Many of you will recognize the name Ari Ben Menashe. He's the former Israeli spy who came to prominence during the Iran-contra affair, when the FBI caught him trying to sell C-130 transport planes to the Iranians. Shortly afterwards, Ben-Menashe told reporters that the October Surprise story was genuine. (Long story.) He also revealed that British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell was, in essence, a Mossad agent -- an allegation now universally accepted as true.
For what it is worth, the Israelis officially deny that Ben-Menashe ever worked for them, although the evidence is pretty clear that he did
Ben-Menashe lives in Canada these days, running "an international commodity exporting firm, Traeger Resources and Logistics Inc." Traeger is supposed to be in the grain business. Apparently, Ben-Menashe did something "against the grain" -- because his house was firebombed last Sunday
. He barely escaped with his life; all of his papers and possessions are gone.
Robert Parry reports:
The Montreal arson squad is investigating whether a military-grade accelerant was used in the firebombing that consumed the luxury home of ex-Israeli intelligence officer Ari Ben-Menashe on Sunday night.
Police also are believed to have identified a suspect seen running away after the fire began, but the police had not yet found the individual. Several houses in the upscale neighborhood are equipped with security cameras, which may have recorded video of the attack.
The woman in Ben-Menashe’s house, who asked not to be identified for reasons of security, told me she attempted to extinguish the fire with water but to no avail. As it continued to spread, she escaped through the front door. Ben-Menashe said he made his escape through a rear entrance.
Everyone following Iran-contra closely back in the day kinda sorta expected a retaliatory strike when Ben-Menashe went blabby, but nothing of that sort ever occurred. So why attack the guy now
Anyone compiling a list of suspects should note that ol' Ari has made an interesting enemy -- the head of the agency overseeing Canada's intelligence services.
In more recent years, as an international consultant often working in global hotspots, Ben-Menashe has been involved in other controversies, including a role blowing the whistle on a questionable 2010 business deal by Arthur Porter, who was then in charge of overseeing Canadian intelligence services and who ran the McGill University Health Centre.
Okay, let's stop right there. I didn't know that the top Canadian spy overseer ran the McGill Health center. If you think about it, that situation is pretty damned odd. I did
know that McGill has an unsavory history
involving the CIA's mind control experiments. Maybe that "history" is not just history.
is a physician. I don't know how he got the job of running Canada's Security Intelligence Review Committee, but I will presume that one does not get a gig like that unless one is well- connected.)
Let's get back to Parry's story about Ben-Mensahe and Arthur Porter:
Porter resigned both posts, and the scandal has tarnished the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who let Porter serve in a highly sensitive position as chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee from Sept. 3, 2008, until his resignation on Nov. 10, 2011. That position gave Porter access to not only sensitive secrets of Canadian intelligence but of American intelligence as well.
Ben-Menashe’s knowledge of the Porter’s ethically questionable conduct began in June 2010 when Porter paid Ben-Menashe’s consulting firm $200,000 to help broker a $120 million development grant for Porter’s homeland of Sierra Leone. However, Ben-Menashe learned that the grant was to be funneled through an outfit known as the Africa Infrastructure Group, which Porter owned, and the deal was using a questionable Swiss bank.
All of this tells us that Ben-Mensahe has always maintained ties to spook-world.
Why did he fall out with Porter, I wonder? It's a little difficult to believe the guy suddenly became upset at the use of a "questionable Swiss Bank account," since Ben-Menashe has rarely displayed such ethical concerns in the past. His business partner, as we shall see, was a known crook.
Moreover, Ben-Mensahe is friends with Robert Mugabe, the brutal dictator of Zimbabwe. In fact, back in 2001, Ben-Menashe even took a key role in an effort to frame Mugabe's chief opponent, who was executed.
Ben-Menashe's firm, Traeger Research and Logistics
, turns out to be rather interesting. I suspect that this company is rather more than the grain import/export firm it claims to be on its web page. (One of my favorite pastimes is perusing the web pages for companies that aren't what they appear to be. It's always fun to spot the "tells."
This 2008 news story
tells us about Ben-Menashe and his business partner. The details are as baroque as a Bernini statue:
Mr. Ben-Menashe returned to Montreal with a personal services contract forged with the Zimbabwean government. Allegations of fraud soon followed. Furious food buyers claimed to have been stiffed by Mr. Ben-Menashe's food shipment companies. There were lawsuits. A divorce from his wife.
Now this: Mr. Ben-Menashe's longtime business partner was deported last week to the United States, where he faces myriad criminal charges, including racketeering, conspiracy and fraud.
Until his capture, Alexander Legault worked from a number of downtown Montreal offices that he shared with Mr. Ben-Menashe. A Montreal police officer became aware of their activities. It was his dogged police work that led to Mr. Legault's detention and deportation.
Mr. Legault is a 59-year-old American with a troubling past. He married a Canadian named Frances Langleben; her mother, Florence Langleben, was among those who sued the U. S. government and the Central Intelligence Agency for involving them in secret brainwashing experiments.
I can't help interjecting that those CIA experiments were conducted at -- you guessed it -- McGill. Yes, the same place where Canada's chief spy overseer ran the "health center."
He arrived in Canada in 1982 and was soon arrested following a U. S. extradition request. The Superior Court of Quebec dismissed the request on grounds that evidence of fraud tendered against him was insufficient. In 1986, a U. S. federal grand jury indicted Mr. Legault on new charges, including fraud and the use of fictitious names. According to court documents, Mr. Legault is alleged to have helped defraud the Egyptian government of US$7-million by participating in a bogus export scheme that involved frozen chickens.
He then filed a refugee claim. Before that was dismissed, he moved to Windsor and allegedly participated in a multi-million dollar Ponzi-style scam that involved the brokering and financing of wholesale food transportation. The fraud was directed at elderly Florida residents and resulted in many more criminal charges laid against Mr. Legault, and others. One of his alleged associates, an American named Ray Reynolds, was arrested and plea-bargained with state prosecutors in Florida. He agreed to a 22-year prison sentence.
Mr. Legault, meanwhile, remained safe in Canada, which frustrated Florida officials to no end. "Legault claimed years ago that he had some kind of in with the Canadian government, that it would always protect him," says Jodie Breece, former chief assistant statewide prosecutor. "Maybe that explains the inactivity of the Canadian government in [going after] him."
So clearly we're dealing with someone who has intelligence connections. At some point, he hooked up with Ari Ben-Menashe.
Mr. Legault was a wanted man when the pair set up shop together. In 1998, he filed an application for permanent residence in Canada, on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, arguing that his children needed him close by. The application was denied, but he kept working in Montreal, alongside Mr. Ben-Menashe.
Legault used an alias, Frank Lavigne. Under that name, he and Ben Menashe set up a new company called Albury Grain Sales. The Canadian cops became suspicious when they discovered that the offices were more or less empty. Whatever these guys were doing, it didn't seem to involve grain.
Heat from the police led to the shutdown of Albury. Thus was born Traeger, headed by "Lavigne."
Here's what's weird: Legault/Lavigne was a fugitive. The U.S. -- Florida, to be specific -- wanted his extradition. Under normal circumstances, Ben-Mensahe might invite trouble for harboring a fugitive. Yet he and Legault continued to do business, with Legault always insisting that he had Canadian protection.
So who was his protector? I'm guessing that Canadian spy overseer Arthur Porter may have an idea or two along those lines.
Nevertheless, the extradition finally went through, and Legault went off to face justice in Florida.
If you Google the words "Alexander Legault ponzi" (without quotes) you'll come across some interesting articles -- here
. The first two pieces reveal what Legault got up to in Florida during the 1990s -- running businesses that did no actual business. If you go to the last link and scroll down, you'll find that, after he moved to Canada, Legault and Ben-Menashe set up still another dubious firm named Carlington, which is accused of ripping off the African nation of Zambia.
There is was stated that Carlington is an elaborate advance fee fraud operation which presents itself as a major commodity exporter but fails to ever make shipments after payment.
So who firebombed Ari Ben-Menashe?
Maybe it was a friend of Arthur Porter. Maybe it was someone ripped off by Legault. Or maybe Ari's African antics finally caught up with him.
Spooks and ex-spooks often segue into the business of selling goods and services -- sometimes very questionable goods and services -- across international borders. They always presume that their colleagues and contacts will keep trouble at bay.
But if you piss off enough people, your "protection" won't amount to much. Just ask Ari about his recent barbecue.
One final observation:
Let's recall two key facts from the strange tale of Alex Legault:
1. He ran a ponzi scheme. That's what got him in trouble.
2. He thought he could do anything he wanted -- however crooked, however outrageous -- because his spook buddies would always have his back.
Perhaps we should take another look at the other big ponzi scammers of recent years? I'm thinking of Bernie Madoff, of course. And others.