Moon/Bush 'Ongoing Crime Enterprise'
By Robert Parry
From petty local scams to international money-laundering, the Rev. Sun
Myung Moon’s political/media/business/religious empire has all the looks
of a global “ongoing criminal enterprise,” albeit one with enough
powerful friends in Washington to protect it from serious consequences.
Benefiting from relationships with the Bush family and other prominent
Republicans, Moon’s Unification Church slips away from one illegal
scheme after another – despite overwhelming evidence and first-person
admissions about the systematic pattern of the criminality. Somehow U.S.
authorities never put two and two together.
Even Moon’s 1982 felony conviction for tax evasion arising from an
earlier money-laundering scheme and public confessions from his
ex-daughter-in-law and other church insiders about later financial
conspiracies don’t clue in the feds to the bigger picture before them.
So, while prosecutors mostly look the other way, Moon continues to pour
an estimated $100 million a year into his influential Washington Times
newspaper and other pro-Republican media outlets. Additional millions
have gone to fund right-wing political conferences; to pay speaking fees
to world leaders, such as former President George H.W. Bush; and to bail
political allies out of financial troubles.
The latest example of a Moon-connected operation getting a legal break
despite breaking the law was the exposure of a decade-long scheme led by
a local pastor of Moon’s Unification Church that poached thousands of
baby leopard sharks from San Francisco Bay. The undersized sharks were
sold illegally to private buyers in the United States, the Netherlands
and the United Kingdom.
The local pastor, Kevin Thompson, claimed that Moon personally approved
the scheme and encouraged its expansion.
In a recorded sermon from 2003, Thompson told his congregation that Moon
became excited when he heard about the shark-catching operation. “He
told me, you know you need 20 boats out there fishing,” Thompson said.
“He had this big plan drawn out.”
Though the poaching never reached that scale, it did use church-owned
boats and stored the catch at a San Leandro, California, distribution
center for one of the largest U.S. sushi wholesalers, True World Foods
Inc., a business affiliated with the Unification Church. [AP, Feb. 12,
Despite the evidence of these close Moon connections to the illegal
scheme, the Bush administration reached a “non-prosecution” agreement
with Moon’s church in which it agreed to pay $500,000 to help restore
the damaged habitat. (While U.S. Attorney Kevin V. Ryan was deliberating
this case, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales demanded his resignation as
one of nine U.S. attorneys to be replaced by Bush political loyalists.)
For his part, pastor Thompson pleaded guilty in January and was
sentenced to one year in prison. Another church member, John Newberry,
received a six-month sentence.
But senior Unification Church officials denied that Moon, now 87, had
“any kind of personal knowledge or involvement with the details or the
particulars,” according to church spokesman Phillip Schanker, who
claimed that any conversation between Moon and Thompson would have been
a casual chat about fishing, nothing more.
Small & Big Scams
Still, the poaching scheme fits with the church’s long-standing pattern
of financing its local activities through relatively small scams.
Bigger-ticket items, like the Washington Times, rely on smuggling vast
sums of money from overseas, according to former church insiders,
including Nansook Hong, Moon’s ex-daughter-in-law.
In both Asia and South America, Moon’s operations have been linked to
major crime syndicates including the Japanese yakuza and Latin American
When I was investigating Moon’s activities in the mid-1990s, I
interviewed several former church insiders who explained how the smaller
and bigger operations meshed. Local church-related operations were
expected to finance themselves often through petty criminality while the
national business operations served to launder overseas money.
For instance, John Stacey, a former New York University student who was
recruited into Moon’s organization in 1992 and became a youth leader in
the Pacific Northwest, said small-scale fraud covered local expenses.
At first, like most newcomers, Stacey worked as part of "mobile
fund-raising teams" that traveled by van from town to town selling
flowers and other cheap items. The fund-raisers always hid their links
to Moon and presented themselves as students raising money for some
worthy cause, Stacey said.
Stacey said he broke that rule only once, when going door to door
selling wind chimes on an island off the coast of Alaska.
"I told everyone that I was doing this for Reverend Sun Myung Moon,"
Stacey said. "I didn't make a penny. It was the only time in four years
that I was honest."
With his intelligence, hard work and clean looks, Stacey rose quickly
through the ranks. He opened an office for Moon’s Collegiate Association
for the Research of Principles in Portland, Oregon, and became CARP’s
Pacific Northwest leader in Seattle, Washington.
The fund-raising schemes also grew more sophisticated as the church
phased out the "mobile fund-raising teams" because of bad publicity.
Instead of roaming from city to city, local chapters sold gift items at
mall kiosks before Christmas.
But always, Stacey said, there was the deception and the certainty that
the end – advancing the cause of Moon's church – justified the means.
Stacey said his chapter made $80,000 one holiday season by working a
bait-and-switch scheme: the kiosk would display a decorative light which
looked stunning with a powerful halogen bulb. But after the purchase,
the customer was given a boxed lamp which contained a "much cheaper" and
“I was a con artist,” Stacey told me. "When I looked at the [church]
leaders, they were all con artists. … Reverend Moon is training a race
of very charming manipulators. ... He's creating almost an elite force
of people who are very charming but very dangerous." [See
Consortiumnews.com’s “One Mother’s Tale: Moon & a Freshman.”]
Widows & Pagodas
Moon’s organization implemented similar but more lucrative schemes in
Japan where superstitious widows proved to be easy marks for the sale of
miniature pagodas and other ornaments dedicated to dead loved ones.
Some of this money was transferred to the United States. Eventually,
however, thousands of consumer complaints led to legal judgments against
Moon’s operation, with out-of-court settlements reportedly reaching into
the hundreds of millions of dollars. [See, for instance, this report
from the Washington Post, Aug. 4, 1996.]
While some Moon watchers believe these scams help explain Moon’s fortune
– and how he could afford to lose an estimated $3 billion on the
Washington Times alone – others suspect that Moon’s major funding comes
from his close relationships with major underworld figures in Asia and
Those ties date back several decades to negotiations conducted by one of
Moon’s early South Korean supporters, Kim Jong-Pil, who founded the
Korean CIA and headed up sensitive negotiations on bilateral relations
between Tokyo and Seoul.
The negotiations put Kim Jong-Pil in touch with two other important
figures in the Far East, Japanese rightists Yoshio Kodama and Ryoichi
Sasakawa, who had been jailed as fascist war criminals at the end of
World War II. A few years later, however, both Kodama and Sasakawa were
freed by U.S. military intelligence officials.
The U.S. government turned to Kodama and Sasakawa for help in combating
communist labor unions and student strikes, much as the CIA protected
German Nazi war criminals who supplied intelligence and performed other
services in the intensifying Cold War battles with European communists.
Kodama and Sasakawa also allegedly grew rich from their association with
the yakuza, a shadowy organized crime syndicate that profited off drug
smuggling, gambling and prostitution in Japan and Korea. Behind the
scenes, Kodama and Sasakawa became power-brokers in Japan's ruling
Liberal Democratic Party.
Kim Jong-Pil's contacts with these right-wing leaders proved invaluable
to Moon, who had made only a few converts in Japan by the early 1960s.
Immediately after Kim Jong-Pil opened the door to Kodama and Sasakawa in
late 1962, 50 leaders of an ultra-nationalist Japanese Buddhist sect
converted en masse to the Unification Church, according to Yakuza, a
book by David E. Kaplan and Alec Dubro.
"Sasakawa became an advisor to Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Japanese branch
of the Unification Church" and collaborated with Moon in building
far-right anti-communist organizations in Asia, Kaplan and Dubro wrote.
Moon's church was active in the Asian People's Anti-Communist League, a
fiercely right-wing group founded by the governments of South Korea and
Taiwan. In 1966, the group expanded into the World Anti-Communist
League, an international alliance that brought together traditional
conservatives with former Nazis, overt racialists and Latin American
“death squad” operatives.
Authors Scott Anderson and Jon Lee Anderson wrote in their 1986 book,
Inside the League, that Sun Myung Moon was one of five indispensable
Asian leaders who made the World Anti-Communist League possible.
The five were Taiwan’s dictator Chiang Kai-shek, South Korea’s dictator
Park Chung Hee, yakuza gangsters Sasakawa and Kodama, and Moon, “an
evangelist who planned to take over the world through the doctrine of
‘Heavenly Deception,’” the Andersons wrote.
WACL became a well-financed worldwide organization after a secret
meeting between Sasakawa and Moon, along with two Kodama
representatives, on a lake in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan. The purpose
of the meeting was to create an anti-communist organization that “would
further Moon’s global crusade and lend the Japanese yakuza leaders a
respectable new façade,” the Andersons wrote.
Mixing organized crime and political extremism, of course, has a long
tradition throughout the world. Violent political movements often have
blended with criminal operations as a way to arrange covert funding,
move operatives or acquire weapons.
Drug smuggling has proven to be a particularly effective way to fill the
coffers of extremist movements, especially those that find ways to
insinuate themselves within more legitimate operations of sympathetic
governments or intelligence services.
In the quarter century after World War II, remnants of fascist movements
managed to do just that. Shattered by the Allies, the surviving fascists
got a new lease on political life with the start of the Cold War. They
helped both Western democracies and right-wing dictatorships battle
Some Nazi leaders faced war-crimes tribunals after World War II, but
others managed to make their escapes along “rat lines” to Spain or South
America or they finagled intelligence relationships with the victorious
powers, especially the United States.
Argentina became a natural haven given the pre-war alliance that existed
between the European fascists and prominent Argentine military leaders,
such as Juan Peron. The fleeing Nazis also found like-minded right-wing
politicians and military officers across Latin America who already used
repression to keep down the indigenous populations and the legions of
In the post-World War II years, some Nazi war criminals chose reclusive
lives, but others, such as former SS officer Klaus Barbie, sold their
intelligence skills to less-sophisticated security services in countries
like Bolivia or Paraguay.
Other Nazis on the lam trafficked in narcotics. Often the lines crossed
between intelligence operations and criminal conspiracies.
Auguste Ricord, a French war criminal who had collaborated with the
Gestapo, set up shop in Paraguay and opened up the French Connection
heroin channels to American Mafia drug kingpin Santo Trafficante Jr.,
who controlled much of the heroin traffic into the United States.
Columns by Jack Anderson identified Ricord’s accomplices as some of
Paraguay’s highest-ranking military officers.
Another French Connection mobster, Christian David, relied on protection
of Argentine authorities. While trafficking in heroin, David also “took
on assignments for Argentina’s terrorist organization, the Argentine
Anti-Communist Alliance,” Henrik Kruger wrote in The Great Heroin Coup.
During President Richard Nixon’s “war on drugs,” U.S. authorities
smashed the famous French Connection and won extraditions of Ricord and
David in 1972 to face justice in the United States.
By the time the French Connection was severed, however, powerful Mafia
drug lords had forged strong ties to South America’s military leaders.
An infrastructure for the multi-billion-dollar drug trade, servicing the
insatiable U.S. market, was in place.
Trafficante-connected groups also recruited displaced anti-Castro
Cubans, who had ended up in Miami, needed work, and possessed some
useful intelligence skills gained from the CIA’s training for the Bay of
Pigs and other clandestine operations.
Heroin from the Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia soon filled the void
left by the broken French Connection and its mostly Middle Eastern
heroin supply routes.
During this time of transition, Sun Myung Moon brought his evangelical
message to South America. His first visit to Argentina had occurred in
1965 when he blessed a square behind the presidential Pink House in
Buenos Aires. But he returned a decade later to make more lasting
Moon first sank down roots in Uruguay during the 12-year reign of
right-wing military dictators who seized power in 1973. He also
cultivated close relations with military dictators in Argentina,
Paraguay and Chile, reportedly ingratiating himself with the juntas by
helping the military regimes arrange arms purchases and by channeling
money to allied right-wing organizations.
“Relationships nurtured with right-wing Latin Americans in the [World
Anti-Communist] League led to acceptance of the [Unification] Church’s
political and propaganda operations throughout Latin America,” the
Andersons wrote in Inside the League.
“As an international money laundry, … the Church tapped into the capital
flight havens of Latin America. Escaping the scrutiny of American and
European investigators, the Church could now funnel money into banks in
Honduras, Uruguay and Brazil, where official oversight was lax or
In 1980, Moon made more friends in South America when a right-wing
alliance of Bolivia military officers and drug dealers organized what
became known as the Cocaine Coup. WACL associates, such as Alfred
Candia, coordinated the arrival of some of the paramilitary operatives
who assisted in the violent putsch.
Right-wing Argentine intelligence officers mixed with a contingent of
young European neo-fascists collaborating with Nazi war criminal Barbie
in carrying out the bloody coup that overthrew the elected
The victory put into power a right-wing military dictatorship indebted
to the drug lords. Bolivia became South America’s first narco-state.
One of the first well-wishers arriving in La Paz to congratulate the new
government was Moon’s top lieutenant, Bo Hi Pak. The Moon organization
published a photo of Pak meeting with the new strongman, General Garcia
After the visit to the mountainous capital, Pak declared, “I have
erected a throne for Father Moon in the world’s highest city.”
According to later Bolivian government and newspaper reports, a Moon
representative invested about $4 million in preparations for the coup.
Bolivia’s WACL representatives also played key roles, and CAUSA, one of
Moon’s anti-communist organizations, listed as members nearly all the
leading Bolivian coup-makers.
Soon, Colonel Luis Arce-Gomez, a coup organizer and the cousin of
cocaine kingpin Roberto Suarez, went into partnership with big
narco-traffickers, including Trafficante’s Cuban-American smugglers.
Nazi war criminal Barbie and his young neo-fascist followers found new
work protecting Bolivia’s major cocaine barons and transporting drugs to
“The paramilitary units – conceived by Barbie as a new type of SS – sold
themselves to the cocaine barons,” German journalist Kai Hermann wrote.
“The attraction of fast money in the cocaine trade was stronger than the
idea of a national socialist revolution in Latin America.” [An English
translation of Hermann’s article was published in Covert Action
Information Bulletin, Winter 1986]
A month after the coup, General Garcia Meza participated in the Fourth
Congress of the Latin American Anti-Communist Confederation, an arm of
the World Anti-Communist League. Also attending that Fourth Congress was
WACL president Woo Jae Sung, a leading Moon disciple.
As the drug lords consolidated their power in Bolivia, the Moon
organization expanded its presence, too. Hermann reported that in early
1981, war criminal Barbie and Moon leader Thomas Ward were seen together
in apparent prayer.
On May 31, 1981, Moon representatives sponsored a CAUSA reception at the
Sheraton Hotel’s Hall of Freedom in La Paz. Moon’s lieutenant Bo Hi Pak
and Bolivian strongman Garcia Meza led a prayer for President Reagan’s
recovery from an assassination attempt.
In his speech, Bo Hi Pak declared, “God had chosen the Bolivian people
in the heart of South America as the ones to conquer communism.”
According to a later Bolivian intelligence report, the Moon organization
sought to recruit an “armed church” of Bolivians, with about 7,000
Bolivians receiving some paramilitary training.
But by late 1981, the cocaine taint of Bolivia’s military junta was so
deep and the corruption so staggering that U.S.-Bolivian relations were
stretched to the breaking point.
“The Moon sect disappeared overnight from Bolivia as clandestinely as
they had arrived,” Hermann reported.
The Cocaine Coup leaders soon found themselves on the run, too. Interior
Minister Arce-Gomez was eventually extradited to Miami and was sentenced
to 30 years in prison for drug trafficking. Drug lord Roberto Suarez got
a 15-year prison term. General Garcia Meza became a fugitive from a
30-year sentence imposed on him in Bolivia for abuse of power,
corruption and murder. Barbie was returned to France to face a life
sentence for war crimes. He died in 1992.
But Moon’s organization suffered few negative repercussions from the
Cocaine Coup. By the early 1980s, flush with seemingly unlimited funds,
Moon had moved on to promoting himself with the new Republican
administration in Washington. An invited guest to the Reagan-Bush
Inauguration, Moon made his organization useful to President Reagan,
Vice President Bush and other leading Republicans.
Where Moon got his cash remained one of Washington’s deepest mysteries –
and one that few U.S. conservatives wanted to solve.
“Some Moonie-watchers even believe that some of the business enterprises
are actually covers for drug trafficking,” wrote Scott and Jon Lee
While Moon’s representatives have refused to detail how they’ve
sustained their far-flung activities, Moon’s spokesmen have angrily
denied recurring allegations about profiteering off illegal trafficking
in weapons and drugs.
In a typical response to a gun-running question by the Argentine
newspaper, Clarin, Moon’s representative Ricardo DeSena responded, “I
deny categorically these accusations and also the barbarities that are
said about drugs and brainwashing. Our movement responds to the harmony
of the races, nations and religions and proclaims that the family is the
school of love.” [Clarin, July 7, 1996]
Without doubt, however, Moon’s organization has had a long record of
association with organized crime figures, including ones implicated in
the drug trade. Besides collaborating with leaders of the Japanese
yakuza and the Cocaine Coup government of Bolivia, Moon’s organization
developed close ties with the Honduran military and the Nicaraguan
contras who were permeated with drug smugglers.
Retired U.S. Army Gen. John K. Singlaub, a former WACL president, told
me that “the Japanese [WACL] chapter was taken over almost entirely by
On the Offensive
Moon’s organization also used its political clout in Washington to
intimidate or discredit government officials and journalists who tried
to investigate Moon-connected criminal activities. In the mid-1980s, for
instance, when journalists and congressional investigators began probing
the evidence of contra-drug trafficking, they came under attacks from
Moon’s Washington Times.
An Associated Press story that I co-wrote with Brian Barger about a
Miami-based federal probe into gun- and drug-running by the contras was
denigrated in an April 11, 1986, front-page Washington Times article
with the headline: “Story on [contra] drug smuggling denounced as
When Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, conducted a Senate probe and
uncovered additional evidence of contra-drug trafficking, the Washington
Times denounced him, too. The newspaper first published articles
depicting Kerry’s probe as a wasteful political witch hunt.
“Kerry’s anti-contra efforts extensive, expensive, in vain,” announced
the headline of one Times article on Aug. 13, 1986.
But when Kerry exposed more contra wrongdoing, the Washington Times
shifted tactics. In 1987 in front-page articles, it began accusing
Kerry’s staff of obstructing justice because their investigation was
supposedly interfering with Reagan-Bush administration efforts to get at
“Kerry staffers damaged FBI probe,” said one Times article that opened
with the assertion: “Congressional investigators for Sen. John Kerry
severely damaged a federal drug investigation last summer by interfering
with a witness while pursuing allegations of drug smuggling by the
Nicaraguan resistance, federal law enforcement officials said.”
[Washington Times, Jan. 21, 1987]
Despite the attacks, Kerry’s contra-drug investigation eventually
concluded that a number of contra units – both in Costa Rica and
Honduras – were implicated in the cocaine trade.
“It is clear that individuals who provided support for the contras were
involved in drug trafficking, the supply network of the contras was used
by drug trafficking organizations, and elements of the contras
themselves knowingly received financial and material assistance from
drug traffickers,” Kerry’s investigation stated in a report issued April
13, 1989. “In each case, one or another agency of the U.S. government
had information regarding the involvement either while it was occurring
or immediately thereafter.”
Kerry’s investigation also found that Honduras had become an important
way station for cocaine shipments heading north during the contra war.
“Elements of the Honduran military were involved ... in the protection
of drug traffickers from 1980 on,” the report said. “These activities
were reported to appropriate U.S. government officials throughout the
period. Instead of moving decisively to close down the drug trafficking
by stepping up the DEA presence in the country and using the foreign
assistance the United States was extending to the Hondurans as a lever,
the United States closed the DEA office in Tegucigalpa and appears to
have ignored the issue.” [Drug, Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy – the
Kerry Report – December 1988]
The Kerry investigation represented an indirect challenge to Vice
President George H.W. Bush, who had been named by President Reagan to
head the South Florida Task Force for interdicting the flow of drugs
into the United States and was later put in charge of the National
Narcotics Border Interdiction System.
In short, Vice President Bush was the lead official in the U.S.
government to cope with the drug trade, which he himself had dubbed a
national security threat.
If the American voters came to believe that Bush had compromised his
anti-drug responsibilities to protect the image of the Nicaraguan
contras and other rightists in Central America, that judgment could have
threatened the political future of Bush and his politically ambitious
By publicly challenging press and congressional investigations of this
touchy subject, the Washington Times helped keep an unfavorable media
spotlight from swinging in the direction of the Vice President.
The now-available evidence shows that there was much more to the
contra-drug issue than either the Reagan-Bush administration or Moon’s
organization wanted the American people to know in the 1980s.
The evidence – assembled over the years by investigators at the CIA, the
Justice Department and other federal agencies – indicates that Bolivia’s
Cocaine Coup operatives were only the first in a line of clever drug
smugglers who tried to squeeze under the protective umbrella of Reagan’s
favorite covert operation, the contra war. [For details, see Robert
Parry, Lost History, or for a summary of the contra-drug evidence, see
Consortiumnews.com's "Gary Webb's Death: American Tragedy."]
Other cocaine smugglers soon followed, cozying up to the contras and
sharing some of the profits, as a way to minimize investigative interest
by the Reagan-Bush law enforcement agencies.
The contra-connected smugglers included the Medellin cartel, the
Panamanian government of Manuel Noriega, the Honduran military, the
Honduran-Mexican smuggling ring of Ramon Matta Ballesteros, and the
Miami-based anti-Castro Cubans with their connections to Mafia
operations throughout the United States.
The drug traffickers’ strategy also worked. In some cases, U.S.
intelligence officials bent over backwards not to take timely notice of
contra-connected drug trafficking out of fear that fuller investigations
would embarrass the contras and their patrons in the Reagan-Bush
For instance, on Oct. 22, 1982, a cable written by the CIA’s Directorate
of Operations stated, “There are indications of links between [a U.S.
religious organization] and two Nicaraguan counter-revolutionary groups.
These links involve an exchange in [the United States] of narcotics for
The cable added that the participants were planning a meeting in Costa
Rica for such a deal. When the cable arrived, senior CIA officials were
concerned. On Oct. 27, CIA headquarters asked for more information from
a U.S. law enforcement agency.
The law enforcement agency expanded on its report by telling the CIA
that representatives of the contra FDN and another contra force, the
UDN, would be meeting with several unidentified U.S. citizens. But then,
the CIA reversed itself, deciding that it wanted no more information on
the grounds that U.S. citizens were involved.
“In light of the apparent participation of U.S. persons throughout,
agree you should not pursue the matter further,” CIA headquarters wrote
on Nov. 3, 1982. Two weeks later, after discouraging additional
investigation, CIA headquarters suggested it might be necessary to label
the allegations of a guns-for-drugs deal as “misinformation.”
The CIA’s Latin American Division, however, responded on Nov. 18, 1982,
that several contra officials had gone to San Francisco for the meetings
with supporters, presumably as part of the same guns-for-drugs deal. But
the CIA inspector general found no additional information about that
deal in CIA files.
Also, by keeping the names censored when the documents were released in
1998, the CIA prevented outside investigators from examining whether the
“U.S. religious organization” had any affiliation with Moon’s network of
quasi-religious groups, which were assisting the contras at that time.
Over the past quarter century – as Moon invested in prominent
Republicans – this pattern of government disinterest in his illicit
operations remained one consistency.
That disinterest wasn’t even shaken when disenchanted Moon insiders went
public with confessions of their own first-hand involvement in criminal
For instance, Moon’s former daughter-in-law, Nansook Hong, admitted to
participating in money-laundering schemes by personally smuggling cash
from South Korea into the United States.
In her 1998 memoir, In the Shadow of the Moons, Nansook Hong alleged
that Moon’s organization had engaged in a long-running conspiracy to
smuggle cash into the United States and to deceive U.S. Customs agents.
“The Unification Church was a cash operation,” Nansook Hong wrote. “I
watched Japanese church leaders arrive at regular intervals at East
Garden [the Moon compound north of New York City] with paper bags full
of money, which the Reverend Moon would either pocket or distribute to
the heads of various church-owned business enterprises at his breakfast
“The Japanese had no trouble bringing the cash into the United States;
they would tell customs agents that they were in America to gamble at
Atlantic City. In addition, many businesses run by the church were cash
operations, including several Japanese restaurants in New York City. I
saw deliveries of cash from church headquarters that went directly into
the wall safe in Mrs. Moon’s closet.”
Mrs. Moon pressed her daughter-in-law into one cash-smuggling incident
after a trip to Japan in 1992, Nansook Hong wrote.
Mrs. Moon had received “stacks of money” and divvied it up among her
entourage for the return trip through Seattle, Nansook Hong wrote. “I
was given $20,000 in two packs of crisp new bills,” she recalled. “I hid
them beneath the tray in my makeup case. ... I knew that smuggling was
illegal, but I believed the followers of Sun Myung Moon answered to
U.S. currency laws require that cash amounts above $10,000 be declared
at Customs when the money enters or leaves the country. It is also
illegal to conspire with couriers to bring in lesser amounts when the
total exceeds the $10,000 figure.
Nansook Hong also said she witnessed other cases in which bags of cash
were carried into the United States and delivered to Moon’s businesses.
Moon “demonstrated contempt for U.S. law every time he accepted a paper
bag full of untraceable, undeclared cash collected from true believers”
who smuggled the money in from overseas, Nansook Hong wrote.
Nansook Hong’s allegations were corroborated by other disaffected Moon
disciples in press interviews and in civil court proceedings.
Maria Madelene Pretorious, a former Unification Church member who worked
at Moon’s Manhattan Center, a New York City music venue and recording
studio, testified at a court hearing in Massachusetts that in December
of 1993 or January of 1994, one of Moon’s sons, Hyo Jin Moon, returned
from a trip to Korea “with $600,000 in cash which he had received from
his father. ... Myself along with three or four other members that
worked at Manhattan Center saw the cash in bags, shopping bags.”
In an interview with me in the mid-1990s, Pretorious said Asian church
members would bring cash into the United States where it would be
circulated through Moon’s business empire as a way to launder it.
At the center of this financial operation, Pretorious said, was One-Up
Corp., a Delaware-registered holding company that owned many Moon
enterprises including the Manhattan Center and New World Communications,
the parent company of the Washington Times.
“Once that cash is at the Manhattan Center, it has to be accounted for,”
Pretorious said. “The way that’s done is to launder the cash. Manhattan
Center gives cash to a business called Happy World which owns
restaurants. ... Happy World needs to pay illegal aliens. ... Happy
World pays some back to the Manhattan Center for ‘services rendered.’
The rest goes to One-Up and then comes back to Manhattan Center as an
While the criminal enterprises may have been operating at one level,
Moon’s political influence-buying was functioning at another, as he
spread around billions of dollars helpful to the top echelons of
Moon launched the Washington Times in 1982 and its staunch support for
Reagan-Bush political interests quickly made it a favorite of Reagan,
Bush and other influential Republicans. Moon also made sure that his
steady flow of cash found its way into the pockets of key conservative
operatives, especially when they were most in need.
For instance, when the New Right’s direct-mail whiz Richard Viguerie
fell on hard times in the late 1980s, Moon had a corporation run by a
chief lieutenant, Bo Hi Pak, buy one of Viguerie’s properties for $10
million. [SeeOrangeCounty Register, Dec. 21, 1987; Washington Post, Oct.
Moon also used the Washington Times and its affiliated publications to
create seemingly legitimate conduits to funnel money to individuals and
companies. In another example of Moon’s largesse, the Washington Times
hired Viguerie to conduct a pricy direct-mail subscription drive,
boosting his profit margin.
Another case of saving a right-wing icon occurred when the Rev. Jerry
Falwell was facing financial ruin over the debts piling up at Liberty
But the fundamentalist Christian school in Lynchburg, Virginia, got a
last-minute bail-out in the mid-1990s ostensibly from two Virginia
businessmen, Dan Reber and Jimmy Thomas, who used their non-profit
Christian Heritage Foundation to snap up a large chunk of Liberty’s debt
for $2.5 million, a fraction of its face value.
Falwell rejoiced and called the moment “the greatest single day of
financial advantage” in the school’s history, even though it was
accomplished at the disadvantage of many small true-believing investors
who had bought the church construction bonds through a Texas company.
But Falwell’s secret benefactor behind the debt purchase was Sun Myung
Moon, who was kept in the background partly because of his controversial
Biblical interpretations that hold Jesus to have been a failure and
because of Moon’s alleged brainwashing of thousands of young Americans,
often shattering their bonds with their biological families.
Moon had used his tax-exempt Women’s Federation for World Peace to
funnel $3.5 million to the Reber-Thomas Christian Heritage Foundation,
the non-profit that purchased the school’s debt. I stumbled onto this
Moon-Falwell connection by examining the Internal Revenue Service
filings of Moon’s front groups.
The Women Federation’s vice president Susan Fefferman confirmed that the
$3.5 million grant had gone to “Mr. Falwell’s people” for the benefit of
Liberty University. [For more on Moon’s funding of the Right, see Robert
Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]
Moon also used the Women’s Federation to pay substantial speaking fees
to former President George H.W. Bush, who gave talks at Moon-sponsored
events. In September 1995, Bush and his wife, Barbara, gave six speeches
in Asia for the Women’s Federation. In one speech on Sept. 14 to 50,000
Moon supporters in Tokyo, Bush said “what really counts is faith, family
In summer 1996, Bush was lending his prestige to Moon again. The former
President addressed the Moon-connected Family Federation for World Peace
in Washington, an event that gained notoriety when comedian Bill Cosby
tried to back out of his contract after learning of Moon’s connection.
Bush had no such qualms. [Washington Post, July 30, 1996]
In fall 1996, Moon needed the ex-President’s help again. Moon was trying
to replicate his Washington Times influence in South America by opening
a regional newspaper, Tiempos del Mundo. But South American journalists
were recounting unsavory chapters of Moon’s history, including his links
to South Korea’s feared intelligence service and various neo-fascist
In the early 1980s, Moon had used friendships with the military
dictatorships in Argentina and Uruguay – which had been responsible for
tens of thousands of political murders – to invest in those two
countries. There also were allegations of Moon’s links to the region’s
major drug traffickers.
Moon’s disciples fumed about the critical stories and accused the
Argentine news media of trying to sabotage Moon’s plans for an inaugural
gala in Buenos Aires on Nov. 23, 1996. “The local press was trying to
undermine the event,” complained the church’s internal newsletter,
Given the controversy, Argentina’s elected president, Carlos Menem,
decided to reject Moon’s invitation.
But Moon had a trump card: the endorsement of an ex-President of the
United States, George H. W. Bush. Agreeing to speak at the newspaper’s
launch, Bush flew aboard a private plane, arriving in Buenos Aires on
Nov. 22. Bush stayed at Menem’s official residence, the Olivos.
As the headliner at the newspaper’s inaugural gala, Bush saved the day,
Moon’s followers gushed. “Mr. Bush’s presence as keynote speaker gave
the event invaluable prestige,” wrote the Unification News. “Father
[Moon] and Mother [Mrs. Moon] sat with several of the True Children
[Moon’s offspring] just a few feet from the podium” where Bush spoke.
“I want to salute Reverend Moon,” Bush declared. “A lot of my friends in
South America don’t know about the Washington Times, but it is an
independent voice. The editors of the Washington Times tell me that
never once has the man with the vision [Moon] interfered with the
running of the paper, a paper that in my view brings sanity to
Bush’s speech was so effusive that it surprised even Moon’s followers.
“Once again, heaven turned a disappointment into a victory,” the
Unification News exulted. “Everyone was delighted to hear his
compliments. We knew he would give an appropriate and ‘nice’ speech, but
praise in Father’s presence was more than we expected. ... It was
vindication. We could just hear a sigh of relief from Heaven.”
While Bush’s assertion about Moon’s Washington Times as a voice of
“sanity” may be a matter of opinion, Bush’s vouching for its editorial
independence simply wasn’t true. Almost since it opened in 1982, a
string of senior editors and correspondents have resigned, citing the
manipulation of the news by Moon and his subordinates.
The first editor, James Whelan, resigned in 1984, confessing that “I
have blood on my hands” for helping Moon’s church achieve greater
But Bush’s boosterism was just what Moon needed in South America. “The
day after,” the Unification News observed, “the press did a 180-degree
about-turn once they realized that the event had the support of a U.S.
President.” With Bush’s help, Moon had gained another beachhead for his
worldwide business-religious-political-media empire.
After the event, Menem told reporters from La Nacion that Bush had
claimed privately to be only a mercenary who did not really know Moon.
“Bush told me he came and charged money to do it,” Menem said. [La
Nacion, Nov. 26, 1996]
But Bush was not telling Menem the whole story. By fall 1996, Bush and
Moon had been working in political tandem for at least a decade and a
half. The ex-President also had been earning huge speaking fees as a
front man for Moon for more than a year.
Throughout these public appearances for Moon, Bush’s office refused to
divulge how much Moon-affiliated organizations have paid the
ex-President. But estimates of Bush’s fee for the Buenos Aires
appearance alone ran between $100,000 and $500,000.
Sources close to the Unification Church told me that the total spending
on Bush ran into the millions, with one source telling me that Bush
stood to make as much as $10 million from Moon’s organization.
The senior George Bush may have had a political motive, too. By 1996,
sources close to Bush were saying the ex-President was working hard to
enlist well-to-do conservatives and their money behind the presidential
candidacy of his son, George W. Bush. Moon was one of the deepest
pockets in right-wing circles.
Also in 1996, the Uruguayan bank employees union blew the whistle on one
scheme in which some 4,200 female Japanese followers of Moon allegedly
walked into the Moon-controlled Banco de Credito in Montevideo and
deposited as much as $25,000 each.
The money from the women went into the account of an anonymous
association called Cami II, which was controlled by Moon’s Unification
Church. In one day, Cami II received $19 million and, by the time the
parade of women ended, the total had swelled to about $80 million.
It was not clear where the money originated, nor how many other times
Moon’s organization has used this tactic – sometimes known as “smurfing”
– to transfer untraceable cash into Uruguay.
Authorities did not push the money-laundering investigation, apparently
out of deference to Moon’s political influence and fear of disrupting
Uruguay’s banking industry. However, other critics condemned Moon’s
“The first thing we ought to do is clarify to the people [of Uruguay]
that Moon’s sect is a type of modern pirate that came to the country to
perform obscure money operations, such as money laundering,” said Jorge
Zabalza, who was a leader of the Movimiento de Participacion Popular,
part of Montevideo’s ruling left-of-center political coalition. “This
sect is a kind of religious mob that is trying to get public support to
pursue its business.”
Moon’s pattern of putting into Bush family causes has continued into
George W. Bush’s presidency. In 2006, Moon again used money-laundering
techniques to funnel a donation to the George H.W. Bush Presidential
The Houston Chronicle reported that Moon’s Washington Times Foundation
gave $1 million to the Greater Houston Community Foundation, which in
turn acted as a conduit for donations to the library.
The Chronicle obtained indirect confirmation that Moon’s money was
passing through the Houston foundation to the Bush library from Bush
family spokesman Jim McGrath. Asked whether Moon’s $1 million had ended
up there, McGrath responded, “We’re in an uncomfortable position. … If a
donor doesn’t want to be identified we need to honor their privacy.”
But when asked whether the $1 million was intended to curry favor with
the Bush family to get President George W. Bush to grant a pardon for
Moon’s 1982 felony tax fraud conviction, McGrath answered, “If that’s
why he gave the grant, he’s throwing his money away. … That’s not the
way the Bushes operate.”
McGrath then added, “President Bush has been very grateful for the
friendship shown to him by the Washington Times Foundation, and the
Washington Times serves a vital role in Washington. But there can’t be
any connection to any kind of a pardon.” [Houston Chronicle, June 8,
2006, citing the work of private researcher Larry Zilliox.]
But Moon has earned the deepest gratitude of the Bush family and the
Republican Party via his reported $3 billion investment in the
Washington Times, a powerful propaganda organ that helped the GOP build
its political dominance over the past quarter century.
George Archibald, who describes himself “as the first reporter hired at
the Washington Times outside the founding group” and author of a
commemorative book on the Times’ first two decades, recently joined a
long line of disillusioned conservative writers who departed and warned
the public about extremism within the newspaper.
In an Internet essay on bigotry and extremism inside the Times,
Archibald also confirmed claims by some former Moon insiders that the
cult leader has continued to pour in $100 million a year or more to keep
the newspaper afloat. Archibald put the price tag for the newspaper’s
first 24 years at “more than $3 billion of cash.”
Over those years, the Times has targeted American politicians of the
center and left with journalistic attacks – sometimes questioning their
sanity, as happened with Democratic presidential nominees Michael
Dukakis and Al Gore. Those themes then resonate through the broader
right-wing echo chamber and often into the mainstream media.
In 2000, the Washington Times was at the center of the assault on Al
Gore’s candidacy – highlighting apocryphal quotes by Gore and using them
to depict him as either dishonest or delusional. [See
Consortiumnews.com’s “Al Gore vs. the Media.”]
Aiming at Obama
The intervention by Moon’s media outlets into U.S. presidential politics
continues to the present. In one of the first dirty tricks of Election
2008, Moon’s online magazine Insight tried to sabotage Sen. Barack
Obama’s campaign before it even got started, while laying the blame at
the feet of Democratic rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton.
The Insight article cited supposed opposition research by Hillary
Clinton’s campaign that had allegedly dug up evidence that Obama had
attended a fundamentalist Muslim “madrassah” while a young child and had
sought to conceal his allegiance to Islam.
The Insight attack on Obama was framed as a heartfelt desire to test out
the credibility of the 45-year-old Illinois senator who identifies
himself as a Christian and belongs to a church in Chicago.
“He was a Muslim, but he concealed it,” a source supposedly close to
Clinton’s background investigation of Obama told Insight. “The idea is
to show Obama as deceptive.”
Insight used no named sources for the allegations, nor did the magazine
check out the facts about the school. [Insight, Jan. 17, 2007]
After Moon’s online magazine published the “madrassa” story, it quickly
spread to the wider audiences of Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing media
outlets, Fox News and the New York Post, and then into the mainstream
press. To further the subliminal link between Obama and Islamic
terrorism, the New York Post ran its story under the headline “‘Osama’
Mud Flies at Obama.”
As the Obama-madrassa article circulated, Fox News made sure the story
was put in the harshest possible light.
“Hillary Clinton reported to be already digging up the dirt on Barack
Obama,” said John Gibson, anchor of Fox’s “The Big Story.” “The New York
senator has reportedly outed Obama’s madrassah past. That’s right, the
Clinton team reported to have pulled out all the stops to reveal
something Obama would rather you didn’t know – that he was educated in a
For Obama’s part, he wrote in his autobiography that after he had
attended a Catholic school for two years, his Indonesian stepfather sent
him to a “predominantly Muslim school” in Jakarta when he was six. This
inconsequential fact apparently became the basis for Insight’s
suggestion that Obama was indoctrinated at a radical “madrassa.”
“The allegations are completely false,” Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs
told the Washington Post. “To publish this sort of trash without any
documentation is surprising, but for Fox to repeat something so false,
not once, but many times is appallingly irresponsible.”
Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson termed the Insight article “an obvious
right-wing hit job by a Moonie publication that was designed to attack
Senator Clinton and Senator Obama at the same time.” [Washington Post,
Jan. 22, 2007]
When CNN checked out the Insight article on Jan. 22, the story
collapsed. The Indonesian school that Obama attended as a child turned
out not to be some radical “madrassah” where an extreme form of Islam
was taught, but a well-kept public school in an upper-middle-class
neighborhood of Jakarta.
The boys and girls wear school uniforms and are taught a typical school
curriculum today as they were 39 years ago when Obama was a student
there, while living with his mother in Indonesia, reported CNN
correspondent John Vause.
While most of the school’s students are Muslim – Indonesia is a Muslim
country, after all – Vause reported that the religious views of other
students are respected and that Christian children at the school are
taught that Jesus is the son of God.
For once, a Moon-financed hit job on a political enemy appeared to
backfire, although it’s hard to know whether planting a subliminal doubt
about whether Obama is a secret agent of radical Islam will take root
among some American voters who are paranoid about Muslim terrorists.
By citing Clinton operatives as the supposed source of the smear, Moon’s
publication also played to the negative image of the New York senator as
a ruthless politician who would sling mud at an opponent.
Whether the Obama/Clinton story has a long-term impact or not, it is a
reminder of the value that Moon’s billions of mysterious dollars have
purchased in the U.S. political process – and why his allies seem so
determined to protect him from anything approaching aggressive law