The Crow-Qadhafi Connection

How a mythic Texas family won the gratitude of a dictator

After the Libyan was barred from attending his brother-in-law's party for the president, Billingsley instead apparently took El Bukhari and his entourage to the Crows' East Texas farm that weekend--one month before the scheduled camping event. Afterward, El Bukhari wrote letters to both the Billingsleys and the elder Crows thanking them for their hospitality, citing the good time he had enjoyed at the farm.

"On behalf of myself, the government of Libya, and Daad Sharab," the Libyan wrote the Billingsleys on September 29, "I wish to express our sincere thanks for your hospitality, generosity, and friendship." El Bukhari closed with a note about future contacts: "We look forward to seeing you again in Tripoli or Dallas." El Bukhari would be seeing the Billingsleys again in Dallas in less than one month.

At this point, Timothy Powers, a partner in the downtown Dallas law firm of Haynes and Boone--and Billingsley's regular outside counsel--had already begun providing explanatory legal memos about U.S. real estate laws to Billingsley. These documents and other records indicate both sides--the Billingsley interests and the Bukhari-Sharab group--were exploring a real estate deal, but also suggest Powers was seeking to keep his own distance from the Libyan and his entourage.

On September 29, Powers sent a fax to Billingsley that outlined how foreign investors should structure a deal if they were planning to buy a stake in undeveloped U.S. land. "This memorandum sets forth some of the basic U.S. tax rules and planning considerations relevant to a foreign investor in unimproved U.S. property," Powers began. The letter included a chart that showed how a principal could set up an offshore corporation in the British Virgin Islands.

Powers sent a second letter to Billingsley a week later. Dated October 9, 1992, it stated: "As promised, enclosed is a diagram for your new client's approximate $200,000,000 investment. While the diagram structure may look somewhat complicated, hopefully the explanatory notes will make everything crystal clear.

"There are certain details about the structure that have not been explained in the notes," the lawyer added warily. "Our preference would be to explain any remaining open issues directly to you, as the investment advisor, or the investor's other investment advisors in New York and London, as you deem appropriate."

Documents from Billingsley's office affirm that Powers was being paid by El Bukhari's Jordanian associate, Sharab. Billingsley photocopied a receipt, later given to prosecutors, that shows he received $15,000 on October 30, 1992. The receipt states the money came from Bodine to pay the law firm of Haynes and Boone. The check stub says: "For Daad Sharab"--El Bukhari's Jordanian business associate.

Contacted in London by telephone, Sharab identified Dallas attorney Powers as her lawyer. In a brief interview, Sharab said she was a financial advisor who also "buys land and buildings all over the world." (In a subsequent conversation, she denied being a financial advisor, saying she was merely "a businesswoman.") Sharab called prosecutors' interest in her ties to the Billingsleys "for nothing." Asked to provide details about her business relationship with El Bukhari, she terminated the conversation.

In early October, Trammell Crow himself began actively aiding the Libyan and his entourage. The elder Crow started by attacking El Bukhari's problems securing a visa to come to the Crow camp-out in October. Crow made a series of telephone calls that ultimately led to his letter addressed to Ambassador McCarthy.

In a faxed note, Lucy Crow Billingsley briefed her husband on her famous father's progress: "Dad decided to 1st call Dr. Richard Haas--[A]rab desk at White House," Lucy noted. Haas had agreed to call Ambassador McCarthy's boss at the State Department. But her father intended, Lucy explained, to speak with McCarthy himself. "He hopes to make contact soon but doesn't expect to meet campout deadline. He does however expect to succeed. He just doesn't know when." Trammell Crow, she added in a final note, "told Haas it [the El Bukhari visit] was for personal + business purposes."

Getting nowhere with McCarthy or the state department, Trammell Crow must have decided to try string-pulling at a higher level. Two documents obtained by the Observer indicate that Crow met with General Scowcroft to discuss the Libyan's plight. The first document is a page of notes scribbled in shorthand by Lucy, summarizing a discussion between Scowcroft and her father. Later transcribed by a secretary, the notes indicate the two men held a wide-ranging discussion about the likely success of the Libyan's diplomatic efforts.

Crow also sent a second letter to Ambassador McCarthy, seeking to expedite the visa process for El Bukhari and conspicuously mentioning his visit with the National Security Advisor. "I have visited with General Brent Scowcroft on this personal invitation..." Crow advised McCarthy in a short October 14 note.

But the name-dropping produced no tangible results. In McCarthy's reply, dated the next day, the ambassador made clear that the Libyan would get no special favors. "As you no doubt know, Mr. El Bukhari must apply for a visa at this or any other U.S. embassy or Consulate of his choice." But as a Libyan, El Bukhari would need clearance from the state department, McCarthy noted, and that procedure could consume several weeks.

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