By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Every October, Trammell Crow, the legendary Dallas real estate developer, hosts a camp-out for rich and powerful men at his East Texas farm.
Crow, now 80, invites about 150 businessmen and government leaders. His guests have included former president Gerald Ford, former national security advisor Brent Scowcroft, former Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry, and oilman Herbert Hunt.
Sleeping in tents, the developer's high-profile guests engage in the kind of high-testosterone activities that would highlight a Boy Scout outing. They ride horses, shoot skeet, and play war games with painted faces and pellet guns. At night, the campers listen to fireside lectures on such topics as advances in cancer research. The objective, invitees are informed: simply to relax.
Describing the annual affair in a 1992 letter to John McCarthy, then U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia, Crow himself wrote: "There is no purpose other than building camaraderie through sharing this time in the woods."
Crow dispatched his missive to McCarthy on October 1, 1992, because he wanted the ambassador to help him secure a visa into the United States for a very special camper: Mohamed El Bukhari, the Treasury Minister of Libya--and among the closest advisers to internationally reviled dictator Muammar al-Qadhafi.
President George Bush had branded the Libyan leader "an egomaniac who would trigger World War III just to make headlines." President Ronald Reagan had sent American warplanes to drop bombs on Qadhafi in 1986. And the U.S. had imposed sweeping economic sanctions on Libya, barring trade with the country or its citizens after Qadhafi refused to extradite two Libyan intelligence agents indicted in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland--a terrorist incident that claimed 270 lives.
Yet Dallas millionaire Trammell Crow--for decades, a nationally prominent contributor to Republican campaigns--was seeking to pull strings so Qadhafi's aide could enjoy his hospitality and rub elbows with powerful Americans. "...I believe his joining this casual encounter could be a fruitful and pleasurable time for all campers," Crow wrote McCarthy.
El Bukhari never obtained a visa--from the American ambassador or anyone else in the State Department. Yet the Libyan made it to Crow's affair anyway.
Prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, D.C. now suspect he did so illegally, with more of the Crow family's help. They are investigating whether Crow's son-in-law, Henry Billingsley, helped smuggle the Libyan into the country by slipping him across the Mexican border near Harlingen.
Their inquiry is part of a criminal grand-jury investigation that is focusing, in part, on the Crows' dealings with Bukhari. They suspect the Dallas developer and his family did indeed hope the Libyan's trip would be "fruitful," as Trammell Crow put it--for Billingsley was then busy seeking foreign investors to buy a $200 million package of land.
Though such a deal may also have run afoul of U.S. sanctions barring business transactions with Libyans, the Crows sought to exploit their political connections on El Bukhari's behalf. At one point, Qadhafi's aide was invited to attend an intimate political reception for President Bush the Highland Park mansion of Trammell Crow's son Harlan; shocked government officials rescinded the invitation, barring the Libyan on security grounds.
For El Bukhari, the time with the Crows and their friends provided a splendid opportunity to pursue his own agenda: lobbying well-placed Americans to ease the international sanctions against his country. At the Crows' East Texas farm, documents show, El Bukhari hooked up with Robert C. McFarlane, the head of the National Security Council under President Reagan.
Qadhafi's aide showed his appreciation for the Crows' hospitality in a letter dated November 20, 1992, and obtained by the Dallas Observer. "Dear Mr. Crow," the Libyan treasury minister wrote, "On behalf of my Leader, our people and myself, I wish to express sincere thanks and appreciation for all your efforts on our behalf."
Trammell Crow declined all comment for this story. Henry Billingsley and his wife, Lucy Crow, also declined several Observer requests for comment. Bukhari could not be reached for comment.
The news that federal prosecutors are investigating secret Libyan attempts to cultivate illegal business ties with Americans was first revealed in a December 20, 1993, story in U.S. News & World Report. That article--and a second, one-paragraph item published earlier this month--briefly described the Crow-Billingsley activities and characterized them as just one part of the investigation into Libyan attempts to buy influence in the U.S.
The Crow family's discussions with the Libyan treasury minister never produced a deal. Asked about his financial relationship with Libya, Billingsley told U.S. News in 1993: "I have not done any business with that country." An attorney for Crow told the magazine "neither Trammell Crow Co. nor Trammell Crow have conducted business with Libyan nationals now or in the past."
But Washington-based federal prosecutors, with the help of a 1993 raid on Henry Billingsley's offices in downtown Dallas, have gathered more than 2,000 pages of documents. The material includes ticket stubs, personal calendars, letters, and contracts.
The Dallas Observer obtained copies of dozens of these documents from Natasha Geddie, a trained paralegal who worked as Lucy Crow's personal assistant for several months in the fall of 1992. A tip from Geddie sparked prosecutors' inquiry into the Crow family's contacts with El Bukhari.
The documents provided to the Observer--combined with more than two dozen interviews--detail the Crows' extensive efforts to use their high-level political contacts to aid Muammar al-Qadhafi's government.
They also detail Billingsley's efforts to hawk $200 million worth of undeveloped land to foreign investors.
Together, they provide a startling and bizarre tale of international intrigue--complete with a mysterious border crossing, murky go-betweens, and multimillion dollar dealmaking.
It is a story that reveals how--and suggests why--members of a mythic Texas family befriended one of America's greatest enemies.
At the center of the strange tale of the Crow-Qadhafi connection is 51-year-old Henry Mac Billingsley, a confident Dallas businessman married to Trammell Crow's only daughter.
Friends and business associates say the enigmatic Billingsley has always relished the sheer drama and mystery of daring, high-stakes dealmaking.
"Henry intellectually likes to cross swords," says Randy Dumas, a London investment banker who Billingsley asked to help find wealthy Arab buyers for Texas land.
"I could see him getting involved with anybody," says Charles Dyer, a close Billingsley friend since graduate school, who now runs his own money-management firm in Boston. Of Billingsley's alleged dealing with Libyans, Dyer adds: "I don't consider it shocking. All kinds of people come into this country and buy anything. Henry didn't sell the Libyans anything. So what's the problem?"
While Billingsley and the Crows completed no deals with the Libyans, that alone does not take them off the hook. U.S. sanctions prohibit most travel to Libya, any contracts with Libyan nationals, and all business transactions in which the Libyan government has an interest. In fact, the sanctions bar almost any contact with Libyans at all--unless the ties are reported to U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control.
A tall man with angular features, Billingsley was born in Galveston but reared in a middle-class neighborhood in San Diego, California. He graduated from Stanford University in 1965 and went on to earn his MBA at Harvard in 1968. After a stint at Fidelity Investments, then an up-and-coming Boston money-management firm, Billingsley arrived at the Trammell Crow Company in the mid-'70s.
At prestigious business schools, Trammell Crow Company was known as a ticket to the good life. Crow headed America's biggest development company; he had a reputation for generously backing talented young partners in multimillion dollar deals. At one point, Crow had more than 170 partners.
The Trammell Crow Company had a system. Young MBAs--like Billingsley, almost all white, politically conservative men--worked for a relative pittance at first, leasing commercial space. But if they measured up, they could expect to become millionaire partners within a few years, as they began acquiring a piece of the action for themselves in the Dallas developer's fast-growing international empire.
Crow Company peers recall that Billingsley set himself apart from the beginning by dressing and acting like a partner. While the other MBAs scoured off-price clothing stores, Billingsley sported Savile Row suits and Hermes ties. He lived in a rented North Dallas apartment filled with clutter, but always kept a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne in the refrigerator.
Billingsley held strong opinions--and offered them freely. "Henry has a dry, biting intelligence and wit," says Dumas, the London investment banker. Adds a former Trammell Crow partner: "He's really funny at other people's expense."
Billingsley also offended some colleagues with his comments about ethnic groups. One former Crow Company partner recalls Billingsley often used the term "Hebraic chieftain" to describe Jewish businessmen. Billingsley's calendars, messages, and telephone books reflect his heavy use of more benign nicknames. He has friends and associates whom he refers to as "Boom-boom," the "Paymaster," and "Big Mac." "He does have nicknames for everybody," says London investment banker Dumas. "I cringe to think of what he calls me."
But the most significant moniker in Billingsley's office appeared on the outside of an envelope containing a copy of the diplomatic passport of Mohamed El Bukhari; there, someone had scrawled the words "Big Mo." This apparent nickname for the Libyan treasury minister also appears in Billingsley's personal appointment book.
Dyer dismisses the critical comments former colleagues offer about Billingsley. "Henry was smarter than anyone else there," Dyer says. "The others were probably just jealous. They didn't really know him."
It didn't help that Billingsley seemed too intent on the big score to apply himself to the mundane aspects of real estate. Former partners say he never distinguished himself as a successful leasing agent--the usual first step in a new MBA's rise to partner. "He'd wear out the yellow pages but never do any deals," recalls one colleague. "He had the ability to make a billion-dollar deal, but could not sign a 10,000-square-foot lease."
It was in the mid-1970s when Henry Billingsley first revealed his specialty: The Big Deal. That's when he assembled a group of investors to develop the Elk Grove Industrial Park, a property near Chicago's O'Hare Airport. "It is what put Henry on the playing field," recalls one former Trammell Crow partner.
At the time, the Crow Company was weathering a major real estate recession. Lending institutions nationwide were threatening Crow projects with foreclosure. Billingsley, though still a Crow associate, began promoting the Elk Grove deal on his own--without the approval of a senior partner.
His key contact: Chuck Dyer, an old chum from Harvard Business School. A former pilot for Eastern Airlines, Dyer managed the pilots union's hefty pension fund at Hawthorne Associates, his own Boston money-management company.
Billingsley, officially assigned the unglamorous task of leasing industrial space, paid his own expenses for trips to Chicago to work on the Elk Grove deal. When peers warned him that his free-lancing could irk senior partners, one former Crow partner recalls, Billingsley responded: "I don't care what they say--their names are not on the door."
The gamble paid off. Trammell Crow personally took a shine to Billingsley's proposal for Elk Grove--and backed it. Elk Grove provided a critical boost to the company; it showed a large institutional lender was willing to back a Crow project despite the developer's recent woes. Nicely profitable in the years since, Elk Grove ultimately became a 35-building, 4-million-square-foot project, drawing such blue-chip tenants as National Can Corporation, Searle Pharmaceuticals, and JC Penney, Inc.
In 1978, Billingsley scored an even bigger coup: marrying the boss' only daughter. At the time, Lucy, 25, was the mother of a newborn and a recent divorcee; her first marriage had lasted less than two years. Henry was one MBA among dozens aspiring to become a Trammell Crow partner.
There were profound and nearly immediate business consequences stemming from the pairing of Henry Billingsley and Lucy Crow. For Billingsley, the marriage meant his ouster from the Trammell Crow Company.
Senior partners seized the opportunity to formalize a longstanding, but selectively enforced, nepotism rule barring family members without the Crow name--and boot Billingsley. Trammell Crow relented in the ouster of his new son-in-law. Crow, however, remained in some separate partnerships with Billingsley--including the one that owned Elk Grove. Fifteen years later, Billingsley's treatment remains a sore point with his friends. Says Dyer: "Henry has done much better than all those guys who kicked him out after he married Lucy."
The marriage also fundamentally rearranged the assets of the Crow family. In the next few years, Lucy separated her assets from those of the rest of the family. She continued to share ownership in many properties with her father and brothers, but her stake was broken out, and she managed her assets separately. In 1980, Billingsley and his wife set up the Crow-Billingsley Investment Company.
Out on his own, Billingsley followed a real-estate acquisition strategy that ultimately led him to Arab investors. He acquired cheap, undeveloped land around Dallas, through partnerships and joint ventures, often with overseas investors. He held them until development began moving in that direction, hoping to sell at a big profit.
But there was a problem: the real estate recession in the late 1980s stalled development in every direction. It looked like prices would never rise enough for Billingsley to make a profit, much less a killing, unless he found a very special kind of buyer--one willing, for special reasons, to pay more than the market demanded.
By the summer of 1992, Henry Billingsley was sitting on vacant Dallas land. He had holdings in the city, as well as valuable acreage near Legacy Park in Plano.
About that time, his company produced a marketing folder for perhaps the most prestigious parcel in his North Texas portfolio: a 10.5-acre tract along Woodall Rodgers Freeway, near the new Federal Reserve Building. "Tremendous visibility and the recognition of the north side of the Dallas skyline," the pamphlet declares. At one point, Billingsley was pricing a 50 percent interest in the property at $51 million.
Billingsley clearly wanted to unload some of his holdings. Between June and September 1992, he corresponded with investment bankers based in London, making regular trips there, seeking contacts with prospective buyers in the Arab world--men who might have more money than they knew what to do with. Perry Lloyd, a London investment banker, recalls that Billingsley was specifically marketing both Dallas and Chicago property.
Dumas, another London banker, also knew Billingsley wanted to sell property. In a September 21, 1992 letter, after returning from a trip to the Middle East in which he had pitched the Texan's land, he offered Billingsley some encouragement. "I met last week with an interesting cross-section of (primarily) high net worth investors (guys like you, big fella)," Dumas wrote. "...Somewhat to my surprise, my Sultan of Brunei contact...said he found the idea fairly attractive." Nothing came of the prospect; in March, Dumas wrote to bemoan that the Sultan and Henry still had not been able to meet.
Other bankers and financial advisors, documents show, were also seeking buyers for Billingsley's land. The network of middlemen included a longtime New York friend then running his own financial consulting firm: A. William Bodine.
A one-time director of investment research at Citicorp Management Inc. and J.P. Morgan Equities, Bodine had founded his own firm, the Investment Advisory Group (IAG), in the late 1980s. Throughout his career, he had cultivated contacts overseas--especially in the Arab world.
Bodine would serve as the key go-between in the contacts between Libya and the Crow family.
Billingsley had been using Bodine to help market his Dallas land since 1990. Documents obtained by the Observer also show Bodine had contractual ties to the Libyan government.
One is a September 1, 1992, proposed agreement between the Libyan government and IAG International, the foreign company Bodine set up in an attempt to circumvent the U.S. sanctions. The six-page document calls for IAG International to assist the Libyan government "in the solution of the Lockerbie problem" and "in enhancing the relations with Western European nations." The document calls for the signature of Geraldine I'Anson, identified as IAG International's London representative.
IAG International is offered, in exchange, an annual fee of $8 million, to be paid in installments. Though other records show Bodine was operating on Libya's behalf and that the IAG-Libya consulting agreement was consummated, the copy of the document obtained by the Observer was unsigned.
Bodine did not respond to Observer calls for comment.
When telephoned in London about her role, I'Anson said she had done no business with the Crow family, but insisted that, as a British citizen, U.S. sanctions against doing business with Libya did not apply to her.
Aware of Bodine's contacts with El Bukhari--and the Libyan's desire to solve "the Lockerbie problem"--Henry Billingsley, in an August 27, 1992, letter, urged Bodine to bring El Bukhari to his father-in-law's annual East Texas expedition for rich and powerful men.
"Mr. Crow's camp-out is going to be from Friday to Sunday, October 30 to November 1," Billingsley wrote Bodine. "...If you can make it, come on down and bring your friend if he wants to get a good feel for what is the current mood of the country."
Should Crow's camp-out fail to appeal, Billingsley had another extraordinary invitation to offer Moammar al-Qadhafi's aide. "We are going to be skiing between Xmas and New Years in Vail and Dan Quayle is going to be at our house so we could likely arrange a meeting at that time," Billingsley scrawled at the bottom of his letter, in a handwritten postscript.
Billingsley need not have worried about luring Bodine's "friend" to Texas. A tall, dark man who dons aviator spectacles with darkened lenses in photographs, Mohamed El Bukhari didn't wait for the ski adventure--or the October camp-out--to meet Henry Billingsley. Instead, El Bukhari tacked a trip to Dallas onto an excursion to Washington, D.C., that he had already planned for September 1992.
El Bukhari had secured a visa to come to Washington to make a speech in late September to a conference of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. "He was a very, very nice gentleman, very soft-spoken," recalls Gordon Wade, a private government-relations consultant. Wade, who met El Bukhari during that visit, confirms a U.S. News account of how he helped the Libyan make Washington contacts during that visit, even exploring the idea of contributing to the Bush presidential campaign. (Bush campaign officials told U.S. News they summarily rejected the suggestion because such contributions are illegal.)
El Bukhari showed his congenial side at the international banking conference. "I hope this gathering today is the beginning of many contacts between Libyans and Americans," El Bukhari told IMF and World Bank conference attendees. "We have nothing to hide...We want justice for the victims of Lockerbie and justice for our two citizens." Hoping to ease the international embargo, El Bukhari offered, on Libya's behalf, to allow U.N. inspections to check for nuclear arms. For the first time, he talked about sending the two Lockerbie suspects to a neutral country for trial. Wire-service reporters covered El Bukhari's speech, which echoed a statement he released at the same time to The Washington Post.
But no reporters covered El Bukhari's travels afterward: to Dallas. A printout from Wyndham Travel Management Company, a travel agency owned by Lucy Billingsley, shows that El Bukhari was in Dallas the week of September 29. He came with a small entourage, including IAG's Bodine and I'Anson, as well as a Jordanian woman named Daad Sharab, identified in documents as El Bukhari's business associate.
The travel-agency printouts show that after their stay in Dallas, Bodine, I'Anson, Sharab, and a passenger listed as "Mohamed A." flew on the same September 29 American Airlines flight from Dallas-Fort Worth Airport to New York, and then on to different destinations. "Mohamed A." was booked on a flight to Tunis, the most convenient open airport, given the U.N. embargo, to Libya.
Government officials say the trip to Dallas represented a violation of El Bukhari's visa, which allowed him to travel only to Washington. But, for the Libyan, Billingsley's invitation to Texas offered an extraordinary opportunity that he was unwilling to pass up: a chance to meet President George Bush in the intimate atmosphere of Harlan Crow's Highland Park mansion. When Billingsley invited the Libyan to Texas, it had been arranged for El Bukhari to appear on a guest list to attend an exclusive reelection fundraiser there for President Bush on the evening of September 28. General Brent Scowcroft, the U.S. National Security Advisor, and Robert Teeter, chairman of the Bush reelection committee, would also be present.
But as it turned out, Billingsley had overreached his ability to exploit even the Crow family's potent political connections. When shocked government officials discovered that a Libyan was on the guest list, they killed the idea, citing security concerns.
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.
But Crow's camping party was less than two weeks away. Billingsley needed to make alternative arrangements.
El Bukhari never obtained a visa to come to Texas for Trammell Crow's affair. But he showed up at the Crow farm anyway--and it ap-pears he did so with Henry Billingsley's help.
Prosecutors are investigating whether Billingsley slipped El Bukhari into Texas through Mexico. Billingsley's datebook notes a flight for "HB, Bill & Big Mo"--presumably Henry Billingsley, Bill Bodine, and Mohamed El Bukhari--to return to Dallas from Harlingen on Southwest Airlines at 2:15 p.m. on October 29. Southwest Airlines tickets were issued for the same flight; records obtained by the Observer show ticket receipts list the passengers as Bodine, "Billingsworth," and "Rowe."
A car-rental receipt for the same day reflects that Billings-ley leased a four-door Chevrolet Caprice from an Avis outlet at Harlingen's Valley International Airport. If El Bukhari was indeed picked up in Mexico, Billingsley would have needed a car to drive there from Harlingen.
When he finally arrived at Trammell Crow's annual affair, El Bukhari could choose among four-wheel motorcycle trips, canoeing, pistol shooting, fishing, and even quiet games of backgammon and dominos. By design, the farm party is an informal affair. "No names are used and no cards are handed out," recalls London banker Randy Dumas, who attended the 1992 event. "It's almost taboo to talk business there."
But one document indicates El Bukhari pursued more than games during the weekend at Crow's Mill Creek Farm. A "Confidential Meeting Summary Report" discovered in Billingsley's office details a private two-hour discussion on October 31 that included El Bukhari, Bodine, Trammell Crow, and former National Security Council Advisor Robert McFarlane.
The three-page unsigned memo indicates that the group discussed extensively how to advance the Libyan's political interests--and suggests that McFarlane embraced the opportunity to provide counsel to the Libyans. "McFarlane stated he could and would help solve the current Lockerbie problem because he had good influence with both the highest levels of the Bush administration as well as those who were expected to be the key people in any new Clinton administration," the account stated.
At the meeting, the document states, Crow summarized his talks with Scowcroft and Richard Haas. "Crow further stated that he had spoken with Scowcroft a second time at which time Scowcroft indicated that the papers [Crow brought with him about the Libyans' concerns] had been passed directly to President Bush and James Baker," the document states.
About his meeting with El Bukhari, Robert McFarlane, now chairman of his own Washington consulting firm and author of a memoir about his involvement in the arms-for-hostages scandal, says, "I have a quite foggy recollection. I don't recall my dialogue about it." McFarlane adds that he holds "a personal animus" about conducting affairs with Libyans, insisting, "I was certainly not witting that there was any use of my name" in connection with inviting El Bukhari to Crow's farm.
On November 5, Billingsley dispatched a package to Sharab. "Enclosed are pictures for you and Big Mo," he wrote El Bukhari's associate. "I know you will put them to good use."
Two weeks later, Billingsley invited El Bukhari to return to Dallas. "As I mentioned to you when you were at the Camp-out in October," he told the Libyan in a November 19 letter, "We are going to have some of the same people in Dallas between December 10th and 17th. There will also be some lawyers here who specialize in the areas in which you have an interest. As these people are going to be here, I believe it would be beneficial if you also be here to explain the current position of your country."
For his part, El Bukhari offered his own kind words, including his gracious November 20, 1992, note to the elder Crow.
"You have been open and fair in carrying our message to the highest levels of the US government," wrote El Bukhari, after thanking the Texas developer in a one-page letter marked "confidential." "Most of all, you have given us hope and encouragement as we seek to do all we can do in solving the Lockerbie problem."
El Bukhari urged Crow to redouble his efforts. "While at this time we recognize your long standing friendship with and access to top level of officials, including Presidents of both parties, we earnestly request that you make an extra effort for us with the Bush administration during its remaining days and especially before December 15, 1992," when the United Nations was scheduled to review the sanctions.
"...May God Almighty bless you in your efforts at this time," El Bukhari wrote. "We will forever be grateful for your efforts at this time."
Documents show that members of the Crow family were planning their own foreign travel to further cultivate relations with their new friends.
According to an unsigned "Confidential Meeting Summary Report," Trammell Crow had hosted El Bukhari, Billingsley, and Bodine at his Highland Park mansion on October 30--before leaving for the camp-out at Crow's Mill Creek Farm in East Texas. The report of their 90-minute discussion noted: "Mr. Crow concluded his comments by stating that he wished to accept El Bukhari's invitation to go to Libya and that he would plan to do so between January and February 1993. Crow indicated he would want to bring his wife as well as Henry and Lucy Billingsley."
It is not clear whether any members of the Crow family ever traveled to Libya.
But on December 30, the Billingsleys applied for visas to fly to Amman, Jordan, between January 10 and 17, 1993, for the purpose of attending a wedding, according to their application. On their visa application, the Billingsleys listed the address of the Sharab Trading Company--owned by the family of El Bukhari's Jordanian associate, Daad Sharab--in the line that called for their residence while visiting Jordan.
The Billingsleys were also apparently lobbying the senior Crows to continue offering the utmost courtesy to the Libyan and his entourage. A note from Lucy's January 17, 1993, Dicta-phone transcriptions says: "Need to draft a thank you note from Mom to Mohammed and then ship it over to Mom & Dorothy-I don't know if she wants to call him Minister or Mohammed or whatever...Your beautiful silver gifts were somewhat delayed in their arrival in Dallas, thus my belated thank you note. It is certainly a pleasure to collect beautiful items from across the world and you're so kind to have enriched our home with these quality and representative gifts from your country."
While the Crows and Billingsleys were still trading pleasantries with El Bukhari, the man who had brought them together--Bodine--had begun to run afoul of the Libyan's Jordanian associate, Sharab. Letters show Sharab wanted to cut Bodine out of the deal, work directly with Billingsley instead. In an April 4, 1993, letter to Dallas attorney Timothy Powers, Sharab was unequivocal. "As of this date if you need to contact me, please do so through Mr Henry Billingsby [sic]," Sharab wrote. "Mr Bodine no longer represents my interests in the United States."
The same day, Sharab had sent a letter to Bodine, detailing her ire--and, at the same time, laying out how she and El Bukhari, working together, had used Bodine to employ the attorney, Powers, to structure a corporation that could make business deals in the U.S. Sharab laid out what she called "the sequence of events and the instructions you have received from Mr Bokhari [sic] and myself.
"[An] agreement was reached with Mr Powers to set up the U.S. Corporation and a retainer for the sum of $30,000 was to be paid to Mr. Powers." Sharab said she had paid Powers $15,000 herself, but had later given Bodine the remaining $15,000 "in the presence of Mr Bokhari" to pass along to Powers. Sharab also accused Bodine of failing to return an overpayment of $71,000 she had made directly to his firm.
Bodine replied the next day. "You[r] statement is not quite accurate," he wrote Sharab in a note that was also sent to Billingsley. "You will see from the enclosed copy of a $15,000 cash receipt that Henry Billingsley made the payment directly to Timothy Powers. If you had, in fact, 'paid the sum of $15,000 to Mr. Powers during my visit to Dallas,' as you state in your FAX, my $15,000 cash payment through Henry Billingsley would have then totaled $30,000...Your payment to Powers plus mine...Perhaps, you can confirm that you have a receipt from Mr. Powers...Having said this, however, you can be sure that the balance which I had been given to hold to execute agent's activities will be paid to Mr. Powers directly."
In closing, Bodine tried to smooth over their differences and reassert a working relationship with his client. "You should have no doubt that we remain committed to our joint activities," he wrote.
Later in 1993, both Billingsley and Bodine learned that a federal grand jury was investigating their business dealings. Bodine's lawyer was subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury.
Federal agents raided Billingsley's office; he later acknowledged to U.S. News that prosecutors had questioned him.
An opinion issued last July by the District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals provides insight into the status of the investigation, which has received little coverage except for the stories in U.S. News. The opinion--which addresses issues of evidence and attorney-client privilege--is written without reference to specific names because the investigation into Libyan influence-peddling is still pending before a grand jury.
But paired with other documents obtained by the Dallas Observer, it reveals that Bodine confirmed to prosecutors last year that he had entered into a consulting agreement with Libya through a foreign company that he established precisely to avoid U.S. sanctions against doing business with that country. Bodine told the prosecutors that he entered into that contract in September 1992--the period when Henry Billingsley, with Bodine's help, began his contacts with Mohamed El Bukhari.
The mushrooming federal probe may well have thwarted the Crow family's hopes to sell land to the Libyans. The plan may have collapsed of its own accord.
It is also possible that El Bukhari was never a serious prospect for the $200 million package of real estate that Henry Billingsley was hawking. With everyone acutely conscious of the sweeping U.S. trade sanctions, there are no documents directly linking Billingsley's marketing of land to the Libyan official. And the complex web of middlemen--Bodine, I'Anson, Sharab, and Powers--blurs the precise nature of the relationship between the Crow family and Moammar al-Qadhafi's government.
Yet there is plenty to chew on in the bizarre affair of the Crow family's dalliance with a dictator's regime.
If they were not hoping to do a deal, why did the Crows go to such lengths, seek to pull so many strings, to befriend a government that is anathema to the Western world? Did this conservative Republican Texas family simply develop an abiding sympathy for the nation whose leader President Reagan once dubbed "Mad Dog"?
And if the Crows were seeking to do a deal, why did they so brazenly exploit their powerful political relationships to make it happen? Were they so desperate for the money?
"Arabs," sneered Chuck Dyer, Henry Billingsley's friend, reflecting on the affair. "They never buy anything. They are big talk and no cattle. They all look rich on paper. But they talk to you about a deal, you don't hear from them for months, and then they call you up and want a favor."
What's remarkable in this case is that Trammell Crow and Henry Billingsley were so very willing to do so many favors.