If House Speaker Dennis Hastert were really concerned about drug profits being laundered into the U.S. political process, he would not be sliming billionaire financier George Soros with that suspicion. Hastert would be looking at a principal conservative funder: South Korean theocrat Sun Myung Moon.
While Hastert was unable to cite a shred of evidence that the liberal Soros is funneling illicit money, there is a substantial body of evidence that Moon has long commanded a criminal enterprise with close ties to Asian and South American drug lords. The evidence includes first-hand accounts of money laundering disclosed by Moon confidantes and even family members. Besides those more recent accounts, Moon was convicted of tax fraud based on evidence developed in the late 1970s about his money-laundering activities.
Since serving his tax-evasion sentence in the early 1980s, however, Moon appears to have bought himself protection by spreading hundreds of millions of dollars around conservative causes and through generous speaking fee payments to Republican leaders, including former President George H.W. Bush.
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Moon himself has boasted that he spent $1 billion on the right-wing Washington Times in its first decade alone. The newspaper, which started in 1982, continues to lose Moon an estimated $50 million a year but remains a valuable propaganda organ for the Republican Party.
How Moon has managed to cover the vast losses of his media empire and pay for lavish conservative conferences has been one of the most enduring mysteries of Washington, but curiously one of the least investigated – at least since the Reagan-Bush era.
Limited investigations of Moon’s organization have revealed large sums of money flowing into the United States mostly from untraceable accounts in Japan, where Moon had close ties to yakuza gangster Ryoichi Sasakawa. Former Moon associates also have revealed major money flows from shadowy sources in South America, where Moon built relationships with right-wing elements associated with the cocaine trade, including the so-called Cocaine Coup government of Bolivia in the early 1980s.
But Hastert, an Illinois Republican, made news at the Republican National Convention by suggesting that liberal funder Soros may be fronting for foreign “drug groups.” In a Fox News appearance, Hastert said, “You know, I don’t know where George Soros gets his money. I don’t know where – if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from.…”
Soros demanded an apology for the smear. “Your recent comments implying that I am receiving funds from drug cartels are not only untrue, but also deeply offensive,” Soros said in a letter. “You do a discredit to yourself and to the dignity of your office by engaging in these dishonest smear tactics. You should be ashamed.”
A Bush-Style Warning
Hastert and other Republicans seem to have targeted Soros because he has helped finance liberal activist groups that have engaged in voter registration drives and run TV ads criticizing George W. Bush. Hastert and other Bush loyalists could be laying down a marker that people who finance anti-Bush politics can expect to have their reputations destroyed and possibly become subjects of federal investigations.
Yet for Moon, despite his criminal record and eyewitness accounts of his money-laundering activities, opposite rules apply. Republicans – who now control the Executive Branch, the Congress and the federal judiciary – protect Moon and his money from any serious examination. (I detail Moon’s history of money laundering and organized-crime associations in my forthcoming book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq.)
Moon’s criminal associations go back to the early days of his Unification Church when South Korean intelligence saw the church as a means to conduct covert operations. Kim Jong-Pil, who founded South Korea’s KCIA in 1961, became closely associated with Moon’s church during a transitional phase as the institution evolved from an obscure Korean sect into a powerful international organization.
In the early 1960s, Kim Jong-Pil also was in charge of talks to improve bilateral relations with Japan, Korea’s historic enemy. Those talks put Kim Jong-Pil in touch with two other important figures in the Far East, Japanese rightists Yoshio Kodama and Ryoichi Sasakawa, both of whom were jailed after World War II as war criminals but were later released. The pair grew rich from their association with the yakuza, an organized crime syndicate that profited off drug smuggling, gambling and prostitution in Japan and Korea. Behind the scenes, Kodama and Sasakawa became power-brokers in Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Immediately after Kim Jong-Pil opened the door to Kodama and Sasakawa in late 1962, 50 leaders of an ultra-nationalist Japanese Buddhist sect converted en masse to the Unification Church. According to David E. Kaplan and Alec Dubro in their authoritative book, Yakuza, “Sasakawa became an adviser to Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Japanese branch of the Unification Church” and collaborated with Moon in building far-right anti-communist organizations in Asia.
Authors Scott Anderson and Jon Lee Anderson wrote in their 1986 book, Inside the League, that Sun Myung Moon was one of five indispensable Asian leaders who made the World Anti-Communist League possible. The five were Taiwan’s dictator Chiang Kai-shek, South Korea’s dictator Park Chung Hee, yakuza gangsters Sasakawa and Kodama, and Moon, “an evangelist who planned to take over the world through the doctrine of ‘Heavenly Deception,’” the Andersons wrote.
WACL became a well-financed worldwide organization after a secret meeting between Sasakawa and Moon, along with two Kodama representatives, on a lake in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan. The purpose of the meeting was to create an anti-communist organization that “would further Moon’s global crusade and lend the Japanese yakuza leaders a respectable new façade,” the Andersons wrote.
Mixing organized crime and political extremism, of course, has a long tradition throughout the world. Violent political movements often have blended with criminal operations as a way to arrange covert funding, move operatives or acquire weapons. Drug smuggling has proven to be a particularly effective way to fill the coffers of extremist movements, especially those that find ways to insinuate themselves within more legitimate operations of sympathetic governments or intelligence services.
Nazi Rat Lines
After World War II, some Nazi leaders faced war-crimes tribunals, but others managed to make their escapes along “rat lines” to Spain or South America or they finagled intelligence relationships with the victorious powers, especially the United States. Argentina became a natural haven given the pre-war alliance that existed between the European fascists and prominent Argentine military leaders, such as Juan Peron. The fleeing Nazis also found a home with like-minded right-wing politicians and military officers across Latin America who already used repression to keep down the indigenous populations and the legions of the poor.
In the post-World War II years, some Nazi war criminals chose reclusive lives, but others, such as former SS officer Klaus Barbie, sold their intelligence skills to less-sophisticated security services in countries like Bolivia or Paraguay. Other Nazis on the lam trafficked in narcotics. Often the lines crossed between intelligence operations and criminal conspiracies. Auguste Ricord, a French war criminal who had collaborated with the Gestapo, set up shop in Paraguay and opened up the French Connection heroin channels to American Mafia drug kingpin Santo Trafficante Jr., who controlled much of the heroin traffic into the United States. Columns by Jack Anderson identified Ricord’s accomplices as some of Paraguay’s highest-ranking military officers.
Another French Connection mobster, Christian David, relied on protection of Argentine authorities. While trafficking in heroin, David also “took on assignments for Argentina’s terrorist organization, the Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance,” Henrik Kruger wrote in The Great Heroin Coup. During President Nixon’s “war on drugs,” U.S. authorities smashed the famous French Connection and won extraditions of Ricord and David in 1972 to face justice in the United States.
By the time the French Connection was severed, however, powerful Mafia drug lords had forged strong ties to South America’s military leaders. An infrastructure for the multi-billion-dollar drug trade, servicing the insatiable U.S. market, was in place. Trafficante-connected groups also recruited displaced anti-Castro Cubans, who had ended up in Miami, needed work, and possessed some useful intelligence skills gained from the CIA’s training for the Bay of Pigs and other clandestine operations. Heroin from the Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia soon filled the void left by the broken French Connection and its mostly Middle Eastern heroin supply routes.
During this time of transition, Sun Myung Moon brought his evangelical message to South America. His first visit to Argentina had occurred in 1965 when he blessed a square behind the presidential Pink House in Buenos Aires. But he returned a decade later to make more lasting friendships. Moon first sank down roots in Uruguay during the 12-year reign of right-wing military dictators who seized power in 1973. He also cultivated close relations with military dictators in Argentina, Paraguay and Chile, reportedly ingratiating himself with the juntas by helping the military regimes arrange arms purchases and by channeling money to allied right-wing organizations.
“Relationships nurtured with right-wing Latin Americans in the [World Anti-Communist] League led to acceptance of the [Unification] Church’s political and propaganda operations throughout Latin America,” the Andersons wrote in Inside the League. “As an international money laundry, … the Church tapped into the capital flight havens of Latin America. Escaping the scrutiny of American and European investigators, the Church could now funnel money into banks in Honduras, Uruguay and Brazil, where official oversight was lax or nonexistent.”
Moon’s organization also funneled money to the United States with the goal of helping friendly U.S. politicians and hurting others who were considered unfriendly. In the late 1970s, a congressional investigation into South Korea’s influence-buying operations in Washington – the so-called Koreagate scandal – implicated Moon and traced the church’s chief sources of money to bank accounts in Japan, but could follow the cash no further.
In 1980, Moon made more friends in South America when Bolivia’s Cocaine Coup plotters seized power in a terrifying alliance of fledgling cocaine cartels, international neo-Nazis and right-wing Bolivian military officers. Before the coup, WACL associates, such as Alfred Candia, allegedly had coordinated the arrival of some of the paramilitary operatives who assisted in the violent coup.
Afterwards, one of the first well-wishers arriving in La Paz to congratulate the new government was Moon’s top lieutenant, Bo Hi Pak. The Moon organization published a photo of Pak meeting with the new strongman, General Garcia Meza. After the visit to the mountainous capital, Pak declared, “I have erected a throne for Father Moon in the world’s highest city.”
According to later Bolivian government and newspaper reports, a Moon representative invested about $4 million in preparations for the coup. Bolivia’s WACL representatives also played key roles, and CAUSA, one of Moon’s anti-communist organizations, listed as members nearly all the leading Bolivian coup-makers.
Soon, Colonel Luis Arce-Gomez, a coup organizer and the cousin of cocaine kingpin Roberto Suarez, went into partnership with big narco-traffickers, including Trafficante’s Cuban-American smugglers. Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and his young neo-fascist followers found new work protecting Bolivia’s major cocaine barons and transporting drugs to the border. “The paramilitary units – conceived by Barbie as a new type of SS – sold themselves to the cocaine barons,” German journalist Kai Hermann wrote. “The attraction of fast money in the cocaine trade was stronger than the idea of a national socialist revolution in Latin America.”
A month after the coup, General Garcia Meza participated in the Fourth Congress of the Latin American Anti-Communist Confederation, an arm of the World Anti-Communist League. Also attending that Fourth Congress was WACL president Woo Jae Sung, a leading Moon disciple.
On May 31, 1981, Moon representatives sponsored a CAUSA reception at the Sheraton Hotel’s Hall of Freedom in La Paz. Moon’s lieutenant Bo Hi Pak and Bolivian strongman Garcia Meza led a prayer for President Reagan’s recovery from an assassination attempt. In his speech, Bo Hi Pak declared, “God had chosen the Bolivian people in the heart of South America as the ones to conquer communism.” According to a later Bolivian intelligence report, the Moon organization sought to recruit an “armed church” of Bolivians, with about 7,000 Bolivians receiving some paramilitary training.
But by late 1981, the cocaine taint of Bolivia’s military junta was so deep and the corruption so staggering that U.S.-Bolivian relations were stretched to the breaking point. “The Moon sect disappeared overnight from Bolivia as clandestinely as they had arrived,” Hermann reported.
The Cocaine Coup leaders soon found themselves on the run, too. Interior Minister Arce-Gomez was eventually extradited to Miami and was sentenced to 30 years in prison for drug trafficking. Drug lord Roberto Suarez got a 15-year prison term. General Garcia Meza became a fugitive from a 30-year sentence imposed on him in Bolivia for abuse of power, corruption and murder. Barbie was returned to France to face a life sentence for war crimes. He died in 1992.
But Moon’s organization suffered few negative repercussions from its association with the Cocaine Coup. By the early 1980s, flushed with seemingly unlimited funds, Moon had moved on to promoting himself with the new Republican administration in Washington. An invited guest to the Reagan-Bush Inauguration, Moon made his organization useful to President Reagan, Vice President Bush and other leading Republicans.
“Some Moonie-watchers even believe that some of the business enterprises are actually covers for drug trafficking,” wrote Scott and Jon Lee Anderson. “Others feel that, despite the disclosures of Koreagate, the Church has simply continued to do the Korean government’s international bidding and is receiving official funds to do so.”
While Moon’s representatives have refused to detail how they’ve sustained their far-flung activities – including many businesses that insiders say lose money – Moon’s spokesmen have denied recurring allegations about profiteering off illegal trafficking in weapons and drugs. In a typical response to a gun-running question by the Argentine newspaper, Clarin, Moon’s representative Ricardo DeSena responded, “I deny categorically these accusations and also the barbarities that are said about drugs and brainwashing. Our movement responds to the harmony of the races, nations and religions and proclaims that the family is the school of love.”
Without doubt, however, Moon’s organization has had a long record of association with organized crime figures, including ones implicated in the drug trade. Besides collaborating with Sasakawa and other leaders of the Japanese yakuza and the Cocaine Coup government of Bolivia, Moon’s organization developed close ties with the Honduran military and with Nicaraguan contra units tied to drug smuggling. Moon’s organization also used its political clout in Washington to intimidate or discredit government officials and journalists who tried to investigate those criminal activities.
In the mid-1980s, for instance, when journalists and congressional investigators began probing the evidence of contra-connected drug trafficking, they came under attacks from Moon’s Washington Times. An Associated Press story that I co-wrote with Brian Barger about a Miami-based federal probe into gun- and drug-running by the contras was denigrated in a front-page Washington Times article with the headline: “Story on [contra] drug smuggling denounced as political ploy.”
When Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts conducted a Senate probe and uncovered additional evidence of contra drug trafficking, The Washington Times denounced him, too. The newspaper first published articles depicting Kerry’s probe as a wasteful political witch hunt. “Kerry’s anti-contra efforts extensive, expensive, in vain,” announced the headline of one Times article.
But when Kerry exposed more contra wrongdoing, The Washington Times shifted tactics. In 1987 in front-page articles, it began accusing Kerry’s staff of obstructing justice because their investigation was supposedly interfering with Reagan-Bush administration efforts to get at the truth. “Kerry staffers damaged FBI probe,” said one Times article that opened with the assertion: “Congressional investigators for Sen. John Kerry severely damaged a federal drug investigation last summer by interfering with a witness while pursuing allegations of drug smuggling by the Nicaraguan resistance, federal law enforcement officials said.”
Despite the attacks from The Washington Times and pressure from the Reagan-Bush administration to back off, Kerry’s contra-drug investigation eventually concluded that a number of contra units – both in Costa Rica and Honduras – were implicated in the cocaine trade.
“It is clear that individuals who provided support for the contras were involved in drug trafficking, the supply network of the contras was used by drug trafficking organizations, and elements of the contras themselves knowingly received financial and material assistance from drug traffickers,” Kerry’s investigation stated in a report issued April 13, 1989. “In each case, one or another agency of the U.S. government had information regarding the involvement either while it was occurring or immediately thereafter.”
Kerry’s probe also found that Honduras had become an important way station for cocaine shipments heading north during the contra war. “Elements of the Honduran military were involved … in the protection of drug traffickers from 1980 on,” the report said. “These activities were reported to appropriate U.S. government officials throughout the period. Instead of moving decisively to close down the drug trafficking by stepping up the DEA presence in the country and using the foreign assistance the United States was extending to the Hondurans as a lever, the United States closed the DEA office in Tegucigalpa and appears to have ignored the issue.”
The available evidence now shows that there was much more to the contra drug issue than either the Reagan-Bush administration or Moon’s organization wanted the American people to know in the 1980s. The evidence – assembled over the years by inspectors general at the CIA, the Justice Department and other federal agencies – indicates that Bolivia’s Cocaine Coup government was only the first in a line of drug enterprises that tried to squeeze under the protective umbrella of Ronald Reagan’s favorite covert operation, the contra war.
Other cocaine smugglers soon followed, cozying up to the contras and sharing some of the profits as a way to minimize investigative interest by the Reagan-Bush law enforcement agencies. The contra-connected smugglers included the Medellin cartel, the Panamanian government of Manuel Noriega, the Honduran military, the Honduran-Mexican smuggling ring of Ramon Matta Ballesteros, and the Miami-based anti-Castro Cubans with their connections to Mafia operations throughout the United States.
As Moon continued to expand his influence in American politics, some Republicans began to raise red flags. In 1983, the GOP’s moderate Ripon Society charged that the New Right had entered “an alliance of expediency” with Moon’s church. Ripon’s chairman, Representative Jim Leach of Iowa, released a study which alleged that the College Republican National Committee “solicited and received” money from Moon’s Unification Church in 1981. The study also accused Reed Irvine’s Accuracy in Media of benefiting from low-cost or volunteer workers supplied by Moon.
Leach said the Unification Church has “infiltrated the New Right and the party it wants to control, the Republican Party, and infiltrated the media as well.” Leach’s news conference was disrupted when then-college GOP leader Grover Norquist accused Leach of lying. (Norquist is now a prominent conservative leader in Washington with close ties to the highest levels of George W. Bush’s administration.) The Washington Times dismissed Leach’s charges as “flummeries” and mocked the Ripon Society as a “discredited and insignificant left-wing offshoot of the Republican Party.”
Despite periodic fretting over Moon’s influence, conservatives continued to accept his deep-pocket assistance. When White House aide Oliver North was scratching for support for the Nicaraguan contras, for instance, The Washington Times established a contra fund-raising operation. By the mid-1980s, Moon’s Unification Church had carved out a niche as an acceptable part of the American Right. In one speech to his followers, Moon boasted that “without knowing it, even President Reagan is being guided by Father [Moon].”
George H.W. Bush’s Praise
By the late 1980s and early 1990s, The Washington Times was the daily billboard where conservatives placed their messages to each other and to the outside world.
In 1991, when conservative commentator Wesley Pruden was named the new editor of The Washington Times, President George H.W. Bush invited Pruden to a private White House lunch. The purpose, Bush explained, was “just to tell you how valuable the Times has become in Washington, where we read it every day.”
While the Moon organization was promoting the interests of the Reagan-Bush team, the administration was shielding Moon’s operations from federal probes into its finances and possible intelligence role, U.S. government documents show. According to Justice Department documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, administration officials were rebuffing hundreds of requests – many from common U.S. citizens – for examination of Moon’s foreign ties and money sources.
Typical of the responses was a May 18, 1989, letter from Assistant Attorney General Carol T. Crawford rejecting the possibility that Moon’s organization be required to divulge its foreign-funded propaganda under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA). “With respect to FARA, the Department is faced with First Amendment considerations involving the free exercise of religion,” Crawford said. “As you know, the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom is not limited to the traditional, well-established religions.”
A 1992 PBS documentary about Moon’s political empire and its free-spending habits started another flurry of citizen demands for an investigation, according to Justice Department files. One letter from a private citizen to the Justice Department stated, “I write in consternation and disgust at the apparent support, or at least the sheltering, of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, a foreign agent … who has subverted the American political system for the past 20 years. … Did Reagan and/or Bush receive financial support from Moon or his agents during any of their election campaigns in violation of federal law?”
However, all these U.S. citizen complaints were rebuffed.
South American Money
In the mid-1990s, more evidence surfaced about Moon’s alleged South American money laundry.
In 1996, the Uruguayan bank employees union blew the whistle on one scheme in which some 4,200 female Japanese followers of Moon allegedly walked into the Moon-controlled Banco de Credito in Montevideo and deposited as much as $25,000 each. By the time the parade of women ended, the total had swelled to about $80 million. Authorities did not push the money-laundering investigation, apparently out of deference to Moon’s political influence and fear of disrupting Uruguay’s secretive banking industry.
Some Uruguayan politicians did protest, however. “The first thing we ought to do is clarify to the people [of Uruguay] that Moon’s sect is a type of modern pirate that came to the country to perform obscure money operations, such as money laundering,” said Jorge Zabalza, a leader of the Movimiento de Participacion Popular, part of Montevideo’s ruling left-of-center political coalition. “This sect is a kind of religious mob that is trying to get public support to pursue its business.”
Back in the United States, some of Moon’s confidantes supplied more evidence of money laundering. When Moon’s daughter-in-law Nansook Moon fled from abuse at the hands of one of Moon’s sons, Hyo Jin, she described her personal participation in money-laundering schemes. In a sworn affidavit – and a later book – Nansook said the price for her life of luxury was being part of what she regarded as a criminal enterprise.
To finance his personal and business activities, Hyo Jin received hundreds of thousands of dollars in unaccounted cash, Nansook said. “On one occasion, I saw Hyo Jin bring home a box about 24 inches wide, 12 inches tall and six inches deep,” she wrote in her affidavit. “He stated that he had received it from his father. He opened it. …
“It was filled with $100 bills stacked in bunches of $10,000 each for a total of $1 million in cash! He took this money and gave $600,000 to the Manhattan Center, a church recording studio that he ostensibly runs. He kept the remaining $400,000 for himself. … Within six months he had spent it all on himself, buying cocaine and alcohol, entertaining his friends every night, and giving expensive gifts to other women.” Another time, a Filipino church member gave Hyo Jin $270,000 in cash, according to Nansook.
Nansook’s lawyers secured corroborating testimony from a former Manhattan Center official and Unification Church member, Madelene Pretorious. At a court hearing, Pretorious testified that in December of 1993 or January of 1994, Hyo Jin Moon returned from a trip to Korea “with $600,000 in cash which he had received from his father. … Myself along with three or four other members that worked at Manhattan Center saw the cash in bags, shopping bags.”
As the Nansook’s divorce case played out, I met with Pretorious at a suburban Boston restaurant. A law school graduate from South Africa, the 34-year-old full-faced brunette said she was recruited by the Unification Church through a student front group, the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP), in San Francisco in 1986-1987. In 1992, Pretorious went to work at the Manhattan Center and grew concerned about the way cash, brought to the United States by Asian members, would circulate through the Moon business empire as a way to launder it.
The money would then go to support the Moon family’s lavish life style or be diverted to other church projects. At the center of the financial operation, Pretorious said, was One-Up Corporation, a Delaware-registered holding company that owned Manhattan Center and other Moon enterprises including New World Communications, the parent company of The Washington Times.
“Once that cash is at the Manhattan Center, it has to be accounted for,” Pretorious said. “The way that’s done is to launder the cash. Manhattan Center gives cash to a business called Happy World which owns restaurants. … Happy World needs to pay illegal aliens. … Happy World pays some back to the Manhattan Center for ‘services rendered.’ The rest goes to One-Up and then comes back to Manhattan Center as an investment.”
Hyo Jin Moon did not respond to interview requests sent through his divorce lawyer and the church. Church officials also were unwilling to discuss Hyo Jin’s case. But Hyo Jin was forced to produce documents and discuss his financial predicament in a related bankruptcy proceeding.
In a bankruptcy deposition on November 15, 1996, Hyo Jin sounded alternately confused and petulant. “All I like was guns and music,” he volunteered at one point. “I’m a boring person.” But Hyo Jin confirmed that he had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash at the Manhattan Center that was not reported as taxable income.
“[In] 1993, I received some cash, yes,” he said. “At that time around 300, 500 Japanese members were touring America and they stopped by to see the progress that was happening at Manhattan Center, because it was well known within the inner … church community that I was doing a project, a cultural project. And they came and I presented a slide show, and they were inspired by that prospect and actual achievement at that time, so they gave donations. … It was given to me. It was a donation to me.”
“Did you report that gift to the taxing authorities?” a lawyer asked.
“It was [a] gift,” Hyo Jin responded. “I asked [Rob Schwartz, the center’s treasurer] whether I should. He said I didn’t have to. You have to ask him.” When pressed for clarification about this tax advice, his lawyer counseled Hyo Jin not to answer. “I’m taking that advice,” Hyo Jin announced. “My lawyer’s advice not to answer it.”
John Stacey, a former CARP leader in the Pacific Northwest, was another Unification Church member who described Moon’s organization as dependent on money arriving from overseas. Stacey told me that the fund-raising operations inside the United States barely covered the costs of local offices, with little or nothing going to the big-ticket items, such as The Washington Times. Stacey added that the church-connected U.S. businesses are mostly money losers.
“These failing businesses create the image of making money … to cover his back,” Stacey said of Reverend Moon. “I think the majority of the money is coming from an outside source.”
Another member who quit a senior position in the church confirmed that virtually none of Moon’s American operations makes money. Instead, this source, who declined to be identified by name, said hundreds of thousands of dollars are carried into the United States by visiting church members. The cash is then laundered through domestic businesses.
Another close church associate, who also requested anonymity out of fear of reprisals, said cash arriving from Japan was used in one major construction project to pay “illegal” laborers from Asia and South America. “They [the church leaders] were always waiting for our money to come in from Japan,” this source said. “When the economy in Japan crashed, a lot of our money came from South America, mainly Brazil.”
In Nansook Moon’s 1998 memoirs, In the Shadow of the Moons, Moon’s ex-daughter-in-law – writing under her maiden name Nansook Hong – alleged that Moon’s organization had engaged in a long-running conspiracy to smuggle cash into the United States and to deceive U.S. Customs agents.
“The Unification Church was a cash operation,” Nansook Hong wrote. “I watched Japanese church leaders arrive at regular intervals at East Garden [the Moon compound north of New York City] with paper bags full of money, which the Reverend Moon would either pocket or distribute to the heads of various church-owned business enterprises at his breakfast table.
“The Japanese had no trouble bringing the cash into the United States; they would tell Customs agents that they were in America to gamble at Atlantic City. In addition, many businesses run by the church were cash operations, including several Japanese restaurants in New York City. I saw deliveries of cash from church headquarters that went directly into the wall safe in Mrs. Moon’s closet.”
Mrs. Moon pressed her daughter-in-law into one cash-smuggling incident after a trip to Japan in 1992, Nansook Hong wrote. Mrs. Moon had received “stacks of money” and divvied it up among her entourage for the return trip through Seattle, Nansook Hong wrote. “I was given $20,000 in two packs of crisp new bills,” she recalled. “I hid them beneath the tray in my makeup case. … I knew that smuggling was illegal, but I believed the followers of Sun Myung Moon answered to higher laws.”
U.S. currency laws require that cash amounts above $10,000 be declared at Customs when the money enters or leaves the country. It is also illegal to conspire with couriers to bring in lesser amounts when the total exceeds the $10,000 figure, a process called “smurfing.”
In the Shadow of the Moons raised anew the question of whether Moon’s money laundering – from mysterious sources in both Asia and South America – has made him a conduit for illicit foreign money influencing the U.S. government and American politics. Moon’s spokesmen have denied that he launders drug money or moves money from other criminal enterprises. They attribute his wealth to donations and business profits, but have refused to open Moon’s records for public inspection.
Given Moon’s influence over the Republican Party – and The Washington Times’ impact on U.S. national politics – House Speaker Hastert might want to investigate where Moon’s money originates, assuming that Hastert is truly concerned about illicit foreign money entering the U.S. political process. It may be more likely, however, that Hastert simply wants to smear a liberal adversary.
This story was adapted from Robert Parry’s forthcoming book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq. A 27-year veteran of Washington journalism, Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra scandal stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek.