“Meet me under the 59th Street bridge,” Mark Garsin said after reading my interview with him about the murder of Patrice Lumumba, the Congo’s first democratically elected leader. ( SUZAN MAZUR: “Mr. Garsin from Kinshasa”)
The edge of New York at the East River?
“A few mistakes I want to change with you,” Tempelsman’s long-time man in Zaire advised in a voice message. “There’s a restaurant under the bridge. I don’t know the name.”
I wondered what the corrections could be. It was a Q&A. But I had further questions, so we fixed a meeting for coffee. Somewhere under the 59th Street bridge.
Guastavino’s occupies the space there between York and First Avenues, I would discover. It’s an expansive restaurant with blaring music and rush hour traffic just a few bricks away from you and your espresso.
I’ve been punctual in my appointments with Garsin. And he has consistently arrived early, perhaps a habit left over from the Zaire days when it was necessary to check for hidden mikes in the chandelier.
Garsin was dressed elegantly in beige tones of suede and cashmere despite a New York meltdown of the previous week’s foot of snow. He enjoys the luxury of time now that he is retired from Africa’s resource wars and the diamond intrigues of 47th Street.
And the kind of “deals” he prefers to chase these days are more along the lines of foodshopping at Harlem’s Fairway accompanied by his girlfriend Fern, who does the driving.
* * *
Garsin: Here on page six, “. . .Something you don’t understand, Lumumba was exactly a nobody.” That’s not what I meant. He might have been a very intelligent fellow. I think he was intelligent, very intelligent . . . but I don’t think he had a dream. He was not made to be a prime minister. He had not the background, the education, the instruction. . . .
Saying he was a nobody, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s my English you know. I said, “You can’t call him a Commie” or anything. I think he was politically unaffiliated . . .
Garsin: That’s what I would like to change. I don’t mean that he was an idiot absolutely not. . . .
And, the part about Omar Bongo. Bongo is Gabon. He has nothing to do with the Group of Binza. The one whose name I forgot to include in Binza was Adoula. . . . Adoula was Minister of Foreign Affairs. Adoula was a very intelligent guy. . . . He was president of the trade union or something. He had been in the mill. He had been in the political business all his life.
[Garsin said in part one of our interview that the Group of Binza was behind the Lumumba assassination — Mobutu Sese Seko, Cyrille Adoula, Albert Ndele, Justin Bomboko and Victor Nendaka (later Mobutu’s Security Chief). Namebase.org adds to the list Larry Devlin, the CIA’s Chief of Station in the Congo.]
Ludo De Witte, author of the definitive The Assassination of Lumumba, told me in a recent phone conversation that Tempelsman’s people gave protection to Cyrille Adoula when he was physically threatened in an attack in Zaire. De Witte said he didn’t include Tempelsman in the Lumumba book though because “Tempelsman’s role in Zaire up to January ’61 was very limited”.
He also said that he thinks the participation of the CIA in the assassination was “secondary”. “They helped to get Lumumba into prison,” De Witte commented, but he claimed the Belgians were behind the transport and execution. He said the American Embassy orchestrated a “push against the Lumumba forces”. As to whether Carlyle Group’s Frank Carlucci, then a Foreign Service officer at the embassy, had doubled as CIA — De Witte believes “it is difficult to make the separation”.]
Q: Janine Farrell Roberts, an Australian author, wrote a book called Blood Stained Diamonds. She mentions that after Mobutu was put in power a major diamond deal was announced with Maurice Tempelsman. That was about 1961, when you first joined the organization but before you took charge in 1963 in Zaire.
Roberts writes: “Immediately after Lumumba’s death, the Acting Prime Minister of the Congo, Adoula, announced support for a very major Tempelsman diamond deal, telegramming this to President Kennedy.”
Also, Douglas Valentine, author of the rich expose on America’s war on drugs and history of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, The Strength of the Wolf, was able to get a significant number of CIA documents declassified for his book. He’s told me there were references to diamonds all over the documents pertaining to Zaire. But you’ve said copper was much more important.
Garsin: I don’t understand what you’re telling me . . .
Q: The intelligence files, The CIA, Federal Bureau of Narcotics files regarding Zaire concerned diamonds. This would have brought Tempelsman into the picture.
Garsin: Let me tell you. I was not aware of it. Adoula was definitely helping us. But he was a very intelligent man besides helping us. He’s not the one who signed the convention with Oppenheimer. He was already gone. I think he was dead already. He died very young.
The one who was in charge at the time when we got this convention with the government of Zaire was Ndele, who was governor of the National Bank. Mobutu signed, but it is Ndele who negotiated.
Q: And it’s Nendaka who was CIA.
Garsin: Nendaka was a CIA man.
[Roberts says immediately after Mobutu came to power that, “Tempelsman became an even bigger player in the Congo recruiting his own staff from those CIA staffers that Mobutu most favored that put him in power. Mobutu also at this time gave Tempelsman, as a ‘Christmas Gift’, rich mineral resources.” She said Tempelsman then facilitated “the return of the Oppenheimers to the Congo. . . ” And she quotes historian Richard Mahoney citing a State Department memo: “Congo Diamond Deal: ‘The State Department has concluded that it is in the political interest of the US to implement this proposal.’ (2 August 1961).”
Roberts also tells of a plot against Ghana’s President Nkrumah in which “the State Department wrote a furious letter to Maurice Tempelsman saying that his office, by using an unguarded phone line, had betrayed the identity of the plotters against Nkrumah and the identity of the CIA Head of Station. The plotters seemingly were communicating to the White House via Tempelsman’s office (memorandum for the President from WW Rostow, 24 September 1961).”
Garsin has told me he will not say anything “against” Tempelsman, and that he “enjoyed every minute” of his 21 years with the company.]
Q: Doug Valentine states on page 193 of The Strength of the Wolf that Mobutu was also CIA.
Garsin: Well, they said that. Has he got the proof of that?
Q: His source on this was an interview with “Colonel Tulius Acampora, an army counterintelligence officer detached to the CIA and assigned as an advisor to the Italian Carabinieri”. Valentine writes that “CIA officer Bob Driscoll recruited Joseph Mobutu when he was Chief of Staff in the Congolese Army”, when the Belgian Congo was first independent –1960, 1961. And that “[then] CIA Director Allen Dulles sent Driscoll under commercial cover [first] to Rome”, that Driscoll was a navy commander with a sort of low-key style.
Garsin: It was quite possible.
Q: After Rome, Driscoll went to Africa. Part of his mission in Rome was to get the Communists out. Valentine said Driscoll worked out of Merrill Lynch, which not only funded CIA operations in Rome in the late 1950s, but also in Beirut and Greece. He said Merrill Lynch – Rome also laundered money for the Masons [one of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s favorite organizations].
Valentine emailed me saying: “Please ask Garsin about navy commander named Robert Driscoll.” He thinks Driscoll recruited Nendaka as well.
Garsin: What was his name?
Q: Bob Driscoll. This was around 1961. The email continues: “Mobutu was a Catholic and that’s what Driscoll played on. Reportedly the recruitment took place at night. Driscoll was taken down some river to a place in the jungle where he met Mobutu by torchlight. Very dangerous.”
So Mobutu was CIA early on.
Garsin: I do believe that he might have joined the CIA. It was not against his ideas. It’s quite possible. It’s quite probable. . . . We always suspected that he was. . . .
[De Witte told me that “we know for sure [from the Lumumba Commission, etc.] that Mobutu was paid by the Belgian Secret Service up to and after independence until he became Chief of Staff of the Congolese army” — around August, September 1960. And that “the Americans” were angling to get in on the resource wealth of Zaire, but “were in the second line”. He said “the Belgians were calling the shots in Zaire, while the Americans had influence with Nato and the UN”.]
Q: The other thing Valentine highlights regarding the Lumumba assassination — if you remember in our first conversation I mentioned that the CIA dispatched a fellow by the codename QJ/WIN for the job. QJ/WIN was supposed to recruit underworld French Corsicans who would have been involved in smuggling — drugs, diamonds, etc. — to spy on the Soviets and as assassins. Apparently the Soviets were active in the Corsican communities in Zaire.
Garsin: I didn’t know that [the Soviets were active in the Corsican communities].
Q: So the French Corsicans were involved with smuggling — drugs and diamonds. QJ/WIN was sent to Congo . . . Valentine believes he was Jose Marie Andre Mankel.
[Valentine writes in the book that the CIA’s chief of the assassination unit, William K. Harvey, was told: “Soviets were operating in Africa among nationality groups, specifically Corsicans [italics added], and that he was being asked to spot, assess, and recommend some dependable, quick-witted persons for our use.”
Harvey refers to QJ/WIN as FNU Mankel (Federal Narcotics Undercover?). Mankel may have been the person referred to in the records as a “multilingual bar owner in Florence, acquainted with Belgium’s criminal milieu, and thus suitable for work in the Congo . . .” QJ/WIN was later caught “smuggling nickel behind the Iron Curtain”, according to Valentine, and then fired as an agent in ’64.
De Witte told me that QJ/WIN was smuggling diamonds out of Zaire in the 1960s. He confirmed that drug smuggling was going on in Zaire at the time as well. But De Witte agrees with author Richard Mahoney that QJ/WIN was Mozes Maschkivitzan, a Russian emigre who lived in Luxembourg, partly because of a reference to QJ/WIN as “the Luxembourger” in a communique.]
Garsin: May I tell you something. Before the 1980s there were few diamonds coming out of Zaire. I’m talking about smuggling. Very few. You had Miniere du Congo. . . . I never heard about large amounts that disappeared. That came later when they start digging. And then they start digging in Bujimai and then they found diamonds near Kisangali. No Stanleyville . . . Ah — then it became a big business. Until then there was very little diamond smuggling in Zaire.
Q: And the drug situation you said was not very apparent.
Garsin: There was some smuggling sure. But there was nothing that big. They made it bigger than it was.
Q: Because President Kennedy was interested in African countries jump starting their economies. JFK wanted to give a pass to certain African countries on the production of narcotics.
[Valentine says “newly elected president John F. Kennedy requested” Federal Bureau of Narcotics chief Harry Anslinger to sign the UN’s Single Convention with the knowledge that one of its provisions “allowed several African nations to raise revenue by growing opium for export”.]
Garsin: I think there was a bit of smuggling. . . . Yeah there was some. I’m not disputing. But there was nothing that big.
Garsin: They were selling it to the middlemen in Zaire who had some kind of European connection. And nothing very complicated to smuggle diamonds.
I also want to clarify something about Mobutu. Mobutu was damned intelligent. . . . He’s the one who made one country of the Congo. Tried to make one country of those 230 different tribes. He nearly did it. It’s amazing what he did. Nobody recognized it. Because at the end he made a mess of everything with the sorcellerie [witchcraft]. He made a mess of it. But he was damned good to start with.
You don’t like the idea of a dictator, I understand that. He was a dictator. There’s no doubt about it. And he intended to rule like that [slams table]. There’s no doubt about it. But maybe it was not such a bad idea at the time. Look what’s happening now. . . .
Anyway, Africa — I’ll miss it forever.
SUZAN MAZUR covered developments in science and technology in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia in the 1980s for Omni magazine. Her reports have also appeared in the Financial Times, Economist, Forbes, Newsday, Philadelphia Inquirer, and on PBS, CBC and MBC. She has been a guest on McLaughlin, Charlie Rose and various Fox television programs. Email: email@example.com.