Foreword In the article published in September 1995 by the US Magazine Vanity Fair, author Maureen Orth describes Mohamed Al Fayed’s theft of $150,000 from the Port au Prince harbour authority of Haiti.
Three years after Orth’s piece the Daily Telegraph Magazine published this article, written by two North American-based journalists and drawn from files released by the US Central Intelligence Agency, throwing further light on Fayed’s Haitian adventure.
The Daily Telegraph Magazine 20 June 1998 FAYED’S FORGOTTEN YEARS:
THE CONMAN, THE DICTATOR AND THE CIA FILES ‘Sheikh’ Mohamed Fayed’s stay in Haiti lasted less than six months. But during that time he managed to attract the attention of the CIA who thought he might be a spy, and swindle Papa Doc’s government out of more than $100,000 while at the same time courting his daughter. Then, wisely, the 35-year-old future owner of Harrods left the country.
Report by Daniel Sanger and Julian Feldman
LIKE ANYWHERE, Haiti to those who live there is the centre of the universe – it’s just a question of being in the right place and looking from the right angle. The world, however, has a different idea. As the first black republic slides precipitously down the United Nations Human Development Index, its slapstick parliament enters its ninth month without a prime minister and its once eminently civil society disintegrates, corroded by cocaine, corruption and poverty, it seems to have been forgotten by everybody else.
But last year, when the world was grieving at the death of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi, Haitians did have a claim on one of humanities momentous events. For those who had survived long enough to remember back to 1964, the name Fayed filtering through the cables of Port-au-Prince’s shoestring radio stations rang bells. They thought, it can’t be – there must be hundreds of Fayeds out there. Then Dodi’s dad was given a first name – Mohamed. It had to be him. And when they finally saw him on television at the funeral they knew. He’d shed some hair and the Sheikh from Kuwait act, he’d added a few inches in the wrong places and an Al between his names. But there he was, the sweet-talking wheeler-dealer who blew into Haiti in its darkest days, promising the moon and bamboozling everyone in his path, sweeping the Duvaliers off their feet and taking off again six months later, a whole lot richer and a legend in a country with no shortage of unbelievable stories. There he was, more than three decades later, the sheikh sans provisions. Those who recognised him began musing. Had Fayed not hoodwinked Haiti and then hightailed it – had he, for instance, been thrown into Fort Dimanche prison and left to die like others who had crossed ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier – it could have all been so different.
The official version of Mohamed Fayed’s life is full of Egyptian aristocrats and nannies, cotton plantations and private schools, shipping fleets and fortunes to float them. The real tale, however, is much like Haiti’s – captivating, mysterious and by no means short of intrigue or hints of danger.
The story of Fayed in Haiti has been especially obscure, though certain of its threads have been made visible over the years. In the mid-Eighties, following the Tiny Rowland/Mohamed Fayed fight to buy Harrods, the Department of Trade and Industry carried out an extensive investigation. But neither the Rowland campaign nor the DTI investigation had access to information which has since come to light. Recently declassified CIA files and US Embassy dispatches offer many tantalising new details of Fayed’s time in Haiti.
Mohamed Fayed was 35 when he arrived in Port-au-Prince on June 12, 1964. The son of an Egyptian schoolteacher, he’d already been through several jobs, selling everything from Coca-Cola and furniture to sewing machines and medical equipment. Fayed had ambition, and while working for Al Nasir, the trading company of the young Adnan Khashoggi – whose sister he married – and later, on his own as a shipping agent, he’d made connections. The most fruitful had been Bozo Dabinovic, a prosperous Monaco-based shipping agent of Croatian origin then based in Geneva who had done business with Fayed in Alexandria. Dabinovic, according to CIA documents, was a suspected arms dealer, who the French navy was convinced ran guns to Algerian independence forces. Dabinovic maintains he was not providing any such service to Duvalier.
The “eminent Kuwaiti Sheikh Mohamed Fayed” arrives
During one of Fayed’s trips to Switzerland, Dabinovic’s contacts with Duvalier came up. The Egyptian was intrigued. Dabinovic remembers. ‘He said, “Can you introduce me?” And I said, “Sure”. So I introduced him to Duvalier’
When Fayed arrived in Haiti on a two-week reconnaissance mission, he was met by a welcoming committee that included Clémard Joseph Charles, who had bankrolled Papa Doc’s 1957 election campaign, and Lieutenant Woolley Gaillard, a member of the presidential guard, possibly the straightest man who ever served in the Haitian military and Fayed’s companion and protector for all the time he was in Haiti. Like all air arrivals, his landing was dutifully recorded by the journalist Aubelin Jolicoeur and reported at the top of his Au fil des jours social column that, along with verbatim transcriptions of presidential addresses and decrees, made up much of the local reporting in Le Nouvelliste in those days. As Jolicoeur wrote with flourish, ‘The eminent Kuwaiti Sheikh Mohamed Fayed’ had arrived.
His arrival came at the height of Macoutisme, the brutal and ingenious system devised by Papa Doc to hang on to power in a country where presidents had been used to moving in and out of the National Palace with the regularity of the rains. A country doctor elected as a reformer in 1957, Duvalier had quickly become obsessed with establishing and maintaining his grip on Haiti. With the help of his state-sanctioned thugs, the Tontons Macoutes, he had become spectacularly successful in this narrow ambition.
The terror wreaked by the Macoutes appalled even the most tolerant of Duvalier’s allies. By 1962 the US had cut off aid and President Kennedy had sworn to destroy the dictator even though Haiti – 80 kilometres off the south-eastern tip of Cuba – was seen as an essential bulwark in the fight against communism creeping throughout the Caribbean and Central America. Most foreign investors had already abandoned the country along with the educated local elite and the expat community of writers, artists and adventurers. As a result, by 1964 anyone who landed in Haiti with the air of prosperity and the right connections got a royal welcome.
According to Jolicoeur, Papa Doc immediately took to Fayed with an uncharacteristic warmth and zeal. ‘Papa Doc was spellbound, blinded by Fayed.’ The rest or the Duvaliers followed suit, won over by Fayed’s charm and the flowers he would send to the National Palace every day, even when he was out of the country.
Part of Fayed’s mystique was the aristocratic Middle Eastern pedigree he concocted for himself. When he arrived, Fayed was indeed travelling on a Kuwaiti passport, according to Dabinovic. Witnesses told DTI investigators that Fayed introduced himself as a sheikh while in Haiti. Contracts he entered into there give his name as ‘Sheikh Mohamed Fayed’. Fayed, himself, initially denied to the DTI that he was ever referred to as a sheikh. Later, when reminded of Haitian newspaper articles referring to him as such, he explained that sheikh was an honorific used by Haitians because of his Middle Eastern roots.
In any case Haitian authorities were not in a position to quibble, for no one around the National Palace had even heard of Kuwait at the time. Only when a breathless article about the oil wealth and exotic allure of the desert kingdom was located in copy of a Reader’s Digest did they know where to look for it on a map.
But Fayed didn’t devote all his energy to Duvalier during that June visit. He took time off from wooing the dictator to schmooze with other foreigners and, it appears, scheme. On June 20, he and a half dozen others went for dinner at the home of George de Mohrenschildt and his wife, Jeanne, according to various detailed and secret CIA dispatches. The agency was keeping close tabs on the couple and for good reason – they were under what was termed ‘a full-scale, intelligence-type investigation’ by both the CIA and FBI who were investigating the assassination or Kennedy by Oswald the previous November: the de Mohrenschildts were both good friends of Oswald.
Despite the de Mohrenschildts’ rapidly diminishing reputation, in June 1964, they threw a party that pulled in important guests such as Clémard Joseph Charles and Wlodzimierz Galicki, the Polish commercial attaché. So when Fayed showed up, too, he caught the CIA’s eye. According to an unnamed CIA informant who attended the party and another two nights later, ‘Fayed stated that he was in Haiti as an official guest of the Haitian government and that his purpose for being here was to explore the oil producing and investment possibilities,’ said the CIA memo. ‘He has slightly Negroid features and might easily pass as a member of Haitian mulatto elite. He strikes one as being friendly and evil at the same time.’
Fayed’s June visit lasted only two weeks. By the time he left on June 17, he seemed to have finished the groundwork that would allow him to quickly become one of the most influential businessmen in the country when he returned later that summer.
Indeed on his return in August he settled into a house that Duvalier put at his disposal, the former home of Clément Barbot, the chief of Haiti’s secret police when Duvalier was first elected and later the top Macoute. The story behind Barbot and the empty house could have provided a note of caution for Fayed. When Barbot had stepped away from the Duvalier line, he was imprisoned and later murdered.
Lt Woolley Gaillard, who was assigned to protect Fayed recalls, ‘I slept upstairs above him.’ The house was very big and in tropical tradition, it had a full staff and a pool. ‘We would all swim together on Sundays.’ Fayed would sometimes go out alone at night and often receive dinner guests. ‘Clémard Joseph Charles was constantly with him. He was his good friend… de Mohrenschildt would come to supper sometimes. Not very often but certainly quite regularly. He would come with his wife.’
Fayed’s first business in Haiti was oil. In November 1962, however, Duvalier had signed a contract with American businessman Charles C. Valentine that gave his company a monopoly control over pretty much everything to do with oil in Haiti. Valentine had engaged to prospect for oil as well as build at least one refinery and petrochemical plant, either for domestically produced crude or fuel brought in from elsewhere. In return, the contract gave Valentine Petroleum shelter from all taxes and duties, a series of land concessions as well as the exclusive right to import, export and sell all petroleum products, refined or crude. In the first arrangement of its kind in Haiti the deal was guaranteed by the US Agency for International Development and was to last a minimum of 10 years.
But less than two years later, Duvalier abruptly cancelled Valentine’s contract and signed it over to Fayed. The modifications were few but they made an already sweet deal even sweeter. Valentine, under the old contract, had had to put $50,000 in a deposit account as a gesture of goodwill – Fayed did not have to make any deposit. Valentine’s contract ran for only 10 years, Fayed’s ran for 50. The changes were announced in a special issue of Haiti’s official gazette, Le Moniteur, dated August 28, 1964, and were effective from that date. But that issue of Le Moniteur was not made public for more than eight weeks. In the interval, Valentine continued work on the project even though the contract was now secretly Fayed’s.
When the details of the contract transfer finally came out, Valentine and two associates were arrested at El Rancho, Haiti’s most exclusive hotel, and given three hours to pack and leave the country. In Papa Doc’s Haiti Valentine had little recourse. But in the US it was different – there was the USAID guarantee. Several years later, Valentine successfully claimed $327,304 from the development agency, a sum USAID was itself able to extract from the Haitian government along with $4,396 in interest charges.
Fayed, however, was interested in much more than just oil. By this time, as part of Duvalier’s offensive against the regional elites, international trading from any coastal town other than Port-au-Prince was banned. The capital city’s port was thus the hub around which the economy revolved and, as such, an essential operation run by the state through the Autorité Portuaire Nationale (APN). That is until Duvalier decided that Fayed could do a better job of it. On September 18, Le Moniteur published another numéro extraordinaire, announcing that port operations had been handed over to Fayed in return for a contract to invest $5 million ‘consolidating, enlarging and modernising’ its facilities within 30 years. ‘The Autorité Portuaire Nationale was the property of the state and all of a sudden by presidential decree it was given by Duvalier to Fayed,’ remembers Benito Prato, the APN’s accountant at the time.
The contract gave Fayed the exclusive right to collect all fees for docking, piloting, loading and unloading vessels, as well as supplying them with whatever provisions they needed. This contract alone was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. But the clause that was to cause the most problems was one that made Fayed the exclusive agent for all the shipping companies that did business in Haiti. To the layman, it was an innocuous sounding concession. But in financial terms it would have been an almost unimaginable windfall: agents routinely earn five per cent of the freight charges of all merchandise in and out of port. In Haiti, in 1964, it was worth between $200,000 and $250,000 per annum.
Prato recalls his boss as distant but professional. On signing the contract Fayed applied himself to his new job, he says. ‘He came every day to the office. He worked very seriously at the port.’
Fayed bought a station wagon and moved a stone’s throw from the National Palace, in a building which also became the centre of operations for Clémard Joseph Charles’s bank. Rich red carpeting was laid throughout the building. ‘He always bought the best. He played the millionaire even if he wasn’t,’ says Prato, adding that he didn’t question the expenditures or challenge any of the decisions Fayed took. Fayed was very close to Papa Doc. ‘He was an enigma in Haiti. No one knew where Duvalier found him.’
Inevitably there were rumours. Some involved a possible relationship between Fayed and Duvalier’s daughter, Marie-Denise. Being made president-for-life had given Duvalier the right to appoint his own successor. Marie-Denise was Papa Doc’s eldest child and by the mid-Sixties it was clear that she – and not her dopey little brother Jean-Claude – was the one who had inherited their father’s steel. But she would need an appropriate husband.
The gossip among those on the periphery of power was that the flowers Fayed sent daily to the National Palace were really for Marie-Denise and many believed the two were actually engaged
Fayed, divorced from Samira Khashoggi since 1958, would certainly have been considered eligible. The gossip among those on the periphery of power was that the flowers Fayed sent daily to the National Palace were really for Marie-Denise and many believed the two were actually engaged, even if no official announcement was ever made. The news had reached the American embassy by mid-November.
‘There are persistent rumours that Mohamed Fayed is romantically involved with one or Duvalier’s daughters, Denise, and one variant has it that they are to be married,’ read a confidential telegram from Ambassador Benson E. Timmons III to Washington. The cable went on, ‘While Fayed may say this to all the girls, there nevertheless remains possibility that for his part Fayed is in earnest re: his alleged plans for investment in Haiti and is seeking [to] strengthen his ties with Duvalier by dynastic marriage.’
The Haitian journalist Leo Paul Joseph says the driving force behind the relationship was Mama Doc. ‘Mrs Duvalier became obsessed by him… she was crazy about Fayed. She was constantly prodding Papa Doc to get closer and closer to Fayed and to give him everything he wanted. And she was the one pushing Fayed to get closer and closer to Marie-Denise. She was very keen on a marriage and people in palace circles were telling everyone that it was really going to happen.’
Marie-Denise, now living in Miami, does not return repeated phone calls. But the person who should have known of any secret trysts and midnight passions – Fayed’s bodyguard – says he knew nothing about the relationship. Meanwhile, Calixte Delatour, one of the Haiti’s most senior lawyers disagrees. ‘M. Francois Duvalier incarcerated the notion of Haitian-ness. If one of his children were to get engaged to a foreigner he would have shot him with his own hand.’
The Americans were concerned enough about Fayed to talk to their embassy in Kuwait to try to find out more about him and the company named on his business card. ‘Neither General Commerce and Navigation Company Kuwait [the company Fayed started up before his arrival in Haiti], nor Mohamed Fayed registered with or known to Kuwait Chamber of Commerce,’ read one message back to the State Department. A later cable reported that the company was registered ‘but not known to have undertaken any type activity to date. Fayed personally unknown [in] local business circles.’
It was CIA counter-intelligence that nailed down Fayed as a citizen of the United Arab Republic – the name President Gamal Nasser gave Egypt for the second half or his rule. ‘Visa files show Mohamed Abdel Moneim Ali Fayed, DPOB 27 Jan 1929, Alexandria Egypt, was UAR citijin (sic) June 1964,’ read a memo that was part of the CIA investigation into de Mohrenschildt. So he was neither Kuwaiti, nor sheikh.
No matter, in November 1964, Fayed became Haitian. The country’s law required that anyone not born in the country or of Haitian parents had to live there 10 years before gaining citizenship. The president just had to rewrite history. A decree, signed by Duvalier in the November 5 issue of Le Moniteur did just that.
‘Whereas… he has, among other things, more than 10 years of residency in Haiti and the report of the Department of the Interior on his moral standing is favourable,’ Le Moniteur read, ‘it is ordered that Mohamed Fayed acquire the quality of being Haitian with the rights, prerogatives and responsibilities attached to this quality’. In a confidential airgram to Washington, Ambassador Timmons noted that Fayed’s instant citizenship caused a scandal and prompted what in Duvalier’s Haiti was reckless protest. ‘Two judges successively refused to be a party to the naturalisation proceedings on grounds of their blatant illegality but a third judge saw the light after feeling the heat.’
Citizenship gave Fayed more than just ‘the quality of being Haitian.’ He also received a diplomatic passport numbered 1067 to make his comings and goings that much easier. Fayed first used it about three weeks afterwards, in late November, when he went on a business trip to Europe and the Middle East, one which was closely monitored by CIA’s chief of counter-intelligence, James Jesus Angleton. He was using secret memos to keep in constant touch with his agency and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover over the movements of de Mohrenschildt and by connection, Fayed. In one memo, he claimed, ‘It was reported from Saudi Arabia by a friendly Western service that Subject was a representative of the al-NASR Trading Company… which was believed to be cover firm for the Egyptian Intelligence Service. Fayed was described as a senior Egyptian Intelligence officer.’
‘Friendly Western service’ is often considered a CIA euphemism for M15, but in the CIA documents released under the Freedom of Information Act the source is not pinned down.
Within days of Fayed’s returning from his trip, he appeared in another C1A memo, which reported he was dating de Mohrenschildt’s 20-year-old daughter, Alexandra Gibson, who had come to visit her father and stepmother without her husband. ‘She does not trust him and believes may regret association,’ said the memo, written by an anonymous agent or informant, interpreting the relationship as only beautiful married woman attracted to available wealthy handsome male’. The memo writer noted that the bodyguard Gaillard never left his side and that Fayed was ‘very quiet, anxious, watchful, intelligent… drank cognac straight moderately… Mohamed (with his bodyguard) was irritated with Alex for lateness.’
The memo went on to comment, as well, that de Mohrenschildt’s ‘association with Mohamed seems professionally necessary but dangerous’. Why it was dangerous, the memo didn’t specify. But it quoted one senior Haitian official as saying about Fayed, ‘He win not, repeat not, last.’ This the CIA source had got absolutely right. Things in Haiti did begin to sour for Fayed.
The first problem came with the oil. Hopes had been raised by the simple fact that Valentine Petroleum had invested heavily in the search. They were buttressed by a bottle of a black, tarry liquid that Fayed had been told had seeped from the ground in the countryside outside Port-au-Prince. Not only did Haiti have oil, it seemed, but one barely had to dig for it. This encouraged Fayed to fly in three British oil experts – G.D. Hobson, Michael Hubbard, and Dr H. Fosset – to look at the feasibility of pumping and refining the country’s evident oil reserves. Le Nouvelliste heralded their arrival as the dawn of a prosperous new era for Haiti. Meanwhile, the black liquid was sent to a lab to be analysed.
With Gaillard as their guide the experts drove out to the site of the reported seepage. Fosset later recalled in a signed statement that Gaillard was carsick on the journey and that every 10 miles or so they were stopped by ‘natives in rags but carrying machine guns’ – Tontons Macoutes. Things soon got worse. The seeping ‘oil’ turned out to be low-grade molasses, the residue at the bottom of a bonfire pit on an old French sugar plantation. That wasn’t all. Hobson, Hubbard and Fosset determined that a full seismic survey would take seven years and cost $250 minion – meanwhile, the country’s consumption of about 2,000 barrels of oil a day meant that building a refinery for imported crude would be ridiculously cost-inefficient.
Mohamed Fayed: citizen of Haiti and diplomatic passport holder
When all this bad news was delivered to Fayed, he didn’t shoot the messenger, but he didn’t pay him, either. According to the DTI investigation, the scientists had written off their fee of about £2,000 as a bad debt until years later, when Fosset discovered Mohamed Fayed’s Park Lane address in London and had a writ served demanding payment. Fayed paid in instalments, Fosset told Tiny Rowland’s people, and exclusively with grubby five-pound notes.
By late 1964, influential elements of Haitian society were plotting Fayed’s fall. First among the enemies of Fayed were those who stood to lose the most from the favours bestowed upon the sheikh by Duvalier: the shipping agents. The announcement that Fayed was now the only legitimate shipping agent in Haiti had, understandably, thrown panic in their ranks. ‘We said, “This can’t happen, we have to do something,” ‘ recalls Jacques Thébaud, at the time a young man just breaking into the arcane world of shipping. But such comments were only made to each other. ‘We Haitians couldn’t fight against Duvalier or Fayed.’
Slowly, however, there developed a plan by which they would get the various shipping lines that served Haiti to fight their battle. The lines themselves were allied in conferences which set a standard price that they all had to live by. A few independent shipping lines outside of the conferences operated, but their support could be counted on as well. After all, the agents figured, it was in everybody’s interest. ‘The conferences were strong and Fayed wanted to be the agent of all the cartel as well as all the outsiders,’ Thébaud says. ‘It was impossible – how could you have a single agent for all the lines when the lines were in competition… It was not a Haitian problem – it was an international problem.’
The shipping agents also understood that the best means to get one’s way was often to dangle a carrot while brandishing a stick. The stick in this instance was a threatened boycott or Haiti by the shipping lines if Fayed was made the country’s exclusive agent. ‘They went to the minister [Hervé Boyer] and said this was impossible. They said they would rather skip Port-an-Prince than agree to such conditions,’ says shipping agent Ronald Marsden. The carrot was the idea of a voluntary tax that would be used for port equipment and repairs. ‘The government or Haiti at the time had no aid, no credit, no money,’ says Thébaud, now retired and the unofficial port historian. ‘We told the government that we could make it money, good money, whereas Fayed would just vanish and take everything with him. We offered to create a special tax on each tonne of merchandise and we would call that tax the Port Improvement Charge.’ Among themselves, however, the agents called it the Fayed Tax. Under the deal, the money was to go into account 104-32-405 at the First National City Bank of New York: when there was enough, it would be used to buy a dredger to clear the bottom of the harbour.
Pressure was slowly, diplomatically brought to bear on Duvalier and his cabinet in December. By the time an emergency meeting of the shipping conferences was announced for early January 1965, the shipping agents were confident that they could successfully force Duvalier to dump Fayed. But it never came to that. By the time they gathered, Fayed was gone.
It was practice in Haiti that when Papa Doc needed cash he would call up someone he thought had not shown enough gratitude for his abundant generosity and demand a substantial payment. In December 1964 it was apparently Fayed’s turn. He was tapped for about $30,000, according to DTI witnesses. $5 million according to Fayed’s submissions to the inquiry. When the request came, Fayed did a brave and foolish thing: he refused to pay, or at least he demurred.
Duvalier’s response was uncharacteristically subtle but nonetheless less chilling. He had Gaillard pulled from Fayed duty, leaving the sheikh unprotected. ‘I got a message to detach myself from him and I did,’ says Gaillard. ‘I have the impression that he had a conflict with the government.’ Fayed took the hint. If he wasn’t on the next plane out, it wasn’t much later. Still, it took a while for people to notice he was gone. ‘It was December, everyone was preoccupied with the holidays and Fayed just got on a plane and disappeared,’ says Thébaud.
It was not long before ripples caused by his departure began to be felt. Specifically, the port seemed to be having trouble paying its people. So Duvalier appointed a three-person commission of inquiry, headed by Paul Isaac, an accountant in Haiti’s justice department, to find the problem.
According to evidence given by Isaac to the DTI investigation, his inquiry in Haiti found that Fayed, soon after he took over the port’s operations, had opened a personal account at the Royal Bank of Canada’s Port-au-Prince branch. Almost immediately, transfers of money began from the port authority into this account. From the Royal Bank account, according to Isaac, the money was promptly moved out of the country. The port’s chief accountant told the DTI that Fayed had directed the transfers be made. Duvalier’s commission said the amount transferred from the port to Fayed’s personal account was $153,440.
During the investigation of his proposed purchase of Harrods, Fayed denied to the DTI that he had transferred any money from the port’s account to his personal account. He then gave the DTI his own version of events surrounding his departure. He said he had already invested $2 million in his Haitian projects when he was told that if he didn’t pay Duvalier $5 million his ‘concessions would be terminated’. The DTI summarised his testimony: ‘Rather than enter into a dispute with the government of Haiti, which was in effect President Duvalier, he decided to withdraw from Haiti altogether. He considered Haiti to be a wholly inappropriate place to do business and was prepared to withdraw even though that would result in his losing the $2 million he had already invested. He felt trapped by gangsters.’
The DTI accepted that Fayed might have put up some lights, repaired some buoys and made other minor improvements to the harbour. But it was overwhelmingly sceptical of Fayed’s version of events. ‘We reject the evidence of Mohamed Fayed where it conflicted with the evidence of the other witnesses. It was unsupported and at total variance with much oral evidence and contemporaneous documentary evidence of high quality.’ It went further: ‘We have no doubt at all that Mohamed Fayed perpetrated a substantial deceit on the government and people of Haiti in 1964. In particular, he deprived the harbour authority of over US $100,000 of money it could ill-afford to lose.’ Duvalier, in any case, was angry at Fayed’s departure and took it out on the hapless Edgar Brodhurst, the British manager of the Royal Bank of Canada (now known as the Royal Bank). As a confidential airgram from American ambassador Timmons recounted, ‘government agents’ arrived at Brodhurst’s house at 8.15am on January 30, 1965, and dragged him off to an audience with Foreign Minister Rene Chalmers. According to the ambassador’s message, Chalmers told Brodhurst that the government had ‘incontrovertible proof’ that he had advised Fayed not to invest in Haiti and had urged him to move the port’s money from the National Bank of Haiti to the Royal Bank of Canada. ‘Brodhurst categorically denied this but to no avail and, after being permitted to return to his home to pack a few belongings, he was escorted to the airport the Chief of Police personally,’ Timmons wrote, adding, ‘The expulsion of Brodhurst appears to be the latest indication of how dearly the Duvalier regime’s pride and pocketbook were damaged by smooth-talking adventurer Mohamed Fayed. Those Haitians who were most closely associated with Fayed (notably Finance Minister Boyer and Clémard Charles…) may be seeking to use Brodhurst as a scapegoat for their own sins of greed and gullibility.’
Boyer, still in Haiti, minimises the scope of any fallout that landed on him but acknowledges that Duvalier was ‘disappointed and hurt’ by Fayed’s abrupt departure. ‘With me [Fayed] was always very régulier. Our relations were perfectly honest. I don’t know what happened elsewhere but with me the relations were clean… You’ll permit me to be discreet. I think I know exactly what happened… I was minister of finance after all… But not enough time has yet passed for me to say exactly what happened.’
On the streets of Haiti, it took a while for news of the Fayed affair to trickle out but once it did, Fayed became an instant legend. One USAID worker who moved there in the last years of Baby Doc’s rule remembers hearing stories about the swindling sheikh. ‘There had been lots of foreigners who had been ripped off by Haiti but very few who had ripped off Haiti. He was famous for that, almost mythical.’ And just as a crop or Haitian newborns ended up being named Nixon and Carter after their election as US president, Mohamed became almost as popular a name in the mid-Sixties.
Le Moniteur of 18 September 1964 announces Fayed’s contract with Haiti’s harbour authority