Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bebe Rebozo and his Pan American Airways Peeps

Excerpt from The Breaking of a President 1974 - The Nixon Connection
Marvin Miller, Compiler (Therapy Productions, Inc.©1975)


Secret Manipulations of President's Crony Still Pose Question Mark


To those of an inquiring turn of mind, it may seem odd that these two men from such radically different milieusthe earnest young Quaker lawyer and politician from rural Southern California [Richard M. Nixon], and the self‑made Cuban‑American businessman on Florida's Gold Coast [Charles G. Rebozo]should have become friends in the first place, and soon become so close. Just who is Bebe Rebozo and what is his background?

Charles Gregory Rebozo was born in Tampa, Florida, on November 17, 1912 — making him just three months older than Nixon. He was the youngest of nine children of a Havana cigar‑maker who had brought his family from Cuba to the United States. By the time the family moved from Tampa to Miami, little Charles had already been nicknamed "Bebe." A brother of his had trouble saying "baby" in English, and the nickname stuck. (Most people pronounce it "Be‑be"; the Nixons call him "Beeb."

Bebe worked hard to help support his parents and eight brothers and sisters. At the age of 10 he was delivering newspapers, and at 12, in the fifth grade, was working after school as a chicken plucker, a job he detested because he hated to kill anything. While still in school he displayed his money‑wise nature by making his first real estate investment. He put $25 down on a lot in Canaveral, which he lost during the Depression when he couldn't keep up the payments.

Small and slightly built, Rebozo learned as a boy, according to old friends, that the way to avoid being bullied by the bigger boys was to keep quiet, smile a lot, and be generally charming. He was a bright boy, and his dark good looks and charm won him the vote as "best‑looking boy" in his senior class of 1930 at Miami.
Click to enlarge map.
[Ed. Note: Rebozo's high school, the only one in Miami at the time, was located at 2450 SW 1st Street. Hoke Maroon, Syrian-born son of a local fruit vendor (Tony Maroon, who operated Northern Fruit Market on NE 1st Avenue), was a classmate. Miami High was also the alma mater of George Smathers, who grew up at 443 NE 39th Street, and of Phil Graham, whose family owned land northwest of Hialeah, just east of the Okeechobee Road, in some directories referred to as Pennsuco, Florida. Smathers and Graham went to college in Gainesville, later graduating from law school there in 1938, while Bebe had an assortment of jobs in Miami.]
After graduation, while many of his wealthier classmates went on to college, Bebe got a job with Pan‑American Airways as one of their first 10 stewards. For a year he worked on the flying boats shuttling between Miami, the West Indies and Panama. It was during this time that he was secretly married at the age of 18 to a Miami girl named Clare Gunn. The marriage was annulled three years later. His young wife testified that they had never lived together, and that she had only married him because "he was very domineering, and kept insisting and insisting." Apparently this was a facet Bebe displayed only to his girl friend; to others he was charming and ingratiating.

In 1931 Bebe quit his job with the airline and went to work pumping gasoline at a filling station in Miami. After a year he quit this and took a job chauffeuring tourists around the Gold Coast. Living frugally and saving his money, restless and always looking for a better chance, in 1935 he invested his savings in "Rebozo's Service Station and Auto Supplies," specializing in the sale of retreaded tires. With his modest profits, he kept investing in real estate, buying raw land around Miami at two or three dollars an acre. He was one of the few who foresaw the coming Florida land boom.

With the outbreak of World War II, Rebozo went back to Pan‑American as a navigator on contract flights for the Army's Air Transport Command, and made about 100 ferry trips across the Atlantic to Africa and India. 
 [Editor's Note:  We found a document at, which shows Bebe navigating a U.S. Army plane en route from Bermuda to LaGuardia. The pilot (captain) was Joe Ernest Fretwell, whose listing in the 1940 census shows him living in Coral Gables at the corner of Madrid Street and Milan Avenue. The house actually fronted on Milan, though designated as 1510 Madrid Street.
Note the red car in previous photo. Click to enlarge.
Five years later the Florida state census showed he had moved to 529 Minorca Ave. in Coral Gables (less than a mile and half from 1326 Milan, where Bebe had lived in 1940). This house was about the same distance south of the home of Bebe's brother-in-law, Harold Latham Barker. After the war Fretwell continued working as a pilot for Pan American Airlines, the airline for which Bebe had been employed before the war. His flight manifests in the late 1940's show he flew routes between Miami and Havana, Cuba, or Kingston, Jamaica. Prior to the war, records show Fretwell had been a  seaman on the steam tanker Malay that traveled for Marine Transport Lines between Tampico and Providence, R.I., in the early 1930's, and lived in San Diego by 1935. Is all that simply just an incredible coincidence?]
While Bebe was away [on Pan Am flights], an elder brother ran the service station, which profited handsomely on the sudden wartime demand for retreaded tires. On his return from the airways, Bebe found himself in very good shape financially. The postwar land boom was already starting, and he concentrated on his real estate investments. At the same time, following his natural bent for advancement, the young Cuban‑American garageman began to move into Miami social circles, where his natural Latin charm and unobtrusive manners quickly opened doors for him‑with an assist from the rumors of his modest wealth and shrewd business instinct in real estate deals.

In 1946 Bebe was quietly married for the second timecuriously enough, to the same girl he had married at 18, who was now a widow named Clare Gentry. This time they lived together for two years, then separated, and were divorced two years after that. "We just didn't make it," Rebozo said later in one of his rare interviews. "It happened when I was young." A friend commented: "He'll never let on, but the whole thing upset him very much. He isn't going to try it again."

 [Editor's Note: The 1940 census indicated that Clare's occupation was shown to be a pilot for the airways, but was struck through, while a faint trace in a different handwriting remains (after erasure?) showing her husband was the pilot. Her husband, James Norman Gentry, son of Stonewall Percy Gentry of Atlanta, had been stationed in Pensacola, Florida in 1935 as a student Naval Air pilot. According to one account, James Gentry met his death on July 31, 1944, at Funafuti Atoll in the Ellice Islands. The certificate of interment in 1950 at Arlington Cemetery, however, shows he served in the military only from July 1, 1935 until  November 5, 1936, and that he was in the Naval Reserve, unactivated.
Could he possibly have been a member of some other elite secret squadron? We read part of an obituary about him in the Georgia Tech alumni magazine: "Captain James Norman Gentry, B.S. in Aero. Eng., 1934, Pan-American Airways, son of Mr. and Mrs. S. Percy Gentry of Atlanta, Ga., was one of a crew of six men to lose his life in a take-off crash at a Pacific base, according to a Navy Department announcement released on August second. Surviving Capt. Gentry, besides his parents, are his wife, the former Clare Gunn, of Miami, Fla., and their two sons, Donald Gunn Gentry, 4, and Warren Randolph Gentry, 6 months, now living at Los Altos, Cal. Capt. Gentry was well known in Atlanta, where he was graduated from Georgia School of Technology in 1934. A member of Chi Phi fraternity and the (Continued on Next Page)..." Donald obtained his master's degree at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California in 1969, writing a thesis in computer science.
Clare Gunn had gone to high school with "Bebe" Rebozo and had in fact been secretly married to him in Fort Lauderdale when both were 18, a marriage later annulled when she claimed it was never consummated. (Source: Des Moines Register, Sunday, October 11, 1970. See below.)]
Page one, click to enlarge print.
Page Two, click to enlarge print.

For some time after that the bachelor Bebe acquired a reputation as a bit of a ladies' man. He dated many of Florida's most beautiful women. One woman friend described him as a "suave man‑about‑town, with a lot of Old World charm—a fun guy." Increasingly in recent years, however, Bebe has cooled off the romantic image and devoted his energies to amassing money and being the President's best friend. He has indicated to his few intimates that he is very careful about his dates because he doesn't want to provoke any idle gossip that might reflect on the Nixon family. His latest steady date is Jane Ann Lucke, an attractive Miami divorcee who lives with her mother and two sons. Mrs. Lucke said in a recent interview that Bebe comes over to their house a couple of nights a week, and she and her mother give him piano lessons, or watch TV or play cards.

To get back to the late 1940's, Bebe's real estate investments prospered and prospered. The word went around that he had the Midas touch. Some of his boyhood friends, back from the war, several of them wealthy, invested their money with him and on his advice, and brought their friends in. Bebe soon became the central figure and guiding genius of a group of well‑heeled, enthusiastic young men who poured their money into real estate speculation. They had their own private fun spots, in particular the old Cocolobo Cay Club on Adams Key, where they frolicked and entertained customers and associates.   
[Editor's note: Adams Key is south of Elliott's Key, just east of Homestead Air Force Base. According to an AP feature writer, Adams Key, which is now part of Biscayne National Park and accessible only by small boat, was home to the Cocolobo Club... The Cocolobo Club was built by Carl Graham Fisher, who purchased the land in 1917. Fisher also owned Fisher Island, located just south of Miami Beach, several miles to the north of Adams Key. Among the original members of Cocolobo were two tire magnatesHarvey Firestone and Frank SeiberlingPresident Harding, and two major shareholder of General MotorsC.F. Kettering and T. Coleman Du Pont. Between 1920 and 1929 Firestone, Seiberling, and other millionaires such as J.C. Penney, Harvey Stutz (another car maker), and Albert Champion (spark plugs) built mansions on the three-mile stretch of Collins Avenue known as Millionaire's Row. But Firestone, for one, had died in 1938, and his Harbel Villa estate (4400 Collins Avenue) would be developed into the Hotel Fontainebleu. It was on Collins Avenue that Nixon's "friend" Tatem Wofford (or Tatum) owned two hotels.
The 1936 Miami directory shows the Fishers living at 5812 Alton Road, across the street from La Gorce Golf Club. The dredging work he had done between the mainland and Miami Beach allowed the creation of several other islands between the south part of Miami Beach island, northwest of Fisher Islandone of which, Palm Island, became the haven of Al Capone in 1929 and later sold to Ralph Buglio, who died in 1952. After being financially devastated by the crash of the Florida land boom, Fisher sold Adams Key to Garfield Arthur Wood, the speedboat racer, who kept it as a private retreat until an investment group that included George Smathers, Thomas Havens Wakefield and Bebe Rebozo, acquired it. Wakefield's parents, Edwin and Sara, had sold real estate for many years out of the Ingraham Building in downtown Miami. In 1944 the office was in Room 1126, next door to the PanAm Airways, Latin American division; also down the hall was the Coral Gables Development, Everglades Asset Corp. and Silver Bluff Estates.
Among Bebe's cronies in this group was his old school chum, Rep. George A. Smathers, an ambitious young Florida Democrat, a colleague and friend of Nixon's in the House of Representatives, though they were of opposite parties. Rebozo himself was a Democrat at that time, during the Truman administration; he didn't switch to the GOP till some years later, after Eisenhower and Nixon were elected. George Smathers and other associates realized the value of their real estate enterprises, in the middle of the land boom, of cementing good relations with powerful local and national politicians. So Bebe Rebozo found himself cast in a new role: that of entertaining Democratic bigwigs aboard his boat and at lush private spots along the Gold Coast. Among his guests from time to time were Senators Russell Long, Lyndon Johnson and Stuart Symington. The Bebe had come a long way since the days only a few years before when he sold retreaded tires.

There is some question as to when Richard Nixon first met Charles Gregory Rebozo; and the very fact that there is such a question, leads to speculation that perhaps something is being covered up, for some reason still unknown. Nixon's official biographers, and the news feature stories of the early 70's, all agree that the two were introduced by George Smathers. Nixon and Smathers, who had entered the House together in 1947 from their separate States, were both elected Senators in 1950. Some say the meeting with Bebe took place in 1950 while they were campaigning for the November election-‑others that it was in early 1951, after they had been elected. At any rate, the story is that Nixon was worn out from overwork and nursing a cold, and his Democratic friend Smathers persuaded him to take a brief break in the sunshine of Florida. Several writers have stated that this was Nixon's first visit to Florida‑-that Smathers urged him to "take a look at our State."

Smathers told Nixon to call Bebe Rebozo on his arrival in Miami, promising that Bebe would "show him a good time." Nixon wasn't necessarily in search of a good time; he had brought a lot of work along with him. He duly phoned Rebozo, then worked all day in his Key Biscayne Hotel room, while Bebe discreetly hovered in the background, not wanting to bother the new GOP Senator from California. The next day Bebe invited Nixon to take a cruise on his houseboat, and the weary Nixon accepted. The Senator spent most of his time aboard the boat working on papers he had brought with him. "I doubt if I exchanged half a dozen words with the guy," Rebozo later recalled. However, on his return to Washington, Nixon wrote Bebe a warm letter of thanks, promising to visit Florida soon again, and their friendship was begun.

That is the officially approved account of how the oddly‑assorted pair first met‑approved by Nixon and Rebozo, with a discrepancy only regarding the date in various accounts. However, investigative reporter Jeff Gerth wrote recently in Penthouse magazine that he was informed in the summer of 1972 by an ex‑FBI agent, John Madala ["In 1943, Madala became the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Miami FBI Office and left the Bureau in 1946 to begin a new career as Security Director at various Florida racetracks, and tracks in Illinois....At the time of his death he was Security Chief at the Calder Race track and resided in Coral Gables, Fla.," as quoted from  Historical GMen], that Nixon, as a Congressman, made a number of pleasure excursions to Florida in the late '40s. According to Gerth, quoting Madala, Nixon went fishing first with Tatum [sic] "Chubby" Wofford, a Florida hotel owner and real estate speculator, and later with Bebe Rebozo—at least a couple of years before 1950. Madala said the arrangements for some of Nixon's visits had been made by Richard Danner, an automobile dealer who was city manager of Miami from 1946 until 1948, when he was dismissed in a dispute over gangland control of the police force. Danner and Gerth's informant, Madala, had worked together in the Miami FBI office in the 1940's. Danner later joined the Howard Hughes organization and became head of the Sands Casino in Las Vegas.

Jeff Gerth went on to state that Richard Danner later in 1972, in an interview in his plush Las Vegas office, confirmed Madala's story of Nixon's visits to Florida in the 1940's. He recalled one particular visit in 1948. According to his story, George Smathers, who had introduced Danner to Nixon in Washington in 1947, called from Washington to tell Danner, in Miami, that Dick, who was involved in prosecuting the Alger Hiss case, was on the verge of a breakdown and needed a rest. Danner agreed to take care of Nixon in Miami; Smathers put him aboard the train, and Danner met him in Miami. According to Danner's account, after the ailing Senator [Nixon] had spent a week in the sun at Vero Beach, Danner took him to an osteopath in Miami. From the doctor's office Danner called Bebe Rebozo, who came over in his boat, and the three men went sailing together.

Danner confirmed Madala's information that Nixon's first Florida yachting companion, before he became chummy with Rebozo, was Chubby Wofford. But Wofford had some pressing personal problems at that time, and shortly moved to Georgia; it was then that Rebozo took over as Nixon's sea‑going host. Jeff Gerth noted that Wofford's Miami hotel was named in the celebrated Senate hearings of the Kefauver Committee on Organized Crime in 1950‑51. It was testified that the Wofford Hotel was headquarters for crime syndicate figures from New York, who owned an interest in the hotel. The Kefauver Committee probed deeply into the operations of organized crime in Florida, with known gangsters working hand‑in‑glove with public officials. Abe Allenberg, the syndicate's Miami representative, was a friend and former employer of Richard Danner.

Danner is currently a principal figure in the investigation of the mysterious $100,000 donation to Nixon by Howard Hughes; it was Danner who delivered the money to Bebe Rebozo in two installments of $50,000 each, either in 1969 and 1970, or in mid‑70; there is a question about the dates.

Jeff Gerth in his Penthouse article revealed further that Danner in 1952 accompanied Nixon on a hasty visit to a casino in Cuba, operated by the syndicate; and he stated that Danner got his lucrative job as head of the Sands in Las Vegas due to his closeness to Nixon.

Winding up our scrutiny of Nixon's visits to Florida in the 1940's, we may note that it has been reported that Nixon visited the Sunshine State as early as 1942, on government business, when he was a young lawyer working for the wartime Office of Emergency Management in Washington. There is no indication whether he met Bebe Rebozo at that time; probably not, since the young tire dealer was with the Air Transport Command during most of the war.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Our Government's Real Heartbeat

Kris Millegan, 2000
Daniel Hopsicker is an unsung hero whom I first met online, oh, maybe around 1997. He was one of the originals at Kris Millegan's chat room known as CIA-Drugs. I had been invited to join the exclusive list after being a member of Kris' first list called the "Conspiracy Theory Research" group. At CIA-Drugs I was mostly a lurker and would probably never have advanced beyond that stage had Catherine Fitts not descended upon my humble abode in August 2000 and enticed me into doing research with her on the background of Pug Winokur, a subject which I'll eventually get around to here.

It is entirely possible Catherine may have been driving home from the CIA-Drugs Symposium in the early summer of 2000, which I had been afraid to attend. Preston Peet's article, complete with photos, written for High Times was entitled "Tracking The CIA Through Snowdrifts Of Drugs." Daniel presented his then recently completed video "Secret Heartbeat of America" inspired by the 1987 murder of two high school boys near Mena, Arkansas.

The story of Barry Seal is still what motivates Daniel's life and his search for truth about that secret government apparatus that turns brave young patriots into drug lords. His commitment to telling history honestly is what makes him a hero in my book:

The Secret History

So, we'd stared into the Heart of Darkness. The Heart of Darkness had stared right back. Allegations and speculation are not proof. The truth, indeed, is still out there.
But, for what little they're worth, here are my speculations about our journey into the secret history of our life and times.
I don't believe that the 'drug smuggler' Billy Bob Bottoms is any more a drug smuggler than you or I. I believe him to be a paid representative of the government of the United States of America acting under the doctrines of plausible deniability. Why? Just a hunch. I liked him too much. He was a Navy pilot. His brother in law Barry Seal was a Special Op guy. These were our best and our bravest men.
Here's what I would like to know. Who convinced men like Bear Bottoms that what they were doing was in the best interests of our country? What valid reasons might there be for our country's national security apparatus to be involved in the drug industry? Unless someone steps forward to make the argument for why this might be in our national interest, I'll wonder.
And here's what I've learned. Some things we'll never know for sure. The opposition's way too good for that. For example, I'm convinced, to the depths of my heart, that there was a coup d'etat in the United States of America in 1963. That the bad guys never got caught. And that, chances are, they still run things.
I will never, as long as I live, forget our 'Midnight ride to Mena,' seated beside tour guide and American hero Russell Welch. I'm convinced that what I saw there that night was a fully functional and operational secret government installation.
By that, I do not mean a secret installation of the government of the United States of America. Unh-uh. What I believe I saw, and what I believe exists in Mena, Arkansas today... is an installation of the secret government that runs the government of the United States of America.
And here's what I suspect: that today, long after Oliver North has become nothing but a minor league radio DJ... and long after the contra war is just a fading memory of yet another minor league war, our government--yours and mine--is going about the lucrative worldwide business of drug production and distribution.
It's the secret heartbeat of America. And it's as American as apple pie.

Daniel Hopsicker
January 29,1997
All rights reserved.
Daniel's videos and books are still available for purchase at Amazon.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Four Grand Juries investigated Vesco's Bahamian Bank

Beginning in late 1978, the Drug Enforcement Agency had begun an investigation under the new federal Continuing Criminal Enterprise statute--21 U.S.C. § 848(d) (1976). The target was a marijuana smuggling ring headed by Thomas E. Long of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Eighteen other men from various locations in the United States and the Bahamas would eventually be named as part of the conspiracy to import multi-ton quantities from Colombia and Jamaica, announced by Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles D. Sheehy of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Pittsburgh. Some of those involved were arrested and prosecuted, but others were never captured. As reported in the appeal on the forfeiture proceeding case (654 F.2d 911):
Long and eight co-defendants have departed for parts unknown and are presently fugitives. Eight other co-defendants pled guilty to the indictment that named Long the manager of an illicit drug enterprise. They were sentenced in the Western District of Pennsylvania, on March 2, 1981. One defendant was acquitted of all charges in a non-jury trial and the final defendant was found guilty by a jury and sentenced on March 2, 1981. United States v. Long, et al., 88 F.R.D. 701 (W.D.Pa.1981) (Ziegler, J.)
Before Long fled the court's jurisdiction, his attorneys, Irwin G. Lichter and James Arnkoff, required him to pay off some previously incurred legal fees still outstanding, and agreed to settle for transfer of title to an airplane Long had used in his smuggling operations, a Beechcraft Baron aircraft, 58 T.C., Serial No. T.K.-44. Arnkoff received the bill of sale in the Bahamas from Anthony Bowe of Columbus Trust Ltd.and registered the sale from Circleville Holdings Inc., Long's Florida corporation, on October 22, 1979, about seven months before the grand jury returned the indictment against Long. Bowe also was a fugitive. Circleville had been incorporated by Lance Eisenberg, an attorney at 1401 Brickell Ave., Suite 1101 in Miami.

Eisenberg would subsequently become a target for three other grand juries investigating his money laundering activities in connection with other drug rings in Houston, Texas; Gainesville, Georgia; and in Charleston, West Virginia--all of which used the Columbus Trust bank in Nassau, formerly controlled by Robert Vesco.


Robert Vesco
NASSAU, the Bahamas— Behind the scenes in at least four Federal grand jury investigations into suspected money laundering and narcotics trafficking by Americans has been a Bahamian bank in which Robert L. Vesco, the financier who is now a fugitive, had financial interests.
[Editor's note: Robert Vesco was born in 1935. His father Donald Vesco worked in Detroit as a metal finisher in the auto industry but eventually returned to Ohio to work at Trabon Engineering in Solon, Ohio as a supervisor, a coal mining part of Ohio near where Donald Vesco's Italian-immigrant parents (Martino and Parina) had settled in 1904--midway between Columbus, Ohio and Pittsburgh.
The bank is the Columbus Trust Company Ltd., organized in 1969 and closed this spring [1983] after Bahamian officials voided its license without explaining. So far the investigations have produced the following results:
  • In 1980 Anthony Bowe, a former bank official, reportedly now a fugitive, was indicted on drug charges in Pittsburgh.
  • In 1981 Lance Eisenberg, a lawyer who represented the bank, was indicted by a Houston grand jury in a tax evasion case.
Chester pleaded not guilty two years before death.
  • Early this year, Mr. Eisenberg was indicted on tax charges by a grand jury in Charleston, W.Va.
  • Early this month Mr. Eisenberg and 11 other people, including Tilton Lamar Chester Jr., a business associate of the bank's president, were among 11 people indicted on narcotics trafficking and tax evasion charges by a Federal grand jury in Gainesville, Ga.
Mr. Eisenberg and Mr. Chester have pleaded not guilty in the cases.

A Continuing Investigation
The grand juries have been part of a continuing Federal investigation into suspected violations of American tax and narcotics laws by United States citizens who take advantage both of the Bahamas' strict bank secrecy laws and a geographical location that makes it an ideal drug transfer point. Prime Minister Lynden O. Pindling and Kendal W. Nottage, the Minister for Youth, Sports and Cultural Affairs and one of the most influential members of the Pindling Government, have each owned 2.5 percent of stock in Columbus Trust since 1970. Both men said they had taken no role in the way the bank conducted its business. 

Mr. Nottage said in a recent telephone interview that if Columbus Trust was making money from the laundering of drug money, ''I didn't earn anything from it and certainly I didn't know.'' 

Money laundering is the transferring of funds through a number of bank accounts in an attempt to conceal the money's origin. It is often a means to evade the payment of taxes. 

Mr. Nottage, whose financial disclosure documents show him to be a multi- millionaire, said his association with Columbus Trust dated to the time when he was a lawyer in private practice and was asked to handle the legal work of organizing the bank and obtaining a license for it from the Bahamian Government. 

As partial payment for his services, Mr. Nottage said, he received 5,000 shares of Columbus Trust stock, which in 1970 were valued at $1 a share. Mr. Nottage said he had just purchased Mr. Pindling's law practice and, in a gesture of gratitude, advised Mr. Pindling to purchase 5,000 shares for himself. Mr. Pindling agreed and paid Mr. Nottage $1 a share. Mr. Nottage said he had since held these shares in trust for Mr. Pindling. 

Bank Is Being Liquidated
According to a spokesman for Touche Ross & Company, which is now handling the liquidation of Columbus Trust, the trust company managed $50 million to $100 million for more than 200 client companies. Mr. Nottage said he and Mr. Pindling decided to sell their Columbus Trust shares last year, after newspaper articles here and in the United States cast clouds over some of the bank's business dealings. 

Mr. Nottage said he arranged with Donald B. Aberle, one of the bank's founders and since 1973 its president and largest shareholder, to buy the 10,000 shares he held at $3 a share. The purchase was approved by the Central Bank early this year, he said, but the sale was never consummated. The Central Bank is the governing agency for bank and trust companies. 

The ties between Robert Vesco and Columbus Trust are obscured by strict bank secrecy laws in the Bahamas, but court documents, Congressional testimony, and interviews with bank shareholders and clients, as well as Bahamian and American authorities, provide this sequence of events: 
  • Columbus Trust was formed by Mr. Aberle, a Bahamian citizen born in Australia, and by Denys Dobbie, an accountant, who at the outset had the controlling interest with 120,000 shares. Mr. Nottage and Mr. Pindling acquired their shares in 1970. 
Sale to Butler's Bank
  • By the end of 1971, according to the Columbus Trust annual statement to the Bahamas Registrar General's Office, the Dobbie shares and control of Columbus Trust had been sold to Butler's Bank, Ltd., of Nassau.
  • It was Butler's Bank, according to published news accounts and investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission, that in 1970 vouched for Mr. Vesco's bailout plan to gain control of Investors Overseas Services, the Swiss-based mutual fund group that he was later accused of bilking of $224 million.
  • In 1971 Mr. Vesco acquired control of Butler's Bank through International Bancorp, one of a number of companies American and Bahamian officials believe he used to shift funds from Investors Overseas Services to the Bahamas. International Bancorp had purchased Bahamas Commonwealth Bank, which listed as its sole assets the loan and investment portfolio of Butler's Bank. Eventually, Butler's Bank was absorbed by Bahamas Commonwealth. 
Note: International Bancorp Ltd (IBL) was sued by the SEC in 1972.
''At the time Commonwealth was formed and was under Mr. Vesco's control, there was a certain category of persons that had difficulty borrowing from the traditional banks,'' said Paul Adderley, the Bahamian Attorney General and Minister for External Affairs.

''He did lend more liberally to black Bahamians at the time, a high percentage of whom were members of the Progressive Liberal Party.'' Mr. Adderley also noted that in the early 1970s nearly all politically active blacks in the Bahamas were members of the party. 

Reasoning on His Actions
''He was still a man of good reputation at the time, but if you accept the premise that he was looking for a safe haven from the United States, he had this policy in an attempt to ingratiate himself with the Government,'' Mr. Adderley reasoned. 

''I don't know if the exercise was complete, however,'' he continued, noting that Mr. Vesco fled the Bahamas in December 1973, about four months after the United States initiated extradition proceedings against him. The whereabouts of Mr. Vesco, who returned here but fled again in 1981 after the Bahamas began deportation proceedings against him, have not been determined. 

By June 1973, the control of Columbus Trust had passed to Mr. Aberle, who acquired a large block of the Butler's Bank shares. Mr. Aberle's shares, which increased to 127,498, gave him controlling interest. Mr. Nottage retained his shares but by then had resigned his position as the trust company's attorney of record to pursue a career in politics. 

According to Bahamian bankers who asked that their names not be used, the association with Mr. Vesco's company cost Columbus Trust many of its customers after allegations of wrongdoing by Mr. Vesco began to circulate in the press. At this point, they said, a different group of clients came to the bank, including a number of people who, according to court records, were eventually investigated by the American authorities for alleged involvement in tax evasion schemes or drug trafficking or both.

Mr. Bowe, a Bahamian citizen who at the time was director and secretary of Columbus Trust, was indicted by a Federal grand jury in 1980 in Pittsburgh as a co-conspirator in a drug smuggling operation. Mr. Bowe was charged with helping marijuana smugglers conceal their income through secret bank accounts in the Bahamas. He is now said to be a fugitive. 

Miami Tax Lawyer Is Indicted
Mr. Eisenberg, a Miami tax lawyer who has done legal work for Mr. Aberle and Columbus Trust, was indicted in 1981 by a Federal grand jury in Houston. The grand jury charged that Mr. Eisenberg helped two executives divert oil company revenues through Columbus Trust and another Bahamian company to evade Federal income taxes. One of the financial institutions used was International Business Transactions Ltd., a Bahamas company, of which Mr. Aberle was secretary, according to the indictment. Mr. Eisenberg is awaiting trial. 

Mr. Eisenberg was indicted this year by a Federal grand jury in Charleston, W. Va,, in connection with an alleged scheme to defraud investors in a coal mining tax shelter program. Early this month he was indicted again, this time in Gainesville, Ga., with 11 other people on charges of smuggling marijuana and cocaine into the United States from a base in the Bahamas. Mr. Eisenberg has pleaded not guilty in all three cases. 

One of the 12 indicted was Mr. Chester, a professional pilot who said he was an American drug informer and said he met Mr. Aberle through Mr. Eisenberg and later had some of his business ventures managed by Mr. Aberle's company. Mr. Chester, who lives in Georgia and on Darby Cay, a private Bahamas island, said in an interview here that Columbus Trust managed the accounts of businesses in which he has an interest. Mr. Chester pleaded not guilty. 

Mr. Aberle could not be reached for comment. The telephone number listed for Columbus Trust in Nassau was not in service. Arthur Christy, a New York lawyer who has represented Mr. Aberle and Columbus Trust in the United States, said Mr. Aberle probably would not comment. In explanation, he cited Bahamian laws that restrict the disclosure of information about clients.
Martin Baach, a Washington lawyer representing Mr. Eisenberg, said neither he nor Mr. Eisenberg would comment on the indictments against his client.

See also Operation Lone Star
Ex-Vesco Bank Figures in Drug Probe