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Archive for July 1st, 2011

Jim Jones, Dan Mitrione and the Peoples Temple: Part 3

Friday, July 1st, 2011


After entering Guyana, and making anti-communist speeches, Jones seems to have dropped off the face of the earth.  Following the Guyana Graphic article of October 27, he disappears from the public record for almost six full months.

It is possible, of course, that he journeyed into the interior of that country to work among the Amerindians—but the evidence for this is so slim as to be invisible.  Indeed, it consists solely of a remark by anthropologist Kathleen Adams, who wrote that Jones had at one time worked as a missionary in Guyana.  Where and when is left unstated, but it was presumably during that period that Jones learned about his homicidal predecessor, the Reverend “Smith.”

The only disturbance in the empty field of Jones’s whereabouts from 10/61 until 4/62 is the information that  Passport #0111788 was issued in his name at Indianapolis on January 30, 1962.

This is a considerable anomaly.  As we have seen, Jones already had a passport—#22898751, issued to him in Chicago on June 28, 1960.  This earlier passport, which he had planned to use on a trip to the Soviet Union, was still valid.  Why, then, did someone make an application for a new passport, and who picked it up?  Moreover, how is it possible that Jones’s second passport had a lower number than the one that he’d received more than a year before?

These questions cannot be answered at this time: the evidence reposes in the files of the State Department.  What may be said, however, is that there is good reason to suspect that someone was impersonating Jim Jones during this period; and that, in fact, a photograph of the impostor survives.  We’ll return to this subject shortly.

According to the Brazilian Federal Police, Jim Jones arrived by plane in Sao Paulo on April 11, 1962.  There does not seem to be any surviving record of his point of embarkation, but it may well have been Havana.  According to Bonnie (Malmin) Thielman, who met Jones at about this time, there was “a picture of him and Marceline standing on either side of Fidel Castro, whom they had met during a Cuban stopover en route to Brazil…” [Op cit., The Broken God, p. 27]

An American family, making “a Cuban stopover,” seven to eleven months after the Bay of Pigs?  Physically, transportation would not have been difficult to arrange.  Both Mexico City and Georgetown were transit-points for Havana.  But Cuban visas were by no means issued automatically—especially to Americans making well-publicized, anti-communist speeches in Guyana.  How much harder it must have been for Jones to arrange to have a photo taken of himself with Castro (who was at that time the target of CIA assassination attempts planned by yet another Indianapolis native, the CIA’s William Harvey).

It’s a peculiar, even eerie, business.  I’m reminded of the man who impersonated Lee Harvey Oswald while applying for a visa at the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City during 1963. [Despite Oswald's demonstration of pro-Castro sympathies---he was arrested in New Orleans after handing out leaflets for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC)---his impostor was not given the requested visa.]

Whatever his reason for visiting Cuba during the Winter of 1961-62, and whatever the reasons he was permitted to enter the country, Jones had no trouble entering Brazil that April.  Given a visa that was valid for eleven months, he and his family traveled to Belo Horizonte where, as we have seen, Dan Mitrione had settled in as an OPS adviser at the U.S. Consulate.

Jones took rooms in the first-class Hotel Financial until he and his family were able to move to a house at 203 Rua Maraba. [Estado do Minas, "Pastor Jim Jones lived and worked in Belo Horizonte with his children," Nov. 23, 1978, p. 23.] This is a pretty street in an attractive neighborhood on a hill in one of the best parts of town.  Accordingly, his new neighbors were almost all professionals: doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, and journalists.  It was not the sort of place from which one could easily minister to the poor.

Not that it mattered.  Jones’s stay in Belo Horizonte had little or nothing to do with alleviating poverty.

According to his neighbors, Jones would leave his house early each morning, as if going to work, and return very late at night.  Sebastiao Carlos Rocha, an engineer who lived nearby, noted that Jones usually left home carrying a big leather briefcase; on a number of occasions, Rocha said, he saw Jones walking in Betim, a neighboring town. ["To Brazilians, Jim Jones was a CIA Agent," O Globo, Nov. 24, 1978.]

Elza Rocha, a lawyer who lived across the street and who sometimes interpreted for Jones, says that her neighbor told her that he had a job in Belo Horizonte proper, at Eureka Laundries. ["Leader of the Peoples Temple Lived in Belo Horizonte," Estado de Minas, Nov. 23, 1978, p. 1; and, from the same issue, "Pastor Jim Jones lived and worked in Belo Horizonte with his children," p. 23.]

This is a huge dry-cleaning and laundry chain, a quasi-monopoly whose central plant is serviced by more than a score of pick-up points (small storefronts) throughout the city.  In essence, a customer delivers his laundry to one of the stores, where it is later collected by a delivery truck.  The truck takes the dirty clothes to the central plant, where they’re cleaned, and then returns them to the store from which they came.  It’s a big business.

But it’s not one in which Jim Jones ever worked.  According to Sebastiao Dias de Magalhaes, who was head of Industrial Relations for Eureka during 1962, Jones’s claim to have been an employee of the laundry was false. [Ibid.]  Senor de Magalhaes, and two other Eureka workers, have told the press that Jones lied in order to conceal what they believe was his work for the CIA. [Besides de Magalhaes, Elineu Pereira Guimaraes and Marcidio Inacio da Silva were interviewed.  See O Globo, "To Brazilians, Jim Jones was a CIA Agent," Nov. 24, 1978.]

Still, if you didn’t know better, Jones’s cover-story  served three purposes: first, it explained where he went during the day—to work.  Second, it offered a theoretically visible means of support: he had a check from Eureka (everyone knows Eureka).  And third, it gave Jones an alibi for a mysterious period during which he’d vanished from Belo Horizonte.  According to Elza Rocha, when Jones returned, he told her that he had been sent to the United States for “special training” in connection with the machinery used by Eureka.  Where Jones actually went, and why, is a unknown. [Estado do Minas, "Pastor Jim Jones lived and worked in Belo Horizonte with his children," Nov. 23, 1978, p. 23.]

Eureka wasn’t Jones’s only cover, however.  He didn’t mention Eureka to Sebastiao Rocha.  Instead, he claimed to be a retired captain in the U.S. Navy.  He said that he had suffered a great deal in the war, and that he received a monthly pension from the armed services.  The implication was that he had been wounded in the Korean conflict.  According to Senor Rocha, “Jim Jones was always mysterious and would never talk about his work here in Brazil.” ["To Brazilians, Jim Jones was a CIA Agent," O Globo, Nov. 24, 1978. ]

Yet another Rocha, Marco Aurelio, was absolutely certain that Jones was a spy.  At the time, Marco was dating a young girl who was living in the Jones household. [Brazilians newspapers identify the woman as "Joyce Bian."  Since one of Jones's ministerial assistants, Jack Beam, is known to have joined him in Belo Horizonte in October, 1962, and to have brought his family with him, we may suppose that this was Beam's daughter.]  Because of this, and because Rua Maraba is a narrow street on which parked cars are conspicuous, he noticed that a car from the American Consulate was often parked outside Jones’s house.  According to Marco, the car’s driver sometimes brought bags of groceries to the Joneses—which, if true, was definitely not standard consular procedure.

Marco Rocha’s interest in Jones was more than idle, however.  According to him, he was keeping a loose surveillance on the American preacher at the request of a friend—a detective in the ID-4 section of the local police department.  The detective was convinced that Jones was a CIA agent, and was trying to prove it with his young friend’s help.  Unfortunately, the policeman died before his investigation could be completed, and Jones left town soon afterwards. [O Globo, "To Brazilians, Jim Jones was a CIA Agent," Nov. 24, 1978.]

Gleaning the purpose behind Jones’s residency in Belo Horizonte is anything but easy.  He is reported to have been fascinated by the magical rites of Macumba and Umbanda, and to have studied the practices of Brazilian faith-healers.  He was extremely interested in the works of David Miranda, and is said to have conducted a study of extrasensory perception.  These were subjects of interest to the CIA in connection with its MK-ULTRA program.  So, also, were the “mass conversion techniques” at which Jones’s Pentecostal training had made him an expert.

Whether these investigations were idle pastimes or Jones’s actual raison d’etre in Belo Horizonte is unknown.  Neither is there hard evidence that Jones’s presence was related to Dan Mitrione’s work at the Consulate—though Jones was certainly aware of Mitrione’s post.  According to an autobiographical fragment that was found at Jonestown, Mitrione

“…was known in Belo Horizonte by everybody to be something other than a mere ‘traffic advisor’.  There were rumors that he participated with the military even then, doing strange things to dissenters…  Mitrione’s name would come up frequently.”

Subsequently, according to that same fragment, Jones went out of his way to socialize with the Mitrione family.

“I’d heard of his nefarious activities in Belo Horizonte, and I thought ‘I’ll case this man out.’  I wasn’t really inclined to do him in, not me personally, but I certainly was inclined to inform on his activities to everybody on the Left. “But he wouldn’t see me.  I saw his family and they were arrogantly anti-Brazilian…”

Because Jim Jones was a sociopath, a suspected agent of the police/intelligence community, and a man whose historical stature was intimately entwined with his false public identity as an “apostle of socialism,” there is good reason to be skeptical of the sincerity of his pronouncements about Dan Mitrione and his family.  If Mitrione was, as seems likely, Jones’s first “control,” then Jones would obviously fear the revelation of that fact.  In particular, he would fear the chance discovery of their past association, and the questions such a discovery would raise.  To allay such suspicions, Jones may well have acted to co-opt the discovery—explaining it away in advance.  Thus, he tells us that he knew Dan Mitrione as a child, and that, in Brazil, he wanted to “inform on his activities to everybody on the Left.”  So it was, we’re told, that he decided to “case this man out,” and came to know his family.

This may explain the presence of a consular car outside Jones’s house: if Jones was socializing with the Mitrione family, the consular car was probably their’s.  But who are the people on the Left to whom Jones refers?  Whom was he going to tell about Dan Mitrione?  So far as anyone knows, Jones’s acquaintances in Brazil were all conservatives.  Indeed, like Bonnie Thielman’s father, the Rev. Edward Malmin, they should more accurately be described as right-wingers.  And, as such, they would undoubtedly have approved of Mitrione’s work.

Nevertheless, while there is every reason to be skeptical of Jones’s memoir, it is interesting that he characterizes his relationship to the Mitriones as that of an informant, or spy.  Given Jones’s sociopathic personality (not to mention his rightwing sermons in Guyana and the implications of his CIA file), it is very likely that Jones was working for Mitrione rather than against him.

While Jones is said to have gone to the U.S. Consulate often, the only person whom he is known to have seen there was Jon Lodeesen. [ Besides Marco Rocha's remarks about a car from the American Consulate, Bonnie Thielman recalls that Jones often went to the Consulate on unknown business.]
On October 18, 1962, Vice Consul Lodeesen wrote a peculiar letter to Jones on Foreign Service stationary.  The letter reads:

“Dear Mr. Jones:
“We received a communication and we believe its your interest to come at the Consulate at your earliest convenience.”  (Sic.)

Signed by Lodeesen, there is a redundant post-script to the letter, requesting that Jones “Please see me.”
While the letter itself is entirely opaque, an attachment to it is not.  This a passport-type photograph of a man who, despite his mustache and receding hairline, looks remarkably like Jim Jones—or, more accurately perhaps, like Jim Jones in disguise.  While one cannot be certain, it may well be that the photo is related to the peculiar circumstances under which a second passport was issued to Jones—while the first passport was still valid. [The letter from Lodeesen, with the photograph attached, was provided by the FBI to attorneys in the Layton case.]

That it was Jon Lodeesen who contacted Jones is significant in its own right.  This is so because Lodeesen has been a spy for much of his life.  According to Soviet intelligence officers, he is a CIA agent who taught at the US intelligence school in Garmisch Partenkirchen, West Germany—a sort of West Point for spooks.  Subsequently, he worked at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow—until he was declared persona non grata for suspected espionage activities.  Kicked out of the Soviet Union, he went to work for Radio Liberty, a CIA-created and -financed propaganda network based in Munich.  There, he was Deputy Director of the Soviet Analysis and Broadcasting Section. [See CIA in the Dock, edited by V. Chernyavsky, Progress Publishers, Moscow (1983): "Saboteurs on the Air: A Close-up View" by Vaim Kassis and Leonid Kolosov, pp. 147-67.]  More recently, Lodeesen was recommended for work with a CIA cover in Hawaii. [The letter (dated January 12, 1983) was from Ned Avary to Ron Rewald, then CEO of the Hawaiian investment firm Bishop, Baldwin, Rewald and Dillingham.]  In a letter to the proprietor of the cover, Lodeesen was described as “fluent in the principal Russian tongues” and an expert on “Soviet double agents, dissidents and escapees.”

Just the man, in other words, to handle the passport problems of an American psychopath who’d applied for a visa to visit the Soviet Union; who’d made repeated trips to Castro’s Cuba; who had two valid passports at the same time; and who seems to have been the victim of, or a party to, an impersonation.


Friends of the Jones family in Belo Horizonte are agreed that he lived in the city for a period of eight months, beginning in the Spring of 1962.  He then moved to Rio de Janeiro.

Once again, Jones seems to have been following Dan Mitrione’s lead.  In mid-December, as the Jones family packed for the move to Rio, Mitrione left Belo Horizonte for a two-month “vacation” in the U.S.  At the beginning of March, he returned to Brazil—but not to Belo Horizonte.  Instead, he found an apartment in the posh Botafogo section of Rio de Janeiro.

There, he was not far from Jim Jones, who was recumbent in equally elegant surroundings, having found an expensive flat in the Flamengo neighborhood. [Jones's address in Rio was #154 Rua Senador Vigueiro.]

According to Brazilian immigration authorities, who are said to keep meticulous records, the Jones family left Rio for an unknown country at the end of March.  And they did not return.

According to Jones, however, he and his family lived in Rio until December of 1963.  The assassination of President John F. Kennedy (in November of that year) was the stimulus for their return to Indiana.

There is, in other words, a nine-month period in which Jones’s whereabouts are at least somewhat questionable.  One would think, of course, that there would be a great many records and witnesses to the matter.  Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.  Those members of Jones’s family, and his associates, who might have seen him in Rio either died at Jonestown—or were too young at the time to be certain where they were in 1963. [For example, Jones's natural son, Stephan.]

The issue should have been settled, of course, by the newspaper articles that appeared in Brazil after the Jonestown massacre.  These were stories with local angles, describing Jones’s life in Brazil.  Curiously, however, none of the articles originating in Rio quote identifiable sources.  This is quite unlike counterpart articles written about Jones’s stay in Belo Horizonte.  In the latter, almost everyone seems delighted to get his name in the paper.  In Rio, nobody wants to be identified.

By far the most extensive account of Jones’s stay in Rio de Janeiro was published in a newspaper that is thought by many to have been owned, or secretly supported, by the CIA.  This was the English-language Brazil Herald. [Brazil Herald, "The little-known story: Jim Jones' early days in Rio de Janeiro," by Harold Emert, December 24-26, 1978, p. 9.]

According to the article, it was “through a friend in Belo Horizonte” that Jones “found a job as a salesman of investments” in Rio.  The source for this information is unstated, as is the identity of Jones’s friend in Belo Horizonte.

The company for which Jones is said to have worked was Invesco, S.A., which had offices in the Edificio Central in downtown Rio. [There have been persistent rumors that Jones, while in Rio, was employed by a "CIA-owned advertising agency."  Invesco, while not an advertising agency, is the only firm to which these rumors could possibly refer.  It is certainly the case that any number of Brazilians suspected that its American owners were working for the CIA.]  At least, it did until the firm went bankrupt, under scandalous circumstances, in 1967.  Though this occurred more than ten years before, Invesco’s former assistant manager—Jim Jones’s boss—was still in Rio at the time of the Jonestown massacre.  An American who’d come to Brazil in the late 1940s, and stayed, he was willing to confirm Jones’s employment at Invesco—but not much more.  And he did not want his name used.

“As a salesman with us,” he told the Herald, “(Jones) didn’t make it.  He was too shy and I don’t remember him selling anything,”

Applied to Jim Jones, this is a remarkable statement.   Is it possible that someone who sold monkeys door-to-door in Indianapolis during the Fifties could be too timid to sell mutual funds in Rio de Janeiro during the bull-markets of the Sixties?  The mind boggles.  Here is a man who is said to have talked 900 people into killing themselves for what he hoped would be his greater glory…and he was “too shy”?!

“We hired him on a strictly commission basis and as far as I know he didn’t sell anything in the three months that he worked for us,” the former assistant manager said.

This, too, is an interesting remark because it implies that, while Jones worked for Invesco, there would be no record of the fact as a consequence of his failure to record any sales.  Without putting too much of a point on it, the reader should know that commission-only sales’ jobs are favorite covers for CIA agents in foreign countries.  This is so because the agent is not required to produce any cover-related work-product for his civilian boss (i.e., he doesn’t need to sell anything at all)—because he’s working strictly “on commission.”  At the same time, salesmen working on commission are expected to travel, and to cultivate a broad spectrum of acquaintances.

Thus, whether Jones was working for Invesco or not, it served as a good cover for whatever else he might have been doing.

Still, if the sales-job which Jones is supposed to have held down produced no income at all, how did he support himself?   According to the Brazil Herald, he “was receiving donations of checks sent by his followers in the US.  His ex-boss notes having seen Jones’ briefcase filled with checks.”  This is possible, of course, but extremely unlikely.  Membership in the Peoples Temple had plummeted during Jones’s absence, dwindling from 2000 members in 1961 to fewer than 100 parishioners at the time of the Kennedy assassination.  By the end of 1963, the electric and telephone bills had gone unpaid, and disconnection threatened.  The idea that parishioners were supporting Jones in high style, by sending him personal checks, is ludicrous.  Not only did they not have the money, but Jones would probably have starved had he depended upon cashing small personal checks, written on Indianapolis bank accounts, in Rio de Janeiro.

Elsewhere in the Brazil Herald story, the December 4, 1978 article in Time Magazine is cited.  According to Time, Jones spent a part of 1963 working at the “American School of Rio.”  Asked about this, the American School issued the following statement: “Neither the salary records maintained in the business office nor the personnel records maintained in the headmaster’s office reflect this name (i.e., Jim Jones) as having been connected with our school as an employee.”

Jones’s former boss at Invesco was not the only source for the article in the Herald.  A second source was a Cariocan who claimed to be a Jones’s closest friend in Rio.  In the article, she is identified only as “Madame X.”

After leaving Invesco, Madame X said, Jones went to work at the Escola Sao Fernando, while his son, Stephan, attended the British School.  As it happens, however, there is no “Escola Sao Fernando” in Rio, and the British School denies that Stephan Jones was ever one of its students.
Elsewhere, Madame X says that Jones decided to return to the U.S. upon hearing of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination (on November 22).  The trip to the States was supposed to be a temporary visit.  Jones intended to straighten out the problems that the Peoples Temple was experiencing in his absence—and then to return to Brazil.  Accordingly, Madame X added, a friend of the family continued paying Jones rent on the apartment in Rio.  Eventually, when it became clear that the Joneses would not return, Madame X sold their furniture and other goods, and donated the money to charitable causes.

The “friend of the family” is, like Madame X and Jones’s boss at Invesco, never identified.

So who is Madame X?

The author of the Brazil Herald article, Harold Emert, doesn’t know.  The reason he doesn’t know is that he himself never spoke to her.  Jim Bruce did.  Who, then, is Jim Bruce?  According to Emert, Jim Bruce was at that time an American freelancer based in Brazil.  It was he who inspired the Jim-Jones-in-Rio story and he who provided the sources: i.e., the Invesco executive and Madame X.

Why Bruce failed to write the story himself is unclear. [Once again, there is an interesting parallel between events surrounding Jim Jones and those involving Lee Harvey Oswald.  That is to say, shortly after Oswald's arrest, a story went out on the wires describing in detail Oswald's peculiar background as a defector, the time that he spent in New Orleans, and so forth.   The author of the scoop was Seth Kantor.  Like Emert, however, Kantor was not the ultimate source of the story he reported---another journalist, "too busy to write it himself" (!), had given it to Kantor over the telephone.  This was Hal Hendrix, a CIA operative working under journalistic cover]

II.9 Invesco

There have been persistent rumors that Jim Jones worked for a CIA cover during his stay in Rio.  The cover is said to have been an advertising agency, but no one can say why they think so.  The Washington Post‘s Charles Krause and then-New York Times reporter John Crewdson each pursued the story, but neither was able to track it down.

Clearly, Invesco was at the heart of the matter, though its connection to Jones cannot have been more than a faded memory when Crewdson and Krause were looking into it.  The only public reference to Jones’s association with the firm was in the weekend edition of a small, almost ephemeral, newspaper.  The sources for the story were anonymous, and the newspaper itself no longer existed, having long since been swallowed up by a rival.  As for Invesco, its 1967 bankruptcy had taken place under military rule amid strict censorship of the press.  Because bankruptcies reflected poorly on the economy, and therefore on the ruling junta, their occurrence—however scandalous—often went unreported.

For these reasons, then, Invesco has remained almost entirely unknown.

Here, it needs to be emphasized that, for whatever reason, Jim Jones felt the need for some sort of cover in Brazil.  That’s why he lied to his neighbors in Belo Horizonte, telling some that he was employed by the Eureka Laundries and others that he was a retired Navy captain living on a pension.  In Rio, which has a small and gossipy expatriate community, the need for a cover would have been even more strongly felt.  And for Jones’s purposes, Invesco was ideal.

In essence, the company was an offshore analog of Bernie Cornfeld’s Investors Overseas Services (IOS).  In South America, at least, it pioneered the practice of selling shares in mutual funds.

Created as a venture-capital firm in 1951, its original name was Expansao Tecnico Industrial, S.A. (ETIN).  It was a subsidiary of Victorholt, S.A. Industria e Commercio, whose President was Lewis Holt Ruffin.  According to an old Rio hand, ETIN was set up by employees of Price, Waterhouse, including a man who was reputed to have been a German spy during World War II.

While ETIN/Invesco has always had Brazilian investors, its affairs have tended to be dominated by the participation of Rio-based Americans, English, Germans and “Swiss. “  This last contingent includes a number of individuals who arrived in Brazil in the mid-to-late 1940s.  While they claimed to be Swiss, they are thought to have been Germans.

Sources in Rio say that several of Invesco’s principals are associates of a former owner of the Brazil Herald, Gilbert Huber, Jr. [Huber bought the Brazil Herald from William Williamson, and later sold it to the Latin American Daily News.]  Among other business activities, Huber is a part-owner of American Light and Power, and publishes the Rio de Janeiro “Yellow Pages”. [This information derives from sources in Rio.  See, also, A.J. Langguth's Hidden Terrors, Pantheon Books, 1978, p. 88.]  Huber is credited by many Brazilians with helping to pave the way for the reign of terror that followed the 1964 coup d’etat.  By this is meant that Huber was one of two people credited with founding the Instituto de Pesquiasas e Estudos Sociais (IPES).  Known in English as the Institute for Social Research Studies, IPES was established in 1961 by conservatives who were alarmed by the Cuban revolution and the leftward drift of the Brazilian government.  Similar in many ways to the John Birch Society, IPES was almost certainly funded by covert American sources. [United States Pentration of Brazil, by Jan Knippers Black, University ofPennsylvania Press, 1977, pages 82-6.]

Initially, IPES was an instrument of propaganda, saturating the country with films, books, pamphlets and lectures attacking communism and ‘the threat from within.’  but propaganda was only a part of its strategy.  Within a year of its founding, the Institute had begun to organize armed, paramilitary cells. It had also established a clandestine hand-grenade factory, and developed plans for a civil war.  At the same time, it had hired a network of retired military officers ‘to exert influence on those on active duty.’ [Ibid.] One of those retired officers was General Golbery do Couto e Silva.  His job was to compile 40,000 dossiers on Brazilians whose loyalties were considered suspect.  When the coup succeeded, Golbery came out of ‘retirement’ at IPES.  Moving to Brazilia with ‘hundreds of thousands’ of files, he established Brazil’s first intelligence service, the SNI—a South American fusion of its counterpart services in the United States, the FBI and the CIA.  Many of the men and women in Golbery’s political dossiers suffered mightily under the junta.  Some were placed under house arrest or imprisoned, while others were tortured.  Still others fell prey to the esquadraos da mortes (death squads).

While Gilbert Huber’s connection to Invesco is merely rumored, another Huber’s is not.  This is Joyce Huber Blumer, who owned 55,000 shares in the firm. [Ms. Huber is said to be Gilbert Huber's sister-in-law, but that information has yet to be confirmed.]  British by birth, she has attracted a certain amount of attention in the Brazilian press for what has been characterized as a “baby-selling” enterprise.  Two other owners of Invesco were a Swiss or German national named Werner Blumer (24,000 shares), and an American named Scott McAuley Johnson (54,000 shares).  Blumer owns an art gallery in Rio, while Johnson is described by various sources as “a mystery man” of independent means.

The Train Robbers

Which brings us to an interesting story.

In the same year that Jones went to work for Invesco, a British hoodlum named Ronald Biggs participated in what came to be called “the Great Train Robbery,” sharing more than $7-million in cash and valuables stolen from a Glasgow-to-London mail-train.

Apprehended, and sentenced to 30 years, Biggs escaped from prison in 1965.  Fleeing to France, he relied upon an international criminal network to obtain plastic surgery and passage to Australia.  Tracked by the police as the “most wanted” man in the world, Biggs subsequently found his way to Rio de Janeiro (where extradition is, at best, a rarity).   According to a reporter who was ultimately instrumental in revealing Biggs’s whereabouts, the fugitive’s patrons in Rio were the same people who owned Invesco: Joyce Huber, Werner Blumer, Scott Johnson and others.

How Biggs, while hiding out in Rio, came to live at Scott Johnson’s apartment, where he was patronized and protected by Huber and the others, is an important question. [An anecdotal account of Biggs' life in Rio, which discusses his friendship with Johnson and Huber, can be found in Biggs: The World's Most Wanted Man, by Colin Mackenzie, William Morrow & Co., New York, 1975.]   Among other things, it suggests the possibility (indeed, the likelihood) that the firm which provided cover (or an alibi) for Jim Jones’s activities in Rio was part of the so-called ODESSA network. [ODESSA is an acronym for Organization der Entlassene SS Angehorige (Organization  of Former SS Members).  Die Spinne (The Spider), which was also known as the "Swastika Syndicate," was the clandestine operations arm of ODESSA.  See Skorzeny: Hitler's Commando, by Glenn B. Infield, St. Martin's Press, 1981 (New York).]

In this connection, Piers Paul Read’s The Train Robbers is of interest. [The Train Robbers, by Piers Paul Read, W.H. Allen, London (1978).]  Read undertook to write the book more than a decade after the robbery, and long after several other books had already been published on the subject.  What made these unpromising circumstances auger well, according to Read, were two things: first, he had the cooperation of most of the men who’d pulled off the robbery.  Previously, only Ronald Biggs had given an account, and Biggs was considered an outsider by those who’d conceived and executed the plan.  Second, and even more importantly, the gang confided important new information to Read.  This was that the train robbery, and several of the subsequent escapes, had been financed and finessed by Gen. Otto Skorzeny.  Among other things, this explained why it had never been possible to account for more than half of the money stolen in the robbery.

An unrepentant Nazi, Skorzeny had been Hitler’s favorite commando.  After the war, he’d re-established himself in Madrid as an arms-dealer and, with even greater secrecy, as the mastermind behind Die Spinne—the underground railroad that obtained forged documents and plastic surgery for war criminals and others requiring safe-havens in South America and the Middle East.  As the proprietor of a de facto intelligence agency with connections throughout the world, Skorzeny made millions as a consultant to countries and organizations whose politics were compatible with his own (e.g., Nasser’s Egypt and the Secret Army Organization in Algiers).

Train-robber Buster Edwards and his wife gave Read a detailed description—names, dates and places—of how Die Spinne had smuggled him from England to Germany to Mexico. [Since this was written, I was able to interview Buster Edwards at his flower-stall outside Waterloo Station in London.  In that interview, Edwards confirmed what he'd told Read, and elaborated upon it with further details.]  A woman named “Hannah Schmid,” [The name is a pseudonym that Read used in his book ] whose father had served with Skorzeny in the Second World War, saw to it that he received plastic surgery and the documents necessary to travel.  Edwards recuperated for nearly a month in the home of a Prussian aristocrat, “Annaliese von Lutzeberg,” [This name is also a pseudonym, according to Read.] and was then sent on his way to Mexico—but not before he’d purchased shares (under an assumed name) in a business that Skorzeny owned. [Edwards invested 10,000 pounds in a real estate firm that Skorzeny was using to develop land near Alicante.]

While in Mexico, Edwards and two of the other train-robbers reunited with Schmid, who “proposed that they should run guns to the Peronists in Argentina; or train troops for a planned putsch in Panama…” [Ibid., p. 195.  Besides Edwards, Bruce Reynolds and Charlie Wilson met with Schmid in Mexico City.]  Edwards and his friends declined: it just wasn’t their scene.

In checking Edwards’ story, and the stories of the other robbers, Read found that every verifiable detail was confirmed.  Before finishing his book, however, it was left to him to interview Ronald Biggs in Rio.  Accordingly, he got on a plane.

Finding Biggs was not that difficult.  He was living at Scott Johnson’s apartment.  What he had to say, however, was in flat contradiction to the accounts of everyone else.  According to Biggs, there were no Germans.

Read was flabbergasted.  Had he been hoaxed?  Or was Biggs lying on behalf of what Read suspected were his Nazi protectors?  Read couldn’t be sure.

“At best (Biggs) wished me to disbelieve the Skorzeny connection so that he himself could break it to the world and reap the benefit; at worst he was still in the care of Skorzeny’s organisation and had been told to persuade me that it did not exist.

“The more I pondered this last possibility, the more convinced I became that this was the explanation—for it still seemed inconceivable to me that June (Edwards) had invented her meeting with Skorzeny in Madrid, or could have discovered that he was a friend of the Reader’s Digest editor who spoke fourteen Chinese dialects.  I suddenly realised how thoughtless and foolhardy I had been to come to a country (Brazil) known to be a nest of ex-Nazis.  Clearly Biggs had been saved from extradition not because of his child, but because of neo-Nazi influence in government circles.  The woman who had been with him at the airport, Ulla Sopher, a German-Argentinian with blonde hair and blue eyes, was part of their network.  All the strands of the story came together to form a noose around my neck.” [Ibid., pp. 257-58.]

And yet, despite this cogent explanation for what had happened, and despite the evidence that Edwards and the others had provided, Read demurred.  Over drinks in a sidewalk cafe, “I began to believe that Biggs was telling the truth.”

A bizarre turn-about that occurs at the very end of the book, Read’s conversion to Biggs’ account makes no sense at all.  Biggs’s own fugitivity, which (like Edwards’s) was facilitated by plastic surgery and forged documents provided by an unnamed criminal syndicate, is the best argument against the story he tells.

One wonders if Read would have ended his book differently if he had known about Jim Jones, Scott Johnson and Invesco.

Not that Read didn’t have clues to the fact that Biggs was living in a kind of parapolitical twilight—a world defined by the inter-penetration of criminal syndicates and the intelligence community.

One such clue pertained to Biggs’ son, “Mikezinho,” who was born while his father was a fugitive in Rio.  “Little Mikey” had a very interesting godfather, a man with powerful European connections and who, like Werner Blumer, was in the business of selling art.

This was Fernand Legros, who concerns us here only because his association with Biggs’s, and Biggs’s friends in Rio, adds perspective to what might be called “the Invesco circle.”

Legros has been described as a “playboy, millionaire, art dealer and CIA agent…” [The Great Heroin Coup, by Henrik Kruger.] A native Egyptian, with apartments in Switzerland, France and Spain, he was a homosexual whose lovers included the Secretary-General of the United Nations (Dag Hammerskjold) and members of French cabinet. [ Hammerskjold died in a plane crash in the Congo on September 17, 1961.  The suspicion that the plane was sabotaged is widespread, but to date unproven.  See The Last Days of Dag Hammerskjold, by Arthur L. Gavshon, Barrie & Rockliff with Pall Mall Press, London, 1963.] A naturalized American, Legros resorted to at least four passports: French, American, Canadian and British.

It is alleged (by author Henrik Kruger and others) that Legros played a lethal role in the mysterious (and still unsolved) kidnapping and murder of the Moroccan dissident, Ben Barka—who disappeared from the streets of Paris (where Legros owned an art-gallery) in October, 1965.  According to Kruger, Legros had been in contact with Ben Barka in Geneva, where the art-dealer had a second gallery and both men had apartments.  Lured to France, Ben Barka was kidnapped, tortured and killed.  While his disappearance remains unsolved, the operation has often been attributed to French gangsters (including a man named Christian David) acting on Legros’s orders.  Legros himself is believed to have been working at the time for either the CIA or France’s SDECE.

In 1967, Legros fled to Brazil upon being implicated in the authentication and sale of forgeries attributed to modern masters.  Sold for millions to gullible investors around the world, the forgeries are believed to have been painted by Elmyr de Hory, Clifford Irving’s friend and neighbor on Ibiza.

But Legros’s influence seems not to have been much diminished by the notoriety surrounding the forgeries.  According to Kruger, the art-dealer was “a personal friend of Henry Kissinger’s,…(and) the man the CIA assigned to snoop on UN secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold.  Legros helped the CIA kidnap the African leader Moise Tshombe…”   Not finally, Legros became an associate (in France and in Brazil) of the legendary French gangster Christian David.

While in Rio and Sao Paulo, David established a Brazilian-based narcotics syndicate to fill the vacuum created when the so-called “French connection” was broken. [Following the arrest and extradition of Paraguya's Auguste Ricard, heroin refined in Marseilles was shipped to David in Brazil for transport to the United States.]  In this task, he was abetted by fugitive French collaborators and war criminals living in Argentina, Paraguay, Chile and Brazil.

Arrested by the Brazilian authorities in 1972, David was eventually deported to the United States, and then extradited to France—where he was sentenced to death. [The sentence appears never to have been carried out, and there are unconfirmed reports that David was freed some time ago.]  Meanwhile, David’s pal, Fernand Legros, was himself in a Rio prison—occupying the cell next to Ronald Biggs.  The circumstances of Legros’s imprisonment are murky, but it has been suggested that he was locked up as an exercise in protective custody, supposedly for having helped the CIA to arrange David’s arrest.  While that allegation is unproven, it is certainly true that Legros had a rather easy time of it behind bars.  “Each day…he was brought lavish meals including lobster, champagne, cognac and fat Havana cigars.” [Kruger tells us that, in 1974, French intelligence agents kidnapped Legros from Brazil, and brought him back to France.  Imprisoned there, he was released upon the demands of Henry Kissinger, who protested the mistreatment of an American citizen.]

All of which is to say: what?  That Jim Jones was somehow involved in the 1963 Great Train Robbery, or in the 1965 murder of Ben Barka?  Hardly.  Do I mean, then, to suggest that Jones was a party to the making and breaking of the “Brazilian Connection,” or that he was implicated in the wave of forgeries that culminated in Clifford Irving’s “autobiography” of Howard Hughes?  Of course not.

My intention has only been to demonstrate that the milieu in which Jones found himself in 1963—the Invesco milieu, revolving around Scott Johnson, et al.—was anything but ordinary.  A suspected CIA conduit, Invesco was owned and operated by men and women whose connections to criminals such as Ronald Biggs and spooks like Fernand Legros—and to gangster-spooks such as Christian David—are worth a deeper look.  The coalescence of organized crime and the CIA during the early 1960s was responsible for parapolitical enormities which continue to resonate beneath the surface of American politics and culture.

Jones’s connections to Dan Mitrione and Jon Lodeesen, his resort to cover stories, his use of multiple passports, and his strange involvement with the Invesco circle, strongly suggests that the 1978 tragedy in Guyana was set in motion in Cuba and Brazil some fifteen years earlier.