KAS Enterprises

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David Stirling founded the security company KAS Enterprises in 1986, appointing Ian Crooke as managing director.

Project Lock

In 1987 Stirling and Crooke approached Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands and Dr John Hanks of the World Wildlife Fund about an anti-poaching project in Africa - Project Lock. After an intelligence-gathering phase in 1988, the active phase of the project got underway in 1989.[1]

Dr Hanks told The Independent in 1991 that he had put a proposal to Prince Bernhard in 1987:

Dr Hanks pointed out to Prince Bernhard that while millions of pounds were spent protecting rhino, little was done to halt the horn traffic. According to Dr Hanks, Prince Bernhard said it would be an extremely dangerous and sensitive subject, and made it clear that it would not only be contrary to WWF policy to fund such work directly but also that it would be undesirable for it to be seen as being even remotely connected with such activities.
Prince Bernhard agreed to fund the operation in a private capacity and on the strict condition that the WWF should not be involved or even told about it. But according to documents obtained by The Independent, the WWF Director-General, Charles de Haes, knew from the start about Dr Hanks' plans to investigate the trade.[2]

Exactly who came up with original idea is not clear. According to The Independent, Hanks commissioned KAS Enterprises, whose chairman David Stirling claimed to have been thinking on similar lines:

He claimed that, in company with some friends in Britain, he had conceived a dual strategy for Southern Africa. One was a project to conserve wildlife, and the second a plan to persuade South Africa's white rulers that they could enjoy security under black majority rule. In November 1987, Lieutenant-Colonel Ian Crooke, managing director of KAS Enterprises Ltd and a former officer in the SAS, submitted his preliminary proposals to John Hanks of WWF. Dr Hanks forwarded these to Prince Bernhard, who paid the first instalment of an eventual pounds 500,000.[3]
Although the initial aim was to gather intelligence, it developed into a more ambitious project to employ former SAS men for paramilitary anti-poaching work throughout Southern Africa and purchased equipment from the South African Defence Force. At least pounds 75,000 of Prince Bernhard's donation was used for the purchase of rhino horn.[4]
Ian Crooke and a team of a dozen ex-SAS members established themselves in South Africa, where they organized a safe house and set up computer database containing their accumulated intelligence. It was then that their problems really began. The team established cordial relations with various South African agencies based on mutual self-help, which immediately made them suspect to Black Africans.[5]

According to The Independent, weapons for the project were purchased from the South African Defence Force, whose own personnel were themselves implicated in the ivory trade. It's South African links undermined attempts to work elsewhere in Africa.

KAS also tried to persuade officials in several other African countries to pass on information concerning the horn trade to the project and to employ KAS to train game wardens. But it appears officials in most of these countries were suspicious of the project because of its South African connections and turned down the offer. KAS is known to have approached conservation officials in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Tanzania and Kenya. Nevertheless, KAS succeeded in working with Zimbabwean game warders and funding a helicopter for anti-poaching operations in the Zambezi Valley.
In Namibia, KAS trained an anti- poaching team in mid-1989, when South African forces were being demobilised prior to independence elections. The trainees almost certainly included members of Koevoet (Crowbar), the South African counter-insurgency unit. KAS also trained game wardens for Mozambique inside South Africa.
Although Operation Lock itself is now defunct, the paramilitary training of game wardens is continuing in South African tribal homelands. Some youths have complained that after being recruited as nature conservation officers, they have in fact been trained as soldiers at secret military sites.[6]

The project was reportedly infiltrated by South African military intelligence.

The South African military intelligence feared that KAS might be an arm of British intelligence or, as an anti-smuggling operation, turn up something embarrassing to its government. Accordingly, Michael Richards, a former South African policemen who had been recruited by the Counter Intelligence Directorate of Military Intelligence, was asked to make himself indispensable to KAS in South Africa, where the company had set up two safe houses. His cover involved using a false name, papers and credit cards.
In a document dated August 21, 1989, six months after his successful penetration and headed World Wild Life Project, Mr Richards said Col Crooke and Kenneth Edwards, a London businessman, were responsible for operations in South Africa. He said the basic operational rule was that no action was to be taken without the express knowledge of the two men and without their permission.
The headquarters of KAS were in South Audley Street, London, and one of the South African safe houses was in Duff Road, Parkdown, Johannesburg, where computers tracked operations.[7].

Richards warned his counterintelligence bosses that Operation Lock could learn about operations by South Africa and its Renamo and Unita allies. However, he also claimed that Col. Crooke had offered to monitor South African opponents.

In January 1991 an investigation by the Reserve Bank of Africa into alleged illegal currency deals led to Mr Richards. In a statement justifying his deals, he described how he infiltrated the British group on the orders of military intelligence.
In the course of Operation Lock, KAS came across the smuggling of arms and ammunition, movement of criminals and terrorists and drug dealing. This information was traded with the South African authorities, and it was during this follow-up work that Mr Richards claimed he became involved in money laundering operations.
He said in the statement that during the latter part of 1989 he became aware "that the British group was suffering internal problems.[8]
...In July 1989 the whole operation was blown wide open, allegedly as a result of Ian Crooke's indiscretion. A local Reuters correspondent issued a report which insinuated that Project Lock was an undercover operation designed to designed to destabilise certain Black African states , funded by South Africa and using as operatives ex-SAS mercenaries.[9]

The Independent reported that Prince Bernhard and Dr Hanks withdrew from the project in 1989 and that KAS ceased trading in 1990, having failed to account for its funding, equipment or the Rhino horn it had purchased.[10]

The World Wildlife Fund subsequently said that its management had not approved Operation Lock and had no role in funding it:

The truth, which has never come out publicly, is found in a series of communications from Frans Stroebel, executive director of WWF's South African affiliate when Operation Lock commenced. Stroebel wrote to Prince Philip: "I have given Mr de Haes a number of comprehensive briefings on the project since I first became involved. In May 1989, I gave him full details. He then went to HRH Prince Bernhard to confirm that Prince Bernhard was indeed the sponsor. Mr de Haes satisfied himself with the developments, and in subsequent discussions with me he never expressed any concern about my involvement, or, for that matter, the covert program itself." In another letter, Stroebel said: "The funds for Operation Lock were actually WWF funds". The money had come to WWF-International, then was channelled back out to Prince Bernhard for Operation Lock in a series of strange transactions. First, in December 1989, Sotheby's auctioned two paintings owned by the prince _ `The Holy Family', a seven-by-five-foot oil by Bartolome Esteban Murillo, and `The Rape of Europe', a four-by-five-foot oil by Elisabetta Sirani _ for a total of $A1.3 million. On Prince Bernhard's instructions the proceeds were donated to WWF-International; Sotheby's had noted in its catalogue that they would be. But if the buyer _ who remains anonymous _ thought the money was going towards WWF's general conservation work, he was mistaken. Within a few weeks after the sale, Prince Bernhard called the administrator of the 1001 Club and asked her to transfer $1.1 million from the 1001 Club account to Queen Juliana's account in the Netherlands. The money was needed for Operation Lock, according to Stroebel, and de Haes "agreed to the use of these funds as requested".[11]

National Car Parks

The head of National Car Parks hired KAS Enterprises to engage in industrial espionage against rival Europarks UK, it was claimed in a 1993 court case.

Material was rifled from directors' dustbins, ex-SAS men gained undercover jobs in Europark's car parks and former army captain Jane Turpin was given a fake cv to get a secretary's job, the jury was told.
Mr David Paget, prosecuting, said the operation was masterminded by Gordon Layton, 56, deputy chairman and chief executive of NCP, Britain's biggest car park company. He allegedly paid KAS Enterprises, a security firm, to infiltrate Europarks.
The jury heard the operation was initially carried out by Colonel Ian Crooke, another former SAS man, who could not be prosecuted because he is now living in South Africa.
In the dock with Layton is Simon Hewitt, who took over the day-to-day running of KAS when Crook left.[12]

Demise

Anthony Kemp states that KAS was wound up in February 1991, three months' after Stirling's death.[13] However, the Guardian reported in 1997 that the company was taken over by Sir James Goldsmith after Stirling's death.[14]

People

References

  1. The SAS: Savage Wars of Peace, 1947 to the Present, by Anthony Kemp, John Murray (publishers) Ltd, 1994, pp202-205.
  2. Prince paid thousands into wildlife sting, Stephen Ellis, The Independent, 8 January 1991.
  3. Prince paid thousands into wildlife sting, Stephen Ellis, The Independent, 8 January 1991.
  4. Prince paid thousands into wildlife sting, Stephen Ellis, The Independent, 8 January 1991.
  5. The SAS: Savage Wars of Peace, 1947 to the Present, by Anthony Kemp, John Murray (publishers) Ltd, 1994, pp203-204.
  6. Prince paid thousands into wildlife sting, Stephen Ellis, The Independent, 8 January 1991.
  7. WEB OF AFRICAN INTRIGUE FOILS IVORY PLOT, by Paul Brown, The Guardian, 2 March 1992.
  8. WEB OF AFRICAN INTRIGUE FOILS IVORY PLOT, by Paul Brown, The Guardian, 2 March 1992.
  9. The SAS: Savage Wars of Peace, 1947 to the Present, by Anthony Kemp, John Murray (publishers) Ltd, 1994, p204.
  10. Prince paid thousands into wildlife sting, Stephen Ellis, The Independent, 8 January 1991.
  11. A Princely Scandal, by Raymond Bonner, Sunday Age, 11 April 1993.
  12. Ex-SAS soldiers were NCP spies, by Adrian Shaw, Evening Standard, 18 January 1993.
  13. The SAS: Savage Wars of Peace, 1947 to the Present, by Anthony Kemp, John Murray (publishers) Ltd, 1994, p204.
  14. SAS linked to Pretoria rogue force, by David Beresford, Manchester Guardian Weekly, 9 February 1997.