The CIA, Drugs, And An Australian Killer Cop
By Michael Barker
—Norman Finkelstein, 2008.
However, for those wishing to delve beneath the mass media's obscurations of the politics of drug trafficking, Australian-based researcher John Jiggens provides a breath of fresh air in his recent book, The Killer Cop and the Murder of Donald Mackay (Network to Investigate the Mackay Murder, 2009). (2) In his book, Jiggens weaves an enthralling story that links institutionalized police corruption to the infamous CIA front-group the Nugan Hand Bank and in turn to the controversial murder of Donald Mackay. Given the media blackout surrounding the publication of this critical book, this article will review its main thesis in an attempt to undermine elite support for the widely publicized and officially sanctioned version of Mackay's murder: a murder that Jiggens suggests
Murdered in 1977, former Liberal Party local candidate Donald Mackay was a well-respected businessman from the town of Griffith, a farming community situated 600 km southwest of Sydney, Australia. Jiggens argues that Mackay was assassinated after helping bring about a police investigation that led to the largest cannabis seizure in Australian history, and Mackay was one of the few people who would have been able to link the Griffith drug smuggling networks to the CIA's global drug trafficking network.
Mackay's story, however, begins in February 1974, when members of two families of Italian descent, the Sergi and Barbaro families, were caught with two pot plantations in Griffith. Despite the seriousness of their offence, with their marijuana crops having a market value of some AU$250,000, the plantation growers incurred only small fines of AU$250 and AU$500. This lenient treatment owed much to the sympathetic detectives dealing with the case -- John Ellis, John Robins, and Brian Borthwick, all of whom
In July 1975, Mackay prepared a dossier to be sent to the NSW [New South Wales] attorney general, Mr. Maddison, accusing Robert Trimbole of being the outlet for the drugs in Sydney, and mentioning that he had "been warned not to report this to the local constabulary." (p.24)
Unfortunately, "Attorney-General Maddison did nothing about this information," and Mackay subsequently took his information to an "honest Sydney drug squad detective, senior constable Ron Jenkins." This in turn led to the November 10, 1975, raid on a property at Coleambally (60 km south of Griffith), where around 375,000 cannabis plants were found, grown on land purchased the year before with money provided by the Sergi and Trimboli families. (5)
During the ensuing court proceedings (that started in March 1977), Mackay was revealed as constable Jenkins's informant, and Mackay was later assassinated on July 15, 1977. The murder of a well-respected member of the Griffith community then led to a media frenzy demanding justice. However, the type of justice that was actually sought was extremely limited, as
The media and police force's narrow focus on local growers of course missed the broader capitalist infrastructure that more likely demanded the assassination of Mackay (for reasons that become clearer later) -- a topic that Jiggens explores in his book. A good explanation for the limited focus for the murder case owes to the fact that the Coleambally seizure demonstrated that Australia was involved in exporting cannabis. Jiggens suggests that such a conclusion would have necessitated a closer examination of drug related activities outside of Griffith, which would naturally lead investigators to the SE Asia-Sydney-US drug route, otherwise known as the Sydney Connection. (7)
Jiggens first explored the first Sydney Connection in an earlier book, but it is important to note that "the pioneer" of the Sydney Connection was a New South Wales Special Branch detective named John Wesley Egan, who first became involved in heroin smuggling for the CIA after he joined the Special Branch. After pioneering the Sydney Connection, Egan resigned from the police, and over "a six-month period in 1966-1967, Egan and his gang [of 20 couriers "usually NSW police officers on leave"] smuggled $22 million worth of heroin into the USA, before a mistake by a courier led to Egan's arrest." After accepting a deal and pleading guilty, Egan spent a few months in a US prison, and on his return to Australia, he "told The Bulletin that the world's heroin routes were either protected by, or actively participated in, by the police forces of the countries concerned." (8)
Egan estimated that, in the last ten years, 50 per cent of the narcotics sold in New York had been handled by serving members of the police force. He cited the scandal that erupted when it was discovered that 70 per cent of the elite Special Squad of the New York Narcotics Bureau were dealing in narcotics. (p.47)
In addition to Egan's Sydney Connection, the second Sydney Connection Jiggens explains, began during the vice boom in Sydney which began in 1967 and coincided with the "rest and recreation" tours for US soldiers on leave from Vietnam. Then when these "R and R" tours ended, "vice entrepreneurs from Sydney's clubland, led by [ex-policeman] Murray Riley, moved into the trans-Pacific drug trade." Notably, these inglorious R and R years "coincided with the premiership of Sir Robert Askin (1965-1975), a [Liberal Party] premiership tainted by widespread corruption." (9) Jiggens writes how...
... the ex-police and police who became heavily involved in the Drug Joke after the criminal takeover of the drug trade, began their corruption with the abortion racket and the illegal casinos during the Askin years. Not only were the detectives in Griffith corrupt, but many other NSW detectives were corrupt, and the corruption went all the way to the top. Rather than suppress the drug trade, the corrupt police sought to control it, which effectively meant giving the drug trade to their good friend, Murray Riley. (p.52)
Admiral Earl P. Yates
Here it is fitting to note that Admiral Earl Yates, who around this time served as the president of the now infamous CIA front group the Nugan Hand Bank,
At first, Frank Nugan managed the Nugan Hand [Bank's] relationship with Riley, but when Michael Hand returned in March 1976, he took over the relationship. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was during the period when he was close to Hand when Riley moved into Southeast Asian heroin.
The drug related activities of Murray Riley and the Nugan Hand group were investigated by the Commonwealth-New South Wales Joint Task Force on Drug Trafficking, which concluded that Riley organised five shipments of heroin into Australia in April, June, August, September-October, and November-December 1976, mostly in false bottom suitcases. For each importation the facilities of the Nugan Hand group of companies were used to transfer the purchase money from Sydney to Hong Kong. Over one hundred pounds of heroin was involved, and much of this was shipped on to the US. Riley was also involved in two heroin importations in July and September 1977. (p.66)
To fill in some details, Frank Nugan who was born in Griffith, was the Australian partner in the Nugan Hand Bank, a bank that was
The Nugan Group, it is important to emphasize, was intimately connected to the Mackay story as they "operated a major 5-acre factory complex in Griffith," and in 1977 "an independent audit turned up secret accounts in the group's books in the names of local pot growers with the cheques for thousands of dollars made out to member of the Trimboli and Sergi families." In light of this troubling turn of events (for the Nugan Group), Frank Nugan set out to remove the auditors, and hired ex-NSW detective Fred Krahe to intimidate irksome members of their board of directors. Although ultimately unsuccessful in forcing the auditors to resign, this was the type of task that Fred Krahe excelled in, as his "reputation as an underworld enforcer and hit man [had] earned him the nickname of the 'Killer Cop.'" (12)
Later in 1978,
... conspiracy charges over the secret accounts were laid against Frank Nugan, Ken Nugan, several Nugan Group employees, and ex-detectives Fred Krahe and Keith Kelly. After a committal hearing before Clarrie Briese SM, the charges against Krahe and Kelly were dismissed and they were awarded costs. The other defendants were committed for trial, a fate that Frank Nugan avoided by suicide. (p.114)
Fortunately for the criminal underworld the Nugan Groups secret accounts
The suggestion is that shortly after the secret accounts at the Nugan Group became a public scandal in the first weeks of July 1977, someone who suspected that marijuana growing might be the explanation behind the secret accounts went to Donald Mackay with this information, but Fred Krahe learned of this. As we have seen, Frank Nugan had many reasons to kill to prevent exposure, and in Fred Krahe he had the perfect assassin. Up until this point, Donald Mackay knew only of the growers in their grass castles. The secret accounts would have given him the clue that led to the man with the mansion in Vaucluse. As many suspected, Mackay was murdered to protect the financiers and distributors, those higher up the chain of this enormous drug-smuggling network. In a twist worthy of a thriller, the boys from Homicide couldn't find the killer because he was a former top homicide investigator. (p.131)
Importantly, the murder of Mackay also served to cover up the potential exposure of Frank Nugan's CIA connections, which was particularly critical given that in
As one might expect, the mainstream media fulfilled a critical function in shielding the police force and the Nugans from critical public scrutiny, and so it is fitting that Frank Nugan's henchman,
Likewise, the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drug Trafficking (1980-83) served to manufacture consent for elite interests.
Many investigators regard Stewart's report on the affairs of Nugan Hand as a whitewash, not so much of Nugan and Hand (who Stewart conveniently blamed for everything), but of the US government. ... Not surprisingly, journalists like [Marian] Wilkinson, [Brian] Toohey, [Jonathan] Kwitny, [Wendy] Bacon and [Alfred] McCoy felt that Stewart inverted Nugan Hand's real chain of command. (p.165) (18)
Later, as is to be expected, the media acted in concert with the legal system:
Stewart's conclusion that there was no evidence of links with the CIA was headlined in [Rupert] Murdoch's Australian as "CIA Link Disproved." As Brian Toohey commented in the National Times: "Far from being disproved, the extent of the links was not even investigated by Justice Stewart in any normal sense of the world." (p.170)
This brings my brief review of The Killer Cop and the Murder of Donald Mackay to an end. Unfortunately, beyond superficial political reforms, little has changed since the dark days that saw the murder of Donald Mackay. The mass media that keep the public misinformed about the true criminality of capitalism have more power than ever, while official government whitewashes of crime continue to protect deep politics from critical scrutiny. John Jiggens penetrates the myopic drug-fuelled hallucinations that emanate from the mainstream media, and provides the necessary context to wake us (the public) from our addiction to the real drug of the nation, the corporate media.
1. Alfred McCoy, Drug Traffic: Narcotics and Organised Crime in Australia (Harper & Row, 1980), p.30. (back)
2. This book draws upon the research undertaken in John Jiggens's PhD thesis,
3. Jiggens, The Killer Cop and the Murder of Donald Mackay, p.22. After the murder of MacKay, there was a marijuana drought, and so with "pot unavailable, heroin sales went through the roof." (pp.18-9)
The officially sanctioned version of Mackay's murder resulted in the jailing of Jimmy Bazely, a small-time crim" who had escaped police custody "after one particularly unsuccessful bank robbery where he was caught by a one-legged man." (pp.174-5) "This is the official version of the murder of Donald Mackay to be found in Underbelly 2, TV documentaries like The Donald Mackay Disappearance and books like [Bob] Bottom's Shadow of Shame and [Keith] Moor's Crims in Grass Castles." (p.180) (back)
4. Jiggens, The Killer Cop and the Murder of Donald Mackay, p.23. The detective on duty in Griffith on the night of Mackay's assassination, Graham Lawrence Keech,
In 2009, in addition to Jiggens's publication, another book relating to crime in Australia is Clive Small and Tom Gilling's Smack Express: How Organised Crime Got Hooked on Drugs (Allen & Unwin, 2009). This well-received book is significant because Gilling, a former New South Wales police officer, was an investigator for the Woodward Commission from 1977 until 1980, and then spent the next three years on the Commonwealth-state Joint Task Force which investigated the Nugan Hand Bank. No surprise then that Small's book whitewashes the historical roots of organized crime in Australia. (back)
5. Jiggens, The Killer Cop and the Murder of Donald Mackay, p.25. (back)
6. Jiggens, The Killer Cop and the Murder of Donald Mackay, p.28. (back)
7. The use of an "export" theory to explain the murder of Mackay was initially followed by Bob Bottom in The Godfather in Australia: Organised Crime's Australian Connections (Reed, 1979). Jiggens estimates that "the size of the Australian cannabis market in 1975 was about 50 tonnes, indicating that Coleambally alone was bigger than the entire annual Australian cannabis market." (p.39) Additionally, the seizure should have produced a marijuana drought the following year, but "the Australian marijuana market was healthy right up to July 1977," which indicates that the Coleambally crop was probably grown for the US market, "the one market that could absorb such a large quantity of cannabis." (p.42) "The marijuana drought was caused by the murder of Donald Mackay, which was carried out to cover-up Frank Nugan's role in Griffith. Other factors contributed, such as the launch of the War on Drugs and the massive cannabis seizures, but it was the Mackay murder, and the subsequent police investigations and royal commissions, that created the drought." (p.192)
8. Jiggens, The Killer Cop and the Murder of Donald Mackay, p.46. For a brief review of the CIA's global involvement in drug trafficking, see William Blum, "The CIA, Contras, Gangs, and Crack," (pdf) Foreign Policy in Focus, November 1996.
Brian Martin in his important book, The Whistleblower's Handbook: How to Be an Effective Resister (Jon Carpenter, 1999), discusses the role of customs officers in aiding and abetting drug trafficking in Australia. He writes: "Fred was a customs officer who had just moved to a new posting. He began to notice that certain types of goods were always put through on a particular shift involving the same group of officers. He knew from previous experience that these types of goods were. Fred was a customs officer who had just moved to a new posting. He began to notice that certain types of goods were always put through on a particular shift involving the same group of officers. He knew from previous experience that these types of goods were commonly used to smuggle drugs. In the face of much resistance, he managed to get on the shift himself, and uncovered a major drugs shipment. Then he was transferred out to a less desirable job. He went to the media with claims of corruption in customs. But in the face of bland denials by customs officials, nothing could be done." (p.4) For an account of whistleblowing with regards to police corruption see pp.71-3. (back)
9. Jiggens, The Killer Cop and the Murder of Donald Mackay, p.50, p.51.
On his retirement, in 1975, Askin
For an exhaustive examination of the "central" role that Askin played in institutionalizing crime in New South Wales, see David Hickie's The Prince and The Premier: The Story of Perce Galea, Bob Askin and the Others Who Gave Organised Crime Its Start in Australia (Angus & Robertson, 1985).
10. Jiggens, The Killer Cop and the Murder of Donald Mackay, p.103. (back)
11. Jiggens, The Killer Cop and the Murder of Donald Mackay, p.81, p.84.
Black banks are
12. Jiggens, The Killer Cop and the Murder of Donald Mackay, p.104, p.105. (back)
13. Jiggens, The Killer Cop and the Murder of Donald Mackay, p.112. (back)
14. Jiggens, The Killer Cop and the Murder of Donald Mackay, p.126. (back)
15. Jiggens, The Killer Cop and the Murder of Donald Mackay, p.194.
Head of the Eastern Division of the CIA, Ted Shackley, played a key role in the November 1975 Pine Gap security crisis, which helped lead to the constitutional coup that led to the removal of Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. (p.95) Thus it is noteworthy that Shackley
Here it is important to point out that while it is widely alleged that Whitlam's policies provided a serious threat to sanctity of intelligence agencies, in actual fact they did not pose such threat (although this was most likely misinterpreted by the CIA). Jim Jose writes:
16. Tony Reeves, Mr Sin: The Abe Saffron Dossier (Allen & Unwin, 2007), p.84; Jiggens, The Killer Cop and the Murder of Donald Mackay, p.134.
Sir Peter Abeles
David Hickie, The Premier and the Prince, p.84; Tony Reeves, Mr Big: The True Story of Lennie McPherson and His Life of Crime (Allen & Unwin, 2005), p.152. (back)
17. Jiggens, The Killer Cop and the Murder of Donald Mackay, p.140, p.141, p.146. (back)
18. With regard to the Nugan Hand inquiry, Don Stewart, in his autobiography Recollections of an Unreasonable Man (Allen & Unwin, 2007), writes that it is "probably not the case" that they had CIA connections, adding: "Certainly there was no real evidence that it did." (p.167) He then reaches the far-fetched conclusion that former CIA director, William Colby, "had been sought out to lend credibility to Nugan's and Hand's efforts to make people think they were close to power in the United States. In fact, this was not the case." (p.172) (back)