WAS THE USA CIA BEHIND ROBERT CRIBB (aka: Rocky Cribb) + RON REWALD’S OFFLEDGER MONEY LAUNDERING SCHEME REFERRED TO AS THE MAORI LOAN AFFAIR (or Hawaiian loans affair) of 1986 + 1987 in New Zealand?
BACKGROUND: Māori loan affair
The Māori loan affair (or Hawaiian loans affair) of 1986 and 1987 in New Zealand was an unauthorised attempt by the Department of Māori Affairs (today called Te Puni Kōkiri) to raise money overseas for Māori development. The affair was first raised in Parliament on 16 December 1986 with a question from opposition National MP Winston Peters about loan negotiations; the revelations dumbfounded ministers; and the House adjourned on 18 December. Peters was reluctant to share all his information with the State Services Commission chairman Roderick Deane or Peters’ National Party leader Jim Bolger, and Bolger then downplayed the affair. Peters was getting information from an informant in Wetere’s office and from Rotorua businessman Rocky Cribb. Peters was first advised of the affair by Edwin Perry an associate of Cribb and like Cribb a National Party member. The affair helped Peters’ promotion to the frontbench after the 1987 election.
Members of the Fourth Labour Government were divided on the action to be taken, with Prime Minister David Lange, Lange’s staff, and his deputy Geoffrey Palmer wanting the resignation of Koro Wētere as Minister of Māori Affairs and from his seat in Parliament (Wētere would have had to face a by-election in an election year), though Cabinet decided against this on 9 February. Hence as Bassett later wrote, “Several ministers would agree in later years, however that it was about the time of the Māori loans affair that cabinet solidarity began to fall apart.” Finance Minister Roger Douglas later recounted that the “hostilities” within the Cabinet began with the Māori loans affair.
At the beginning of 1987 a Television New Zealand report from Hawaii claimed a link with the CIA and suggested an American attempt to destabilise the Labour government because of its anti-nuclear policy, although Palmer thought the matter involved incompetence in the department.
The loan, supposedly of $NZ 600 million of Middle Eastern petrodollars (including a “finder’s fee” of $NZ 20 million), was to be used to set up a Māori Resource Development Corporation which would use Māori labour to prefabricate houses for export. The Secretary of Māori Affairs, Tamati Reedy, was negotiating as Māori Trustee, but had been counselled against the proposed loan by Graham Scott of Treasury in November. Senior departmental officials had attended a series of meetings in Hawaii, and been introduced to the participants by Rocky Cribb, a businessman from Rotorua.
Roderick Deane, the Chairman of the State Services Commission, was asked to investigate, and when he uncovered evidence of departmental incompetence produced a fuller report on Christmas Eve. Sometimes working through the night, he found that “some ministers” had known about the negotiations but failed to stop it, and Reedy’s signing of a document headed “Unconditional and Irrevocable Fee Agreement” was unauthorised and contrary to Treasury advice.
The terms of 4% interest over 25 years were not believable; the money according to a telex from the embassy in Washington was probably laundered, fraudulent or non-existent; and the supposed source of the loan, one Achmed Omar of the Kuwaiti royal family did not exist. The loan was for $US 300 million, and papers released suggested that the proposal would use Māori land as collateral, and that as well as the 3.5% fee to Gicondi there would also be a 2.5% fee for Raepelle, totalling 6%. Trevor de Cleene suggested that the money source might be Ferdinand Marcos who was then living in Hawaii.
The first interest payment would have been $24 million; David Lange, who was in his element, told a hui, “You tell me the kids are out in the streets …. the next minute you tell me you can finance $24 million”. Activist Titewhai Harawira told Lange that “the Māori people needed far more than $600 million, and the government should let them borrow it”.
The principal was Max Raepple a “self-styled German financier” with a friend Michael Gisondi. Raepple had arrived in New Zealand in January, and on 21 January Lange took a swipe at “some of the Māori whingers and activists (with) something of a cargo cult mentality which is an utter betrayal of what Māori enterprise is about” and “self-appointed activists in international finance ranging from undischarged bankrupts to lapsed priests and all sorts of people who accept the bona fides of (Raepelle) who will not allow his credentials to even be read by a newspaper”. Bassett commented that “the likes of Eva Rickard, Sonny Waru, Ken Mair and Eru Potaka Dewes who were strutting about, knew little about business”.
Journalists investigated (Rocky) Cribb, the supposed Hawaiian bankers, the shadowy Europeans Max Raepple and Michael Gisondi, and their Māori connections. Deane discovered through his international bank contacts that “Both the Europeans, it transpired, were specialists in phoney money schemes, and at Cabinet on 20 January 1987, Lange entertained ministers with lurid accounts of Gisondi’s activities”. Lange wrote that the story “had the lot: con artists, Hawaiian middlemen and shady Middle Eastern financiers”.
Gerald Hensley, the head of the Prime Minister’s Department, wrote that a small group from the Reserve Bank, Police, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and intelligence agencies helped by the FBI and Washington’s currency protection office investigated the people involved and uncovered “a convoluted rat-run of money-launderers, criminals and snake-oil salesman who had descended on the Pacific and our own Māori Affairs Department in the wake of the petrodollar boom”. They were variants of the “brokered loan confidence game”. The Arab connection was said to be a former Kuwaiti finance minister, plus other rogues like a retired Air Force general who was a “playboy and drunk”, someone hinting of links to the CIA, a fashionable interior decorator and other “convicted fraudsters, bankrupts and promoters of collapsed companies”.
Raepple “was regarded by overseas currency and fraud protection services with a marked distaste increased by the fact that in a series of dubious operations no one had been able to fasten a criminal conviction on him”. He operated in the Pacific; in July 1986 in the Cooks as a “Californian philanthropist with an interest in low-cost housing”, then in Vanuatu offering to raise funds from Middle East sources for a new airport, then a fiasco in Tonga over an unbuilt “Crown Prince Hotel”, and talk of setting up an “International Bank of the South Pacific”. Lange suggested in Parliament that Raepple was the same man as one Werner Rohrich, who did have a police record.
Koro Wētere the Minister of Māori Affairs “appeared to give the go-ahead” to the Secretary (Reedy) as Māori Trustee to negotiate with an “American (sic) financier”; and although Wētere claimed that the loan had been cleared with the Minister of Finance Roger Douglas, Douglas had no recollection of any agreement. Wētere “denied all knowledge of the plan” to Palmer according to Lange and to Pope, but Geoffrey Palmer wrote that the Minister “did not consent to the raising of any loan” and “knocked the idea on the head when he learned the full import of what was going on”. There were suggestions that Wētere had known of the proposal as long ago as 21 October 1986, and that a trip he was to make to Hawaii in December was to discuss the proposal as well as to attend the new Hawaiian Governor’s inauguration.
Deane had found evidence of “considerable chaos” in the department, and discussed with Lange whether to remove Reedy and restructure the department; however, as this would involve firing Wētere as well, Lange baulked. Reedy and his deputy, Neville Baker were suspended for a time, but restructuring of the Māori Affairs Department was put on hold. In January when a large group claiming that Māori were not being treated fairly by Deane and demanded to see the Minister (Wētere), Deane, at the urging of his deputy Don Hunn, arranged a full day of discussion with food and cups of tea at the State Services Commission building. Eventually feelings were calmer and relations more friendly.
Lange flew to Napier and Wanganui on the weekend of 7 & 8 February to consult Māori leaders; supposedly on a secret flight, he was greeted at Wanganui Airport by a guard of honour from territorials exercising there. On his trip he was given the message from Māori leaders outside parliament that what had happened was deplorable but Wetere should be supported, so he “started 1987 by inventing defences for the minister”. Lange publicly declared that the minister had acted “unwisely” (in writing a note of support for Cribb). At a meeting of Māori leaders Lange had convened at Palmer’s request, something close to a fist fight broke out in front of him; Palmer handed him a note which said “I am not of this planet” and left the room.
Lange told Wētere on his return that the Māori leaders he had consulted favoured his resignation and a by-election, and Wētere offered to resign. Lange’s own account says that Wetere’s future was in the balance, but does not mention that he wanted Wētere to resign as minister (to be replaced by Peter Tapsell) and also to resign his seat and fight a by-election. Prebble and Douglas got wind of this strategy on the evening of 8 February. So Cabinet on 9 February held a lengthy discussion and the resignation proposal was rejected, with only four ministers in favour (Lange and Palmer plus Russell Marshall and Margaret Shields). Douglas told Wētere at the Cabinet meeting that “I don’t want to see you on television every night for the next four weeks of a by-election campaign talking about Māori loans that weren’t raised when there are ever so many more important matters before us in election year”. Prebble said “Better to talk about the $7 billion that was borrowed (by Muldoon for Think Big) than about the $600 million that wasn’t”. After the cabinet meeting Lange (at the urging of his staff) defended Wētere at a press conference, saying ” … it was odd that he should be pilloried over loans that weren’t raised, when the media seemed not interested in the $7 billion that had been raised and squandered by National”.
The Ministry of Māori Affairs was headed by the Secretary of Māori Affairs Tamati Reedy and his deputy Neville Baker. Reedy was negotiating as Māori Trustee, but had been counselled against the proposed loan by Graham Scott of Treasury in November. Senior departmental officials had attended a series of meetings in Hawaii. The local middleman was a businessman Rocky Cribb from Rotorua, who Wētere had given a letter of support to, and who went bankrupt. Cribb was the principal informant for Winston Peters. There were proposals to transfer Tamati Reedy to the new Māori Language Commission, but Reedy regarded it as a promotion warranting higher pay.
Palmer stated that the department was incompetent and “spent much of its time and energy in administering financial assistance programmes of various sorts”. The saga ended before anything happened, but negative media coverage intensified. Jim Callaghan, the recently retired Secretary for Justice was brought in to bring some order to the department. Palmer noted that it was no longer possible for Cabinet’s decisions safely to be communicated to Māori Affairs because the minutes went straight to the press.
Lange and Douglas had seen the need for a competently run Māori business development arm, and also for a reorganisation of the “shambles” in the Māori Affairs Department. Departmental reorganisation was postponed, but on 10 February 1987 the government resolved in principle to establish a Māori Development Corporation, and this was done in the 1987 budget. Later Bassett said that ministers adopted a double standards of expectation where Māori were concerned, and standards of accountability for the expenditure public money by many Māori groups remained foreign. Problems included MANA Enterprise established by the department in 1985 which was “mired in accusations of mismanagement”.
and more BACKGROUND: PROFILE – Ron Rewald
Ronald Rewald (September 24, 1942 – December 2017) was a former Hawaii investment advisor, professional football player and self-described CIA agent who was convicted of wire fraud and mail fraud in 1985.
According to Rewald, he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, then spent a year working for the CIA monitoring underground anti-government activity at the University of Wisconsin–Madison before leaving the CIA and attending Marquette University, where he played football. There is evidence that this was a fabrication and that he only attended Milwaukee Area Technical College.
Rewald’s football skills did attract interest from professional teams in the National and American Football Leagues. He signed with the Cleveland Browns in 1965 and trained with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1966. In 1965 Rewald played halfback for the West Allis Racers in the Central States Football League while on a one-year leave of absence from the Chiefs.
After his football career ended, Rewald became president of a sporting goods store in Wisconsin called College Athletic and expanded the business across Illinois, Minnesota and Ohio before selling the franchise and moving to Hawaii with his wife and five children.
Bishop, Baldwin, Rewald, Dillingham and Wong
In 1978 Rewald established an investment firm in Hawaii called “Bishop, Baldwin, Rewald, Dillingham and Wong”. The firm’s name incorporated the names of Rewald and his partner Sunlin Wong along with the names of three prominent kama’aina who had no connection with the business: Charles Reed Bishop, Henry Alexander Baldwin and Benjamin Dillingham. The firm claimed that funds were guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation up to $150,000 and that minimum returns of 20% annually were guaranteed. (As the firm was not a chartered bank it was not eligible for FDIC insurance.)
In 1983, the Internal Revenue Service began an investigation of Rewald when his firm’s false FDIC insurance claims were discovered. On July 29, 1983, Rewald attempted suicide at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel, allegedly because the media was on the verge of exposing his background. Six days later, the company was forced into bankruptcy. Rewald was arrested on August 8, 1983, immediately after his release from the hospital, and was charged with theft by deception. He was held in lieu of $10 million bail. He faced 98 charges and a maximum of 400 years in prison. Sunlin Wong pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years imprisonment.
In reality, the investment firm had been a Ponzi scheme. Rewald used money from new investors to pay interest to earlier investors, all the while siphoning off funds to pay for his lavish lifestyle.
In addition to its Hawaii operation, the firm had also opened a branch in Auckland, New Zealand sometime in the 1980s. New Zealand television reports have suggested that Rewald or his firm was involved in the Māori loan affair of 1986–87.
Rewald presented a surprising defense, claiming that his business had been a front for the Central Intelligence Agency. Rewald’s trial lasted for eleven weeks in 1985. 140 witnesses were called. Rewald was convicted on 94 counts of fraud, perjury, and tax evasion and sentenced to 80 years in prison.
In 1995 Rewald was released on parole from the Federal Correctional Institution on Terminal Island, California. Rewald remained on parole until 2001. In 2010, Rewald lived in Los Angeles and worked as director of operations for the APA talent agency in Beverly Hills. A company official confirmed his death to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in March 2018.
and more BACKGROUND: CON MAN OR CIA FALL GUY? – Ron Rewald
Meet Ronald Rewald. And buckle up for a Hawaiian roller coaster ride that culminates in unprecedented actions between the CIA and American broadcast television.
Where to start? Well that depends on who you ask.
Here’s the first version of the story:
Ronald Rewald was born in 1942 and grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A natural born athlete, Ron became a sought after asset as a professional football player. He signed with the Browns and trained with the Chiefs, but an ankle injury during training kept him from ever being an NFL superstar.
In the late 70’s Ron moved to Hawai’i and started an investment firm named Bishop, Baldwin, Rewald, Dillingham and Wong. Sunlin Wong was Rewald’s partner in the venture. The names Bishop, Baldwin and Dillingham were established old-money names of Hawai’i that the brave entrepreneurs put on their letter head to create the illusion of credibility. To quote one local businessman, “It was as if he arrived in Manhattan and had a firm called Rockefeller, Harriman, Cabot, Forbes and Roosevelt.”
The faux name-dropping worked apparently, as many of Hawai’i’s elite invested money with the promise of seeing a 20% return on their investment.
Of course in the end it turned out to be nothing but a common Ponzi scheme to the tune of around twenty million dollars. The con ran for a few years up until 1983, when BBRD&W met the fate that all Ponzi’s do…implosion.
Ron was living the big life. Multiple residences in paradise and rubbing elbows with Jack Lord and Governor Ariyoshi.
As the pressure mounted and the Ponzi began to crumble, Ron melted down and slit his wrists in the Sheraton Waikiki. He lived through the suicide attempt and Bishop, Baldwin, Rewald, Dillingham and Wong went bankrupt six days later.
As soon as Ron was released from the hospital, he was arrested.
Ron’s partner Sunlin Wong had been cooperating with the authorities. Wong plead guilty and did two years in a federal penitentiary.
Rewald however, was not as lucky. After a gruesome eleven week trial involving over 140 witnesses and 98 charges stemming from theft by deception, Ron was sentenced to 80 years.
He did ten years and was paroled, partly because of a back injury that landed him in a wheelchair. Today, he runs a talent agency in Los Angeles.
But that….is not even half of the story…
After his arrest, Ron claimed that the business was actually a front for several covert and less than legal operations involving the CIA.
ABC News ran a two-part story in September of 1984 bringing to light the CIA connection.
According to his story, which does have some credence by way of evidence, Ron was recruited by the CIA while attending the Milwaukee Institute of Technology. They placed Ron in a project code named MH Chaos, which served the purpose of spying on the counter culture movement thriving on college campuses across the nation during the 1960’s.
After college Ron left the CIA, got married and had five kids and enjoyed a relatively normal life in a comfortable home on Lake Michigan. For undisclosed “business reasons” Ron then moved his family to Hawai’i and started an investment firm called CMI investments. The CIA lured him back in at this time and established BBRDW as a front for its operations.
There were talks of assassination as Ron’s untoward business practices began creating attention around the firm. Or, perhaps the untoward business practices were fabricated by “The Company” in order to allow them to railroad Ron in a kangaroo court session that would lock him away out of danger. I’m no expert on CIA practices, but I tend to believe if they needed to “neutralize an asset” they would take more permanent measures.
ABC’s story drew the ire of the CIA, who denied any contact whatsoever, recent or in the past, with Ron Rewald. This led them to take unprecedented steps to discredit the ABC story. Here is part of an article from TIME magazine explaining the dealings between the CIA, the FCC, and ABC News:
The two-part investigation was bizarre by any measure. Scott Barnes, who has sometimes presented himself as a “paramilitary expert,” claimed he had taken a job as a prison guard in 1983 at the request of the CIA to watch Ronald Rewald, a Honolulu investment counselor who is under indictment for defrauding approximately 400 investors of $22 million. Barnes said that the CIA then told him, “We gotta take him out.” According to the ABC show, Rewald’s company had provided cover for several CIA operations, including the arrangement of secret arms shipments to Syria and Taiwan. The CIA denied the story, and two weeks ago ABC issued a “clarification.” Barnes had refused to take a lie-detector test, said ABC Anchor Peter Jennings, and checking showed that his “charges cannot be substantiated and we have no reason to doubt the CIA’S denial.”
ABC’s statement has not satisfied the intelligence agency, which took the unprecedented step of filing a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission. The CIA charged that ABC violated the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine by broadcasting “outlandish statements” in “reckless disregard for the truth.” (The fairness regulation requires that broadcasters “afford reasonable opportunity for the presentation of contrasting viewpoints.”) The CIA took the unusual action because the Supreme Court has indicated that federal agencies cannot sue news organizations for libel. In its complaint the CIA asked that the FCC order ABC to retract “all false allegations,” and that it consider not renewing the licenses of the stations the network owns.
So what really happened? Was Ron Rewald grasping at straws on his way to imprisonment? Did he have an imagination so rich as to implicate the CIA?
Here’s my take on it. If the CIA was not involved in any way, most people would not choose that particular organization to bring into the fray. That’s dangerous kickball.
On the other hand, if the CIA was involved, I doubt Ron Rewald would still be alive today. Like most conflicts, the true answer probably lies somewhere between the two extremes.
Comments are closed.