonathan Thwaites: Australian ambassador to Laos.
  • Ted Tzovaris: Elias Christianos' lawyer in Laos; later appointed to represent the Danes. Later involved in a controversial sapphire mining venture in Australia (Australis Mining) with Elias Christianos and Robert Coenraads.
  • Somkhit Vilavong: Lao-born American partner of Jeppesen and Bruns in GML. Said by one party to have won US$10 million in the NY State Lottery, but later lost it all through bad investments.
  • Bounmaly (Bounmali) Vilavong: Deputy head of the Lao Foreign Investment Management Committee; he has been linked with attempts to take over the GML mine.
  • Michael Wansley: Australian accountant who was murdered in March 1999 while negotiating a debt restructure of a Thai sugar mill.
  • Ian Charles Webb: CEO of ASL as part of the "dissident" slate ; prior to that he was an officer in the British Navy.
  • Warren Wiesse: American cutter involved in Huay Xai, in charge of cutting at GML.
  • David Lee Wolf (sometimes spelled Wolfe): See story above. Contrary to rumors, very much alive and kicking as of August 2013.
  • Warrick Zealey: Australian business associate of Lee Wolf during the 1980s and early 1990s; worked with him in Bangkok.

Cast of Companies

  • Armand Associates Ltd.: Bahamas company incorporated 17 May, 1996. Purchased from Mossack Fonseca and Co., a business involved in the formation of offshore companies. Said to be effectively controlled by Wolf, Doyle and Shugg.
  • Aroni Colman: Max Green's law firm.
  • Asia Sapphires Ltd. (ASL): See story above; started life in 1966 as Kalco Valley Mines Ltd.; changed name in 1975 to Consolidated Kalco Valley Mines Ltd.; again changed name in 1979 to Brace Resources Ltd.; changed name yet again in 1988 to International Brace Resources Ltd., which was declared inactive by the Vancouver Stock Exchange in 1996; reactivated in 1997 as Prescott Resources Inc.; changed name to Asia Sapphires Limited in 1998. Company had three subsidiaries: Asia Sapphires (Barbados) Limited ('Asia Barbados'); Gem Mining Lao PDR Co. Limited ('GML'); Asia Sapphires (Sales) Limited ('Asia Sales'). GML was wholly owned by Asia Barbados.
  • Australian Property Custodians Pty. Ltd.: Company managed by William Lewski.
  • Australis Mining: In early 2005, Elias Christianos helped float this sapphire mining venture in Queensland, Australia. By October 2005 it was near bankrupt amid charges that the company was mismanaged. Also on the board were Robert R. Coenraads and Ted Tzovaras (see Cast of Characters above). Christianos was the major shareholder of Australis Mining, via a Malaysia-based holding company.
  • Buhae Industrial Corp.: Korean Co. that invested in the Lao sapphire mine at Huay Xai in October, 1998. The company was established in 1979 and originally involved in telecommunications projects with American, Japanese, French and Canadian companies. It was also previously involved in a failed ruby mining venture at Luc Yen, Vietnam.
  • Champion Wood Investment Lao PDR: Vientiane-based company operated by Bjarne Jeppesen, circa 1992.
  • CL Custodians Pty. Ltd.: Yet another of Max Green's shell companies.
  • Covara Pty. Ltd.: Company with Green and Doyle.
  • Finsbury Trust Ltd.: One of Max Green's offshore companies; apparently also associated with Ted Doyle and Gary Shugg.
  • Geddeson Finance Pty. Ltd.: Trust company established in 1993 by Max Green as a mortgage provider; Green is said to have diverted A$1.8 million from the fund to his private account.
  • Gem Mining Concessions Ltd.: Company established by Jeppesen and Harold Christensen via Cayman Island agents, Pagent-Brown & Co.
  • Geddeson Finance Pty. Ltd.: Company established by Green in 1993 as a mortgage provider. $1.8 million invested by clients was diverted by Green.
  • Gem Houses of Asia: Company set up by Ted Doyle and Lee Wolf to cut and sell opal.
  • Guernsey Holding Ltd.: Another Max Green shell company, this one based in Guernesy, UK.
  • Hanover Company Ltd. (HCL; formerly Hanover Continental Ltd.): Irish registered company with Shugg, Doyle and Wolf as directors, established 21 March 1997, office set up two months later with Lord Rennell of Rodd as Chairman. Fernanda Macleod listed as consultant on letterhead; now incorporated in Jersey. [on 24 Jan. 2007, the Jersey Financial Services Commission published this note].
  • Howarth: Accounting firm that signed off on Max Green's tax scheme.
  • Intan Permata Gems: Ted Doyle's Jakarta-based gem company.
  • LMJ Pty. Ltd.: Company associated with Max Green.
  • Max Green & Associates: Account used by Max Green to launder money.
  • Mona Trust Ltd.: One of Gary Shugg & Max Green's offshore companies; based in Ireland.
  • Montague Lynch Capital: Nonexistent Hong Kong company from which Max Green claimed he was borrowing money.
  • Monthien Thong: One of two Thai companies that had a two-year lease to mine sapphire at Huay Xai, prior to GML.
  • Nikiticorp: Yet another of the companies linked to Elias Christianos.
  • Opal Factory: Boulder opal cutting factory near Khao Yai National Park, Thailand, owned by Lee Wolf and Ted Doyle. Opened January 1997; now closed.
  • Orient Finance Ltd.: One of Max Green's offshore companies.
  • Pacific East Trading Co. Ltd.: Lee Wolf's company.
  • Panamex Resources Inc.: Company associated with ASL and Shugg's Hanover Co. Ltd. Listed on the Vancouver Stock Exchange 30 May, 1997, delisted 30 Nov., 2001; involved in exploring for minerals in Laos.
  • Piyamitr: Bangkok gem wholesaler where Joseph Schall worked selling gems in Bangkok.
  • Poppy Industries: Cosmetics company peripherally involved with Aroni Colman, Max Green's law firm.
  • Prescott Resources Inc.: See ASL above.
  • Ross River Minerals Inc.: Formerly Panamex Resources Inc. Yet another of the companies Gary Shugg has been involved with.
  • Sark Corporate Services: Sark, Channel Islands based company connected to Mona Trust.
  • Securicor Lao: Security company owned by Jardine-Matheson. Supposedly $85,000/month PTT money funneled from that to Laos; the Lao branch was closed after the Danes' arrest.
  • Silam Holdings: Company that lost A$1.19 million in Max Green's investment scam. When this was revealed, a joke when round that Silam stood for "Shit I've Lost A Million."
  • Silvers/Kosters Productions: Max Green sent A$57,000 into the account of this company that was making the movie Dead End in Melbourne.
  • Swarovski: Austrian gem giant invested US$1.993 million in Lao sapphire mine.
  • S.Y.: One of two Thai companies that had a two-year lease to mine sapphire at Huay Xai, prior to GML.
  • Thai Naga: Company set up by Ted Doyle and Lee Wolf.
  • Thai Petrochemical Industry (TPI): Paid US$80,000 a month from April to Sept., (2000?) for 24-hour a day security to the Danes' private company, DP Protection Services. Manager Daily in Thailand said the payments were illegal and used to launder money for Ferrier Hodgson Ltd., the Australian accountancy firm in charge of restructuring the debt of TPI. The need for security followed the death of Australian accountant, Michael Wansley, who was murdered in March 1999 while negotiating a US$450 million debt restructure at a sugar mill in Thailand. KPMG provided subsequent evidence to both the Lao and Thai Court that countered the claim made by Manager Daily newspaper, supporting the fact that the Danes' operation and business dealings were wholly legitimate and that no laws in Thailand had been breeched.

Appendix A: Spy vs. Spy

"If intelligence-gathering agencies are as necessary as I believe them to be, then they must repay our blind trust and acknowledge that there may always be moments in all secret organizations when tyranny manages to slip its leash."

– James Jesus Angleton, former
counterintelligence chief of the CIA

Almost immediately following the death of Max Green, rumors about intelligence-service connections to his money laundering surfaced. It was variously suggested that he and/or Doyle/Wolf had CIA, DEA or other intelligence-service contacts, depending on precisely which version of the legend one chose to believe. All who knew him agreed that he had a passion for spy novels, so perhaps this story was merely a function of his imagination. According to Max Green's Melbourne associate, William Lewski, Green claimed that his Thai partner, Lee Wolf, worked for the CIA, something that Wolf has strenuously denied. Lewski testified that Green asked him for US$250,000 to help buy a $1,500,000 share in the Lao sapphire mine. As the kicker, he said that the CIA was interested in the Lao sapphire project as a strategic foothold, a "bolthole" near China's southern border. Lewski agreed after Green produced documents showing the CIA was to effectively guarantee the payment of $1.5 million to Green through a Luxembourg bank account.

While it may seem preposterous at first, CIA involvement in Australian money-laundering and political chicanery does have a well-documented history.

The Nugan Hand Bank

On January 27, 1980, Australian Frank Nugan's body was found slumped over the wheel of his Mercedes near Lithgow, some 90 miles inland from Sydney. A rifle lay in one hand; his brains littered the sedan's interior. Next to the body on the seat lay a bible, with a pie wrapper tucked inside bearing the names of William Colby, former head of the CIA, and US congressman, Bob Wilson, senior Republican on the US Armed Services Committee and a 26–year veteran of the intelligence subcommittee.

On the surface, Nugan's death was a simple suicide, but in the following months and years, a massive financial scandal unraveled involving a bank that served as a money-laundering conduit for spies, assassins, dictators, dope and weapons smugglers (Kwitny, 1987).

Nugan was partners with American ex-Green Beret, Michael Hand, in a bank that numbered among its directors and associates a virtual who's who of the CIA and US military/intelligence community. These were people like William Colby (ex-CIA Director), General Edwin Black, General Erle Cocke Jr., General LeRoy Manor and Admiral Earl Yates. At the periphery were such notables as Theodore Shackley, Thomas Clines, Richard Secord and Edwin Wilson, lifelong CIA operatives, each of whom would later surface in the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980's.

Activities of the Nugan Hand bank included:

  • Looting of savings accounts of bank customers, many of whom included US military personnel enticed into depositing their money in the bank by Nugan Hand's ex-US military directors
  • Arms trafficking in Africa and elsewhere
  • Movement of Marcos' millions out of the Philippines
  • Payoffs and money laundering in the "Mr. Asia" heroin scandal in Australia and the UK, where a number of the players ended up murdered

Under the table and spying

The CIA's interest in Australia included more than kangaroos. In the center of the vast Australian continent is one of America's most important overseas military assets – the Pine Gap base.

Ostensibly a part of the US space program, this operation near Alice Springs is no mere space station. Indeed, it was considered so vital to US interests in the 1970's that the CIA took extreme protection measures. Such measures included the overthrow of Australia's government.

Gough Whitlam was elected prime minister of Australia in 1972 under the Labour Party banner. His election marked a break with the past. Whitlam refused to endorse the pro-Vietnam War policies of his predecessor. In addition, he quietly closed an Australian intelligence listening post in Singapore. And then he began to question just what was going on at Pine Gap. The latter was to be his downfall.

By March of 1973, Whitlam began to wonder if Australia's Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) had, to paraphrase CIA spycatcher, James Angleton, "slipped its leash." So much so, that the government's Attorney General, Lionel Murphy, led a raid on the ASIO offices.

Let us pause for a moment and put this in perspective. Imagine the director of the FBI, at the behest of the president, leading a raid on CIA headquarters in Langley. Yes… now you have the idea. This was war.

By 1975, the knives were truly drawn. Whitlam continued his independent stand, sacking the head of Australia's overseas intelligence agency, accusing the man of deceiving him about the organization's work in East Timor, where Indonesia's military dictators, with the blessing of Henry Kissinger and the US government, were on a killing spree.

Finally, the CIA and ASIO saw their opening. Whitlam had appointed John Kerr to the ceremonial post of governor-general. Unbeknownst to Whitlam, the post held secret power. According to Australian's constitution, the governor-general held the power to appoint and dismiss the prime minister. On November 11, 1975, citing a budget crisis, Kerr did just that, taking the previously unheard-of step of dismissing Whitlam, the elected prime minister. If the event had happened in Italy or some third-world nation, it would have been called by its rightful name – a coup d'etat.

The truth later came out. Unbeknownst to Whitlam, Kerr had long ties to the CIA, having worked with its predecessor, the OSS in 1947, and maintaining those ties right through the 1970's. As for Pine Gap, the installation was actually set up to download critical spy satellite transmissions regarding Soviet and Chinese missile launches, as well as intercepting communications from around the world (the Greeks once accused the US of listening in on their phone calls via Pine Gap).

Seeing yellow

In examining this operation, my jaundiced eye cannot but notice that, like so many other CIA escapades, it was a failure, actually reducing, rather than increasing American security.

How so? Let's take a look at some of the signature CIA operations of the past 40 years. Agency efforts to remove Castro from power in Cuba resulted in the siting of Russian missiles on the island, which brought the world to the brink of nuclear destruction in the early 1960's and the eventual assassination of the US president (JFK). The SE Asian wars in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia produced millions of casualties and the rise of the Khmer Rouge. CIA support for British and US oil companies in Iran resulted in the 1953 removal of elected prime minister Mossadegh and installation of the Shah. This in turn brought the nightmare regime of Ayatollah Khomeini to power. The CIA helped boot the Soviets out of Afghanistan, but we now must deal with one of their creations, Osama bin Laden. Indeed, as a nation, all America seems to have gained from these battles is more insecurity and a never-ending heroin/cocaine jones.

According to ex-CIA agent, Ralph McGehee (1983), whose 25-year career included many postings in SE Asia:

The Church Committee [a post-Watergate congressional committee empowered to examine the CIA], after an exhaustive review, concluded that the Agency acted more as the covert action arm of the Presidency than as an intelligence gatherer and collator. Its final report said the CIA was heavily involved in covertly sponsoring the publication of books and that over the years until 1967 it had in some way been responsible for the publication of well over 1,000 books – a fifth of these in the English language. According to the Church Committee, the Agency was running news services, had employees working for major press organizations, and was illegally releasing and planting stories directly into the U.S. media. Frequently these stories were false and were designed to support the Agency's covert action goals.

So what of the operation to "protect" Pine Gap? Christopher Boyce, son of an FBI agent, worked at TRW in southern California, where his job included transferring information between the supersecret Australian base and CIA headquarters. News of CIA infiltration of Australian labor unions and surreptitious attempts to sway public opinion Down Under passed daily across his computer screen. Eventually his revulsion reached the point where he asked a friend to sell the information to the Soviet Union, a case later immortalized in the book and movie, The Falcon and the Snowman. He did this not out of any love of communism or the Soviet Union, but out of disgust at the hypocrisy of his own government (Lindsey, 1979).

In concluding our discussion of possible CIA involvement, perhaps it is best to close with some words from former US president, Harry Truman, who was responsible for setting up the CIA. Truman had the following to say just a month after JFK's assassination:

For some time I have been disturbed by the way [the] CIA has been diverted from its original assignment…. I never had any thought when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations…. We have grown up as a nation, respected for our free institutions and for our ability to maintain a free and just society. There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historical position, and I feel that we need to correct it.

– Harry S. Truman, December 22, 1963

    Was the CIA really backing Max Green? I remain agnostic on the question. But based on the evidence, there is enough of a stink about both his affairs and those of the CIA in Australia and SE Asia to warrant further investigation.

• •

Further reading

For further information on CIA involvement in Australia and SE Asia, see the following:

  • Corn, David (1994) Blond Ghost: Ted Shackley and the CIA's Crusades. New York, Simon and Schuster, 509 pp.
  • Friedrich, John (1991) Codename Iago. Port Melbourne, William Heinemann Australia, 256 pp.
  • Kwitny, Jonathan (1987) The Crimes of Patriots: A True Story of Dope, Dirty Money, and the CIA. New York, W.W. Norton, 424 pp. [covers the Nugan Hand bank]
  • McCoy, Alfred W. (1991) The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade. Brooklyn, New York, Lawrence Hill Books, 635 pp.
  • McGehee, Ralph (1983) Deadly Deceits: My 25 Years in the CIA. Sheridan Square Press; 2nd printing, 1999, Ocean Press, Hoboken, NJ, 231 pp.
  • Lindsey, Robert (1979) The Falcon and the Snowman. New York, Simon and Schuster, 359 pp.
  • Stich, Rodney and Russell, T. Conan (1995) Disavow: A CIA Saga of Betrayal. Hallmark Publishers, Reno, NV, 392 pp.


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