Bush & Bin Laden - George W.
Bush Had Ties to Billionaire bin Laden Brood
The unexplained death of Salem, Osama bin Laden's
oldest brother, in 1988, brought to an abrupt end a long and
intriguing relationship between President Bush and the head of the
bin Laden family fortune. Mail This Page To A
The world now associates the bin Laden name with
Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect be hind the terror atrocities of
Sept. 11. As President George W. Bush leads an intense international
manhunt for Osama, few Americans realize that Osama's eldest
brother, Salem, was one of Bush's first business partners.
photograph from 1971 has surfaced and been printed in English papers
showing Osama, age 14, and his brother Salem, age 19, enjoying a
summer holiday at the Astoria Hotel in Falun, Sweden. Christina
Akerblad, the hotel owner, told the Daily Mail, "They were beautiful
boys, so elegantly dressed. Everybody loved them."
embraced Islamic fundamentalism and is now the world's most wanted
man. "Salem went on to become a business partner of the man who is
leading the hunt for his brother," the Daily Mail's Peter Allen
said. "In the 1970s, he and George W. Bush were founders of the
Arbusto Energy oil company in Mr. Bush's home state of
President Bush and the bin Laden family have been
connected through dubious business deals since 1977, when Salem, the
head of the bin Laden family business, one of the biggest
construction companies in the world, invested in Bush's start-up oil
company, Arbusto Energy, Inc.
James R. Bath, a friend and
neighbor, was used to funnel money from Osama bin Laden's brother,
Salem bin Laden, to set up George W. Bush in the oil business,
according to The Wall Street Journal and other reputable
Through a tangled web of Saudi multi-millionaires,
Texas oilmen, and the infamous Bank of Credit and Commerce
International, Bush was financially linked with the bin Laden family
until Salem met an untimely end in a freak flying accident near San
Antonio in 1988.
The infamous BCCI was shut down in 1991 with
some $10 billion in losses.
In June 1977, George W. Bush
formed his own oil drilling company, Arbusto Energy, in Midland,
"Arbusto" actually means "shrub" in Spanish, but the
Bush family interpreted it as "bush".
Salem bin Laden, a close
friend of the Saudi King Fahd had "invested heavily in Bush's first
business venture," according to The Daily Mail
Arbusto later became Bush Exploration, when Bush's
father became vice president. As the company neared financial
collapse in September 1984, it was merged with Spectrum 7 Energy
Corp. in an effort to stay afloat.
The 50 investors who
propped up the Bush company with $4.7 million were "mainly friends
of my uncle" who "did pretty good" in Bush's words, although they
lost most of the money they invested in the company. Jon Bush,
George's uncle, raised money for Arbusto from political supporters
of the Reagan-Bush administration.
"These were all the
Bushs' pals," family friend Russell Reynolds told the Dallas Morning
News in 1998. "This is the A-Team."
The "A-Team" limited
partners contributed $4.67 million to various Bush funds through
1984 but got only $1.55 million back in profit distributions, and
$3.9 million in tax write-offs.
William DeWitt and Mercer
Reynolds, two staunch Reagan-Bush supporters, owned Spectrum 7.
Despite his poor track record, the owners made Bush
president of the company and gave him 13.6 percent of the parent
As the hard times
continued, Spectrum merged with Harken Energy in 1986. In 1990,
Harken received a contract from the government of Bahrain to drill
for offshore oil although Harken Energy had never drilled a well
overseas or anywhere in water.
"Knowledgeable oil company
sources believe that the Bahrain oil concession was indeed an
oblique favor to the president of the United States but say that
Saudi Arabia (home of bin Laden) was behind the decision," according
to The Outlaw Bank: A Wild Ride Into the Secret Heart of the BCCI,
by Jonathan Beaty and S.C. Gwynne.
It raised oil-industry
eyebrows when the Persian Gulf state announced it had chosen tiny
Harken to explore an offshore site for gas and oil. Bahrain
officials said they had no idea President Bush's son was associated
with Harken, a claim oil-industry sources ridicule.
deal was brokered in part by Arkansas investment banker David
Edwards, one of Bill Clinton's closest friends. The Bahrain oil
project resulted in two dry holes and Harken energy abandoned the
Two months before Iraq invaded Kuwait, on June 20,
1990, the younger Bush sold two-thirds of his Harken stock, 212,140
shares at $4 a share-for a total of $848,560.
"That was $318,430
more than it was worth," Dr. Arthur F. Ide, author of George W.
Bush: Portrait of a Compassionate Conservative, said. "George W.
broke the law to do this since the transaction was an insider stock
Eight days later, Harken finished the second quarter
with losses of $23 million and the stock went "into a nosedive"
losing 75 percent of its value, finishing the year at a little over
$1 a share.
"Like his father who made his fortune in the oil
business with the money of others, George W. founded Arbusto with
the financial backing of investors, including James R. Bath," said
the late James Howard Hatfield, author of a "controversial
biography," Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Mak ing of an
Hatfield, 43, was found dead of an
apparent prescription drug overdose in a hotel room in Springdale,
Ark. on July 18, 2001. Police declined to investigate.
became friends with George W. during their days together in the
Texas Air National Guard. Bath "confided that he was an original
investor in George Bush Jr.'s oil exploration company," according to
The Outlaw Bank.
Bath found investors for Arbusto and "made
his fortune" by investing the money of two BCCI-connected Saudi
sheiks, Khalid bin Mahfouz and Salem bin Laden. Mahfouz was one of
the richest men in the world and a controlling shareholder in
Bill White, a former real estate business partner of
Bath, said: "He had put up $50,000 to help George, Jr., get started
in oil business" at a time when "Bath had no substantial money of
his own," according to The Outlaw Bank.
Bath received a 5
percent interest in two Arbusto-related limited partnerships
controlled by Bush, although Bush told The Houston Post in 1990 that
he had "never done any business" with Bath. However, Bush said Bath
was "a lot of fun."
Bath told White that he was in the CIA
and that "he had been recruited by George Bush himself in 1976 when
Bush was director of the agency . . . he said Bush wanted him
involved with the Arabs, and to get into the aviation
White contends that the Saudis were using Bath and
their huge financial resources to influence U.S. policy during the
Reagan and Bush administrations, according to the Houston Chronicle
of June 4, 1992. Such representation by Bath would require that he
be registered as a foreign agent with the Department of Justice,
which he was not.
Shortly after Bush's father was appointed
director of the CIA, Salem bin Laden appointed Bath as his business
representative in Texas. According to The Houston Chronicle, Salem
bin Laden, heir to one of the largest building companies in the
Middle East, signed a trust agreement appointing Bath as his Houston
representative in 1976.
In 1978 Bath purchased Houston Gulf
Airport on behalf of Salem bin Laden. When bin Laden died in 1988,
his interest in the airfield passed to bin Mahfouz.
also a political aspect to Salem bin Laden's financial activities,
which played a role in U.S. operations in the Middle East and
Central America during the 1980s,
according to Public
Broadcasting's Frontline report.
As head of Binladen Brothers
Construction (now the Binladen Group), a company that later helped
build U.S. airfields during Operation Desert Storm, bin Laden was
close to King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and "a good friend of the U.S.
government," a San Antonio attorney, Wayne Fagan, who represented
Salem bin Laden from 1982 to 1988, told the San Antonio
When the family patriarch, Sheik Mohammed bin
Laden, died in 1968, he left an industrial and financial empire and
a progeny of 54 sons and daughters, the fruit of a number of wives.
In 1972, Salem bin Laden, the oldest son, took over the estate as
his father's successor, with the assistance of several
With over 40,000 employees, the Bin Laden Group is
represented in the major cities of Saudi Arabia and the Arab
capitals of Beirut, Cairo, Amman, and Dubai. The company builds
highways, housing units, factories, hangars, and military bases,
some of which are part of the U.S.-Saudi "Peace Shield"
The story of the Bush involvement with bin Laden
and the BCCI scandal involves "trails that branched, crossed one
another, or came to unexpected dead ends," according to The Outlaw
Salem bin Laden came to an
"unexpected dead end" in a Texas pasture, 11 years after investing
in Arbusto, when the ultralight aircraft he was flying crashed into
power lines near San Antonio on Memorial Day, 1988.
morning of May 29, 1988, almost immediately after takeoff, Salem bin
Laden's aircraft struck and became entangled in power lines 150 feet
high before plunging to the ground.
"He was a very
experienced pilot. He was a good pilot. We just can't understand why
he decided to go right instead of left," recalled airstrip owner and
former Marine Earl May field, who cradled bin Laden, bleeding from
That day, bin Laden took off in a southeasterly
direction into the wind. He surprised onlookers by turning west to
ward power lines less than a quarter-mile away.
figure out why he tried to fly over the power lines," said Gerry
Auerbach, 77, of New Braunfels, a retired pilot.
had more than 15,000 hours of flight experience.
report concluded "freak accident." H