Documents: L. Ron Hubbard tried to ‘buy’ an African nation

Discussion in 'Leaks & Legal' started by The Wrong Guy, Apr 3, 2018.

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    Newly released documents: Scientology leader L. Ron Hubbard tried to ‘buy’ an African nation

    By Chris Owen, The Underground Bunker, April 3, 2018


    In the mid-1960s, L. Ron Hubbard became obsessed with the idea that Scientology had to establish a secure base in southern Africa as an insurance policy against the threat of a nuclear war in the northern hemisphere. He attempted to ingratiate himself with the apartheid government of H.F. Verwoerd in South Africa, and tried to set up a base for Scientology in Rhodesia but was forced to leave in 1966 when the white supremacist government there tired of his attentions.

    He decided not long afterwards to buy a flotilla of ships on which he could cruise the high seas with his newly established Sea Org, free from the influence of “suppressive” governments. But recently released papers from Interpol and the Malawian government show that just before the Sea Org went to sea in 1967, Hubbard made one last unsuccessful and previously unreported attempt to take over a southern African country – this time Malawi.

    Malawi had been part of the short-lived Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland before gaining independence from Britain in 1964. It was, and remains, one of the poorest countries in Africa. Unlike Rhodesia and South Africa it had a negligible European population at independence – fewer than 10,000 in 1960, as against about 4 million Africans. It almost immediately fell into political turmoil when its autocratic leader, Hastings Banda, purged his cabinet soon after independence and set about establishing himself as “President for Life”. He ruled as a dictator until 1993, killing and imprisoning thousands of opponents, and suppressing political dissent and trade unions. Unlike many other African independence figures, he was staunchly pro-Western and pro-capitalist. Taking personal charge of economic policy, he sought foreign investment and achieved remarkable success in developing the Malawian economy with the aid of controversial partners such as apartheid South Africa.

    Around the end of 1966 or the start of 1967, Hubbard approached the Malawian government with a startling offer. He was willing to loan £25 million in gold, at an interest rate of 3.5 percent, to fund various development projects in exchange for certain tax and industrial concessions. This was a huge sum of money for the time – equivalent to £431 million ($600 million) at 2017 prices. It would have dwarfed Malawi’s GDP at the time, which was equivalent to only about $260 million in current US dollars. The investment would have made Hubbard hugely influential – it could fairly be described as an attempt to buy the country.

    It is unclear where the money was supposed to come from. Hubbard portrayed himself as representing an unspecified Greek company and claimed to have made “a few million pounds” from an “international network of communications offices”. As in Rhodesia, he seems to have sought to position himself as a “millionaire businessman” who would do great things for the country’s economy. Nor is it clear how exactly Hubbard made the offer. He is not known to have ever travelled to Malawi and was either in the UK or North Africa at the time. Given his tendency to aim for the top, it is possible that he wrote directly to Hastings Banda to try to entice the Malawian leader.

    The Malawian government made enquiries, presumably through its High Commission in London, and correctly identified Hubbard as “the founder of a form of psycho-analysis known as scientology” who had been deported from Rhodesia some months earlier. It was also informed by unknown sources that Hubbard had been “deported from Australia for unspecified reasons and currently faces trial for drug smuggling should he return to the United States where he is normally resident in Phoenix, Arizona”.

    The government evidently suspected that it was being targeted by a con artist or perhaps an international criminal racket, and turned to the Malawian police to make further enquiries. On January 17, 1967 the head of the Malawian police wrote to the Interpol office in Scotland Yard’s Criminal Investigation Department to ask for further information on Hubbard and Scientology.

    The British Interpol representative replied to provide the Malawian Commissioner of Police with background on Hubbard and asked the American and Australian representatives in London to assist. They confirmed that Hubbard had not, in fact, been deported from Australia (this was probably a garbled reference to the ban on Scientology enacted in the state of Victoria in 1965) and was not wanted for drug smuggling (again, probably a garbled version of the US Food and Drug Administration’s seizure of Hubbard’s bogus anti-radiation pills in 1958). The US Interpol representative informed the Malawians of the multiple past and present investigations into Hubbard’s activities by Federal and state agencies.

    What happened to Hubbard’s bid to “buy” Malawi is unclear. It plainly never went ahead, and only a few months later he embarked on his voyage with the Sea Org fleet. It was not the end of his attempts to find an “OT base” for Scientology – he later tried to ingratiate himself with the authorities in Corfu and Morocco, with disastrous results in both cases – but it does seem to have marked the end of his efforts to take over a friendly country in southern Africa.

    Chris Owen


    1. January 17, 1967 letter from Malawi national police to Interpol at Scotland Yard

    2. Scotland Yard replies to Malawi police, February 13, 1967

    3. Scotland Yard second reply to Malawi police, March 10, 1967

    4. US Interpol sends two replies to Malawi police in April 1967.

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