San Diego businessman Brent Wilkes, a key figure in the Randy “Duke” Cunningham bribery scandal—as well as the Justice Department investigation of Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff—worked in Honduras during the 1980’s for a company accused by federal prosecutors of deep involvement in cocaine trafficking.
Over the weekend the San Diego Union-Tribune, Cunningham’s hometown paper, reported that Brent Wilkes has a two decade long history of close links with the CIA.
The company which provided Wilkes his initial entree into the world of lucrative government defense contracts, said the paper, was World Finance Corp.
World Finance Corp., the MadCowMorningNews has learned, achieved notoriety during the Iran Contra Scandal for highly questionable activities in Honduras.
"It was drugs, it was money-laundering, it was everything," South Florida detective James Rider told Robert Parry of The Consortium at the time. "I know the CIA was in there somewhere."
"Police and federal prosecutors reported pressure from Washington and CIA headquarters in Langley to back off WFC. Too many of WFC's principals, it turned out, had cooperated with U.S. intelligence."
Just how did Brent Wilkes manage to become the beneficiary of such great good fortune as to allow him to dispense such large sums to Jack Abramoff-connected companies and individuals?
Apparently, it helps if you played high school football beside a lifelong best friend who goes on to become a spook.
Where do you think he learned to do that?
“Wilkes…and best friend Kyle Dustin "Dusty" Foggo, currently third-in-command at the Central Intelligence Agency… were roommates at San Diego State University, were best men at each other's weddings and named their sons after each other.”
“Wilkes' career in political relations dates to the early 1980s, shortly after Foggo joined the CIA. Foggo was sent to Honduras to work with the Contra rebels who were trying to topple the Sandinista government of Nicaragua, according to sources within the CIA.”
“Wilkes moved to Washington, D.C., and opened a business named World Finance Corp. about three blocks away from the White House,” continued the report.
“One of his chief activities, sources say, was to accompany congressmen– including then-Rep. Bill Lowery of San Diego, whom Wilkes met during his participation in the SDSU Young Republicans organization– to Central America to meet with Foggo and Contra leaders.”
“A number of sources who have had business dealings with Wilkes say he hinted at that time and afterward that he was affiliated with the CIA. CIA sources say he was never employed by the agency.”
"Off the books was clearly the way to go."
While the story offered nothing further on the World Finance Corp., the company which the paper said provided Wilkes his initial entree into the world of lucrative government defense contracts achieved notoriety during the Iran Contra Scandal for activities in Honduras, where Wilkes was stationed, during the same time Wilkes was working there.
A few of the many references we discovered to hijinks in Cent-Am and World Finance Corporation (aka WFC Corp):
From Robert Parry, who broke the Iran Contra Scandal while working as a reporter for the Associated Press:
“In the mid-1970s, Cartaya launched his most ambitious endeavor, an international financial holding company called the World Finance Corp., later renamed WFC Corp. The firm's maze of banks reached to the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, London, the Caribbean, Miami, Colombia and Panama.”
“As the investigation developed, authorities uncovered other corporate links between WFC and Aerocondor, a South American airline that had been caught smuggling drugs. Police also discovered that WFC agents had contacts with the Mafia drug syndicate of Santo Trafficante, Jr., whose lucrative narcotics operations had dominated Cuba prior to Castro's revolution. Police came to suspect that WFC was an intelligence front.
Sex Drugs & the CIA
"It was drugs, it was money-laundering, it was everything," South Florida detective James Rider told The Consortium. "I know the CIA was in there somewhere."
“Police and federal prosecutors reported pressure from Washington and CIA headquarters in Langley to back off WFC. Too many of WFC's principals, it turned out, had cooperated with U.S. intelligence."
From the magazine Canadian Business and Current Affairs
When the FBI tried to prosecute World Finance Corporation an international lending company) for laundering drug money, the Bureau was reportedly informed by an Internal Revenue Service agent that "WFC was a legitimate company: if it dealt in drug money so much the better narcotics money that stayed in the U.S. was good for the economy."
From the book In God's Name, by David Yallop:
“During an investigation by the Dade County, Florida District Attorney's office, their investigators discovered that a local bank, the World Finance Corporation, was the largest and oldest North American money launderer for cocaine traffickers. The World Finance Corporation was regularly sending cocaine profits to the Sisalpine Bank in the Bahamas. The Sisalpine Bank was partly owned by Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, the manager of the Vatican bank…”
From Forbes Magazine:
"Recent events, such as the arrest of Guillermo Hernandez-Cartaya in Miami by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (for entering the U.S. on a false passport), suggest that massive fraud may have been involved in the Ajman collapse. Hernandez-Cartaya, a Cuban who did time in a Havana jail for fighting on the losing side of the Bay of Pigs fiasco, was until recently chairman of WFC Corp. — a $90-million-assets Coral Gables merchant bank that owned 40% of the Ajman Arab Bank. (The local Ajman potentate owned another 40%.) WFC Corp., whose London branch has already been shut down, is reportedly being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the House Select Committee on Narcotics & Drug Abuse for possible criminal violations in a number of areas."
We could go on… You get the idea.
"I want either less corruption, or more chance to participate in it."
The MadCowMorningNews has also learned that the modus operandi of companies which have been associated with Wilkes are bizarrely similar to those employed by MZM, Inc., the other defense contractor involved in the Cunningham scandal.
Though it opened its doors in 1993, MZM’s first federal contract didn’t come until 2002. Still, its first federal client was certainly impressive: the Executive Office of the President. But observers have puzzled over the fact that the first federal contract for the self-described defense contractor specializing in “intelligence service’s” was for… furniture.
Oddly, Brent Wilkes also has an employment history with a company with a similarly eccentric product line.
Wilkes’s entree into the world he then exploited for all it was worth, the San Diego Trib reported, had been through employment at a company we will learn more about shortly, World Finance Corporation.
Today World Finance Corp is a pay-day loan company with a sideline as mystifying as a defense contractor selling office furniture.
A recent story in the local paper in Dunklin, MO. (the aptly-named Daily Dunkin Democrat, once again proving that the truth is stranger than fiction) quotes a company spokesman for World Finance Corporation discussing the company’s specialty: making loans to customers with poor credit histories. "Our purpose is to provide loans between $150 and $3,000. We want to try to help customers rebuild good credit."
But the company doesn’t just make loans. It also sells furniture. How odd is that?
"America: one of the finest countries anyone ever stole."
These two odd facts are far from conclusive. But taken together with other clues we’ll learn about shortly, they bolster an argument for the proposition that both Brent Wilkes and his counterpart Mitchell Wade at MZM, INC. work at separate subsidiaries… of the same Home Office.
Or, to put it in spook-speak: they are dummy front companies with the same real owner: a larger and as-yet unnamed organization which secretly serves as the parent company of both their seemingly-unrelated (except by national scandal) firms.
Referred to in Justice Dept. documents released after Cunningham pled guilty as "co-conspirator No. 1" (MZM Inc is “co-conspirator #2”) Wilkes defense contractor subsidiary, ADCS, in Poway, California, has a level of expertise which remains hazy (or “Foggo,” the name of Wilkes CIA contact), in a field familiar to anyone who has ever entered a copy room.
Nonetheless the firm boasts on its website of receiving more than $500 million in Cunningham-assisted government appropriations.
Moreover, the various “companies” which comprise the Wilkes Corporation seem to comprise something resembling an extremely invisible empire.
Call me Ishmael
As reported by Joseph Cannon Cannon and others it consists of phony false-front companies with non-existent addresses and 1-(800) numbers that don't work which are touted at seemingly bogus and suspiciously non-functional websites.
Even Wilkes employer of record in the 80’s seems quite stingy with information on its website.
In this regard these companies seem eerily reminiscent of a number of similar “front” companies associated with Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s technology advisor, which we reported on, and puzzled over, over a year ago.
Perhaps there’s a connection to be made here. Perhaps we are looking at the organization which in “Barry & the boys” we called, simply, “the boys.”
Call it what you will. There may be better names for this secretive and hugely influential outfit. Call it “Leviathan.” Just don't, whatever you do, call it late for dinner…
What’s undisputed is that Wilkes’ firm was one of two obscure defense contractors that secretly showered Cunningham with an estimated $2.4 million in cash and expensive gifts — including a Rolls-Royce, money to buy a posh 8,000-square-foot house, and a cornucopia of antique furniture, Oriental rugs and jewelry.
In addition to passing over $600,000 in bribes to the now-convicted Cunningham, the busy San Diego businessman was also paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to a lobbying firm run by two top former aides to Tom DeLay and suspected of being controlled by Jack Abramoff.
The answer is an unequivocal "yes."
So calling Wilkes an important figure in the various federal investigations currently underway may be something of an understatement.
The essential question posed by the Abramoff-Cunningham scandal is chilling in its ramifications:
Did U.S. intelligence agencies assist in funneling rivers of cash from suspect defense contractors into the campaign coffers of pro-war Republican lawmakers?
Was U.S. taxpayer money secretly used to subvert American democracy?