Chapter 5: The French-Corsican-Latin Connection
Table of Contents
Overview of Researcher Steve Rivele’s Theory
In 1988, researcher Steve Rivele appeared in Nigel Turner’s documentary, The Men Who Killed Kennedy. Rivele presented information that he obtained from interviewing French-Corsican hit man, heroin trafficker, and international spy, Christian David. According to David, the contract to kill President Kennedy originated in Marseilles, France by Antoine Guerini, leader of the Corsican Mafia in that city. Three hit men were hired—all members of the Corsican Mafia. According to David, the hit men were flown out of Dallas, after the assassination, to Montreal. From Montreal they were flown by private plane back to Marseilles, France. I found David’s account to be plausible because of the Montreal connection. After all, Louis Bloomfield, his brother Bernard, and Sam Bronfman all lived in that city.
Equally intriguing, David’s description of the shots fired at President was different from anything I had read or heard before. David learned from the gunmen that there were "three guns, four shots, three hits, one miss." Kennedy was hit twice: once in the back/neck and once in the head. Connally was hit once, but the single bullet apparently caused five wounds in his body. A fourth shot missed the car completely. In addition, two shots were fired almost simultaneously. This explains why so many witnesses stated that they only heard three shots.
David had aroused my curiosity. I got a copy of the Zapruder film and began studying it, comparing it with David’s description. Amazingly, his description matched the film completely. Even more astonishing, David’s description was completely different from that of acclaimed pathologist, Dr. Cyril Wecht, who also appeared in The Men Who Killed Kennedy. It became clear that Christian David was a man to be taken seriously, even if Dr. Wecht was not. I will critique Dr. Wecht’s analysis later. At the moment, however, we will focus on the assassination of President Kennedy from the viewpoint of Christian David, as told to researcher Steve Rivele.
Transcript of Rivele’s Interview From The Men Who Killed Kennedy
The following is a transcript of Steve Rivele’s research as presented in the documentary, The Men Who Killed Kennedy:
… The initial turning point was the first meeting that I had with the French narcotics trafficker at Leavenworth Penitentiary. His name was Christian David [pronounced Dah-veed]. He had been a member of the old French Connection heroin network. He had then been a leader of the Corsican drug trafficking network in South America known as the Latin Connection. And he had also been an intelligence agent for a number of intelligence services around the world. In exchange for my help in finding him an attorney to represent him against the possibility of his deportation to France after he finished his sentence at Leavenworth, he agreed to give me a certain amount of information concerning the assassination based upon his own knowledge. The first thing that he told me, very reluctantly and only after four or five hours of my arguing with him, was that he was aware that there had been a conspiracy to murder the president, and indeed in May or June of 1963 in Marseilles [France], he had been offered the contract to kill President Kennedy. That was the initial breakthrough, if you will. He was eventually deported to France. I remained in contact with him. I went to Paris to interview him in two prisons in Paris. And in the fear that he would be either committed to an asylum or that he would be convicted of an old murder charge, he gradually gave me additional information about the assassination.
NOTE: The "old murder charge" was the murder of French policeman Lieutenant Maurice Galibert on February 2, 1966.1 Galibert had been investigating the kidnapping and murder of Moroccan political exile, Mehdi Ben Barka, and David was the prime suspect.2
[David’s] position was that there were three killers, and that they had been hired on a contract which had been placed with the leader of the Corsican Mafia at Marseilles, a man named Antoine Guerini. Guerini, he said, was asked to supply three assassins of high quality, experienced killers to murder the President, and that Guerini did so. In the course of one of the first significant conversations I had with David on this subject, he told me that he had been in Marseilles in May or June of 1963, and that every evening he went to Antoine Guerini’s club on the old Port of Marseilles to meet people who owed him money. And one evening, Guerini sent for him, asked him to come to the office which was above the club. Guerini told him that he had an important contract, and he asked David if he were interested. David said, "Who’s the contract on?" Guerini said, "an American politician." David asked, "Well is it a congressman, a senator?" And Guerini said, "higher than that… The highest vegetable." At that point of course David knew who he was talking about. David asked him where was the contract to be carried out. And when Guerini said it would be done inside the United States, David refused on the grounds that that was much too dangerous.
Now David initially would only give me the first name of one of the three men on the grounds that two of the three were still alive and since they were members of this Corsican milieu, which has a code of silence and a code of vendetta, if he named them, he himself would be murdered. However, he did agree to give me the first name of the third man who he said was dead. And that man he said was named "Lucien." I then spent a great deal of time in Paris and Marseilles trying to find out who this Lucien was. And through contacts that I made in the journalistic and police and intelligence communities, I was able to determine that this Lucien was in fact a Corsican drug trafficker and killer of the 1960s and 70s by the name of Lucien Sarti. Sarti had been killed in Mexico City in 1972.
I confronted David with the name of Sarti, and he in effect confirmed that that was the man he had referred to. He was an extremely reckless, very daring man, known and despised even by his colleagues for taking enormous chances. But that same recklessness made him one of the most successful contract killers and drug traffickers of his era.
Having identified Sarti, Christian David, fearing for his life, refused to name the other two assassins recruited to kill Kennedy. Nonetheless, in successive interviews, he slowly began to reveal how the contract placed … in Marseilles, had been carried out.
In the fall of 1963, the three killers were flown from Marseilles to Mexico City where they spent some three or four weeks at the house of a contact in Mexico City. He said that they were then driven from Mexico City to the US border at Brownsville, Texas. They crossed the border using Italian passports. He said that they were picked up on the American side of the border at Brownsville by a representative of the Chicago Mafia with whom they conversed in Italian. They were then driven to Dallas and put up in a safehouse which had been prepared for them so as not to leave any hotel records. He said that they spent several days taking photographs of Dealey Plaza, and in the evenings at the safehouse they studied the photographs and they arranged what he called a crossfire with three guns.
On the question of the actual murder, he was reasonably specific that two of the assassins were in buildings behind the President’s limousine. He did not know which buildings. However, he did specify that one was high and one was low. In fact he said …[in French]… "almost on the horizontal." And he went on to add, "You can’t understand the wounds unless you understand that one of the men was almost on the horizontal."
NOTE: I interpreted Christian David’s comments about "the horizontal" to mean that one of the assassins fired at Kennedy from behind on the ground level, likely from the Dal-Tex Building. When David stated that "You can’t understand the wounds unless you understand that one of the men was almost on the horizontal," it seems that he was suggesting that Kennedy’s neck wound was caused by a gunman firing from the ground level. As I stated before, the bullet that hit Kennedy in the neck probably entered the back of the neck and exited the front. Again, this is corroborated somewhat by Connally’s immediate reaction—which was captured on the Zapruder film—when he turned and looked behind after hearing the first shot.
In a separate conversation with David, I asked him based upon what I knew about Sarti’s penchant for changing his appearance, whether Sarti had ever said anything to him about having worn a disguise. And David said, "What do you mean by a disguise?" I asked him, "Did Sarti ever indicate that he wore clothing other than he normally would have worn?" And David thought about it for a moment and said, "He wore a uniform." I asked him what kind of uniform and he refused to answer. But he did add that on jobs like this, they were always in disguise. He said if, for example, there were a military post nearby, they would dress in military uniforms.
He said that there were four shots; that the first shot was fired from the rear and struck the president in the back. The second shot was also fired from the rear, and as David said, "hit the other man in the car." The third shot was fired by Sarti from the front, struck the President in the head; and the fourth shot was fired from the rear and missed the automobile entirely. So his scenario as he claims to have learned it from the gunmen was "three guns, four shots; three hits, one miss." He also added at one point that two of the shots were fired almost simultaneously.
He said that in the moment of panic which always follows an incident of this kind, they were able to get away from Dealey Plaza and go back to the safehouse. He made the specific point that the worst thing that you can do at a moment like that is to try to escape. And so they stayed in their safehouse for some ten days until things quieted down sufficiently, and then they were flown by a private plane from Dallas to Montreal.
He said that the people who met them in Montreal were established contacts who were used to moving people in and out of the country. And that from Montreal they returned to Marseilles.
Now having told me all of this, I presented to him the obvious problem which was his personal lack of credibility. And I asked him, "Was there anybody in the world who could substantiate this story?" And it was at that point, after thinking about it for a minute, that he advised me to go and look for a man named "Michel".
Michel Nicoli could have been anywhere in the world. A former narcotics trafficker turned government informant, he had become a United States federally protected witness and had officially "disappeared".
I searched for him in Europe, North America, Central America, South America. I traveled many thousands of miles, spoke to hundreds and hundreds of people. I was given a lot of false leads. I took out coded ads in newspapers all over the world addressed to him using language that he would understand. And finally in June of 1986, I almost by accident found the one person in the US Government who knew where he was. He was a very high official of the Drug Enforcement Administration. I was able to persuade this man to put me in touch with him, without telling him why I wanted to talk to Michel. And he agreed to do so. My DEA contact at one point said to me that in the thirty years that he had been in the business, Michel was the best witness he’d ever had. He had never given the government false or misleading information. And if he said something was true, as my friend said, "You could go to the bank on it." Another DEA official whom I spoke to in Marseilles who has known Michel as a witness said he’s always been, in his words, "a dynamite witness".
[The scene changed to Michel Nicoli whose face was electronically blocked from view. The actual conversation was in French. Interpreters translated to English.]
Have you had any contact whatever with Christian David recently?
No, I haven’t.
For how long?
Not since we were in Brazil together. I caught sight of him in prison. Only in passing, that’s all. We haven’t been in touch.
So that’s how long it’s been since you have had any contact with him.
In 1972 we came back from Brazil together. I met him in prison. Or rather I caught a glimpse of him in criminal court. That’s all. I just caught sight of him. That’s all. Since then, I haven’t seen him.
[Scene switches back to Steve Rivele interjecting a comment.]
In the course of three subsequent conversations, among other things, Michel confirmed that Lucien Sarti was one of the three killers. And I went through with him the details that David had given me. He confirmed all of the details with the exception of two, in which case he said he did not know those specifics. But he did say that he had learned the details from the same source at the same time as David had.
[Scene switches back to Michel Nicoli.]
When we met in a bar in Argentina in 1966 I think. Christian David was present. There were four or five, five or six of us. I can’t remember exactly.
NOTE: Nicoli may have been referring to a bar in Buenos Aires, Argentina known as the Maison des Anciens Combattants Français. Journalists Evert Clark and Nicholas Horrock wrote in their 1973 book, Contrabandista, that the Maison was frequented by Auguste Ricord during his post-war years in Argentina, and that Christian David was "one of his principal associates." Clark and Horrock added that the Maison was a "veritable haven for international gangsters."3
The final pieces of the puzzle were falling into place. From the lips of Michel Nicoli, Steve now had the names of the other two assassins. He now sought to confirm their participation from his first informant, still awaiting trial in his prison cell in Paris.
At that point I then went back to David. I gave him all three names, and in effect, he confirmed them. When I showed David an aerial photograph of Dealey Plaza, the first thing he said was, "Show me where the railroad bridge is." I pointed out the bridge over Elm Street, and he said "That was where Sarti wanted to be, but on the morning of the assassination, the bridge was guarded, and he was forced … to move onto the little hill with the wooden fence." He took up a position from behind the wooden fence from which he fired one shot. And David specified that he used an explosive bullet. He said that Sarti was the only one who used that kind of ammunition, a remark which he refused to explain, and which I didn’t understand at the time, until I put the question to Michel. When I asked Michel if it were true that Sarti had used an exploding bullet, Michel sighed and said "Yes, that was what I had heard".
[Scene switches back to Michel Nicoli.]
Oh yes, it’s Lucien Sarti. Me too. I sometimes carried them with me, but I didn’t used them.
What was the advantage of having bullets like that?
It makes a larger hole in the body. When the bullet flattens out, there aren’t any traces. No marks. Nothing.
[Scene switches back to Steve Rivele.]
On the question of payment, Michel agreed with David that the assassins had been paid in heroin. And he went a bit farther. In my first conversation with him, he indicated that although he did not know it at the time, it was he who converted the heroin payment into cash for the assassins. He indicated at least initially, that the three men had appeared at his apartment in Buenos Aires in the months following the assassination with, as he put it, "a substantial quantity of heroin." He was surprised because to his knowledge, it was the first time that any of the three of them had dealt in heroin. But given his reputation for not asking embarrassing questions, he simply agreed to convert the heroin into cash for them.
[Scene switches back to Michel Nicoli and interviewer.]
Did they ever give you any indication about who was behind this contract?
No, they didn’t talk to me about that. It was Christian David who told me that it was someone in the Mafia, but I don’t know who it was.
But it was known more or less generally [accepted] in this circle of Frenchmen in South America that it was the Mafia that was behind it.
[Scene switches back to Steve Rivele.]
My own conviction at this point is that the contract probably originated with Carlos Marcello of New Orleans who placed it in Marseilles through his colleague Santo Trafficante, Jr. who had the closest relations with Antoine Guerini. Beyond that, it seems reasonable that Giancana of Chicago was involved if we accept David and Michel’s idea that the assassins were met at the border by representatives of the Chicago Mafia. And the fact that Sarti’s customers were primarily in New York, and the fact that the assassins evidently moved out of the United States through the Montreal corridor, which was very closely linked to the New York Mafia, also suggests that Gambino may have been involved.
[Scene switches back to Michel Nicoli and interviewer.]
In your view, why would they go so far to find assassins for such a job?
In my opinion, to obliterate any traces; to fool the government. It’s more difficult to find foreign killers. It’s more difficult, in my view.
[Scene switched back to Steve Rivele.]
The Mafia had to hire white men for the job since it was to take place in the American South, which meant that they could not go to the other two centers where one found assassins at that time, namely Beirut and Hong Kong. Secondly, they needed highly experienced, skilled assassins. Thirdly, they needed assassins who if they were caught could not directly be tied to the American Mafia, also who were not known to the American police. And fourthly, once again, if they were caught, assassins who could be counted on not to talk.
[Scene switched back to Michel Nicoli and interviewer.]
When someone has a contract to kill someone, he is not rubbing out the name; he is rubbing out the person. You just have to kill him, that’s all. And according to who it is, you get paid more; according to who it is, and that’s all.
But after all, it was the president of the United States they were talking about.
If they did it, it’s because they didn’t give a damn. There are people like David who refused to do it. There were others who didn’t refuse.
But Sarti, would he have been capable of that?
Oh yes. As a killer, he’s capable of anything. It’s not a question of sentiment. No sentiment with him.
Portions are deleted. Steve Rivele explained how he went back to the DEA official who had put him in contact with Michel Nicoli. Rivele’s DEA contact subsequently referred the case to the FBI who essentially did nothing. In addition, Christian David refused to testify until he was freed from French prison, but he wrote a letter of what he knows about the Kennedy assassination and gave it to his lawyer in a sealed envelope which was placed in a safe deposit box.
Christian David is still in Paris [prison] on the old murder charge, the shooting of a French policeman [Lieutenant Maurice Galibert4] in 1966. He vehemently protests his innocence. His defense lawyer [narrator gave the lawyer’s French name, but it could not be discerned] has great faith in the credibility of his client and his extensive knowledge of the criminal underworld.
Lawyer [has heavy French accent]:
David is not anybody. He’s a serious man, and American authorities know that David is a serious man. David has been a long time in jail during his life but, anyway, he has [done] a lot of things during his life. Then when David says something, it’s serious.
But David has always been extremely reluctant to impart any details of what he knows about the killing of Kennedy, even to his own lawyers.
He says, ‘Yes, I know certain things.’
‘Could you tell me those things?’ I asked him.
He told me, ‘No, I’ll talk when I’ll be free.’
But he told me, ‘I can, if you want, write to you what I know.’
I said, ‘All right.’
And then, he wrote to me a letter—a closed letter [in a sealed envelope]. And on this letter it’s written [on the outside of the sealed envelope]:
[The lawyer reads, in French, David’s note on the sealed envelope. He then translates to English.]
‘This letter must be kept in [a safe] deposit by my lawyer until I am free. It is impossible to open it without my authorization.’
There are two signatures: Christian David, Christian David.
I think there is in this envelope details important to find murderers; because I think there were murderers, not only one murderer. That’s what … is in this envelope. That’s what I think about that.
[Final comments by Steve Rivele:]
I’ve become convinced that Oswald had nothing to do with the assassination, and that he was very carefully chosen and very carefully set up to take the blame. Based upon what I’ve learned, it seems to me that all the principals involved in the plot to kill the President had ties of one kind or another with US intelligence agencies. There was Trafficante and Giancana who had been conspiring with the CIA to assassinate Fidel Castro; Antoine Guerini who had had a relationship with both the OSS and the CIA dating from 1943; and there was Oswald whom I’m satisfied had been used as a low-level intelligence operative. So even though I don’t think that the CIA, for example, had anything directly to do with the assassination; on the day after the assassination, they found themselves in a horribly compromised position, a position in which they could very easily have been blackmailed by the plotters into covering up whatever they knew about the assassination.
(The Men Who Killed Kennedy, N. Turner)
Criticisms of Steve Rivele’s Conclusions
At this point, I must interject a note of sanity. I chose not to omit Steve Rivele’s conclusions about the Mafia because I felt it was fair to present his entire theory. Having stated that, I wish to publicly criticize his conclusions and his overall presentation of Christian David’s story. Furthermore, I wish to state that I believe Christian David’s story is generally true; however, Rivele appears to be misleading the audience about certain key facts. First of all, Rivele omitted the important fact that Christian David and Lucien Sarti eventually became Auguste Ricord’s top lieutenants, along with Jean-Paul Angeletti and Francisco "Francois" Chiappe. In addition, Michel Nicoli worked for Christian David in Ricord’s heroin cartel in South America.5
Secondly, Rivele omitted the fact that Christian David, Lucien Sarti, and Michel Nicoli are discussed at great length in two books: Contrabandista (1973), by Evert Clark and Nicholas Horrock; and The Great Heroin Coup (1976) by Henrik Krüger. Rivele gave the impression that he alone discovered Christian David; however, that is simply not true. This explains why Rivele has never published a book, in English, on the information he disclosed in The Men Who Killed Kennedy. Rivele has, however, authored a French book, The Murderers of John F. Kennedy, published in France in 1988.6 To my knowledge that book was never translated to English or published in America. This is quite odd. Why wasn’t his book written in English so Americans could read it? After all, his expertise was the assassination of an American president, not a French one. As far as I can determine, the only American work Rivele has authored is the screenplay for Oliver Stone’s movie, Nixon. I shall have a view things to say about Stone later.
Thirdly, Rivele made a few comments that appear to be disinformation intended to disassociate linkage between the assassins and heroin trafficking which would point to Auguste Ricord. Rivele stated that the three assassins "appeared at [Michel Nicoli’s] apartment in Buenos Aires in the months following the assassination with, as he put it, ‘a substantial quantity of heroin.’ He [Nicoli] was surprised because to his knowledge, it was the first time that any of the three of them had dealt in heroin." Nicoli reportedly converted the heroin to cash for the assassins, although he claimed he did not know they had killed Kennedy at the time. He learned that about three years later.
Rivele’s claim that the French-Corsican hit men had never dealt in heroin is difficult to believe. How can that be? If they were gangsters from Marseilles, France, surely they must have dealt with heroin. Marseilles was a major production center of heroin at that time, and Turkey was its primary opium source. When the Mediterranean supply became unavailable, the French-Corsican Mafia in Marseilles migrated to Southeast Asia as their primary source. Rivele himself stated that Christian David had been a "member of the old French Connection heroin network." If David dealt with heroin and he worked with the underworld figures who killed Kennedy, it seems difficult to believe that his "colleagues" would not have dealt with heroin as well. You will recall that according to Rivele, Christian David was offered the contract to kill Kennedy by Antoine Guerini, one of the Guerini brothers—a French-Corsican crime family from Marseilles that was quite familiar with heroin trafficking.
Rivele’s "never dealt in heroin" remark becomes somewhat comical when you realize that Michel Nicoli was living in an apartment in Buenos Aires, Argentina when the assassins looked him up in early 1964. Authors Evert Clark and Nicholas Horrock indicated in their 1973 book, Contrabandista, that Auguste Ricord—the heroin kingpin—was living in Buenos Aires at that time. For people who had never dealt in heroin before, these guys (the assassins) sure knew a lot a folks in that line of work. It is quite clear that Steve Rivele was protecting Auguste Ricord.
Fourthly, one has to question Rivele’s credibility when he made the following statement: "I don’t think that the CIA, for example, had anything directly to do with the assassination." Like so many others, Rivele tried to blame the conspiracy solely on the Mafia. The CIA’s only crime, according to Rivele, was that they had done business with the Mafia in the past. Therefore, they had reason to cover-up the truth about the Kennedy assassination. Given Rivele’s obvious knowledge of the Kennedy assassination, this conclusion is absurd. Rivele admitted that Antoine Guerini had a relationship with the OSS dating back to 1943, but he did not mention Louis Bloomfield—a well-known OSS/CIA operative and major supporter of Israel—who also had a law office, Phillips in Vineberg, in Paris.7
Rivele should have mentioned Bloomfield since David stated that the assassins were flown, after the assassination, from Dallas to Montreal and from Montreal to Marseilles. Louis Bloomfield lived in Montreal. So did his brother Bernard Bloomfield and Sam Bronfman. All three men were highly influential Zionists. Given that Bloomfield had been an OSS and CIA operative and was an ardent supporter of Israel, this points to Mossad as well. These facts point more to Israel than the Mafia, not to mention the CIA. And Christian David had a vast background with French intelligence, specifically SDECE, which surely interacts with the CIA. Obviously there was a strong presence of American and French-Corsican underworld figures in Kennedy’s murder. But in plain English, Rivele’s dismissal of CIA involvement was nonsense.
Even Rivele’s statements about the Mafia were off-track. He stated that Santo Trafficante was likely involved, but he failed to mention that Trafficante was a top lieutenant for Jewish Mafia chief Meyer Lansky. Lansky’s involvement in heroin trafficking and opium smuggling from the Golden Triangle was documented in Alfred McCoy’s 1972 book, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia.8 In addition, the 1979 House Select Committee on Assassinations linked Meyer Lansky to Jack Ruby.9
Lastly, it is highly possible that Clay Shaw asked Antoine Guerini to recruit French-Corsican assassins to kill President Kennedy. Shaw also worked for the OSS in the 1940s and held the rank of Colonel.10 As previously stated in Chapter 3, there is strong circumstantial evidence that Shaw also served as a Colonel in the French espionage organization, Service de Documentation Exterieure et de Contre Espionage (SDECE), under the aliases of a Colonel René Bertrand and Colonel Beaumont.11 The French Colonel was close friends with Jo Attia who worked with the Guerini brothers—which included Antoine Guerini, the man who Christian David claimed offered him the contract to kill President Kennedy in May or June of 1963 in Guerini’s club in Marseilles. According to Danish journalist Henrik Krüger, it was Attia who first introduced Christian David to the world of espionage.12 I suspect this information is in Christian David’s letter which is in a sealed envelope in a safe deposit box.
The Three Assassins
I have mentioned several times the 1973 book, Contrabandista, written by Evert Clark and Nicholas Horrock. Contrabandista corroborates much of Christian David’s story, and it reveals the identities of two other hit men who worked with Lucien Sarti that I believe were his accomplices—assassins—in murdering President Kennedy. Their names were Jean-Paul Angeletti and Francisco "Francois" Chiappe. Several facts point to them as the assassins.
First of all, the book Contrabandista fits David’s description of the assassins like a glove. Although the book discusses David a great deal, it is really about Auguste Joseph Ricord—the French-Corsican underworld figure, Nazi collaborator, and heroin kingpin of Latin America. The book named five individuals as Ricord’s main assistants. Of those five, three appeared in The Men Who Killed Kennedy. They were Christian David, Michel Nicoli, and Lucien Sarti (posthumously). It was stated in the documentary that two unnamed French-Corsican hit men assisted Sarti in the assassination. In Contrabandista, Clark and Horrock named two additional men—of the five top people in Ricord’s cartel—who fit the descriptions of the two unnamed assassins. They were Jean-Paul Angeletti and Francisco "Francois" Chiappe. Those two men, plus Sarti and David, became Auguste Ricord’s top four lieutenants in the late 1960s. Michel Nicoli—another man who appeared in The Men Who Killed Kennedy—was one of two deputies who reported to Christian David. The other was William Perrin.13 (Footnote 8)
Secondly, Angeletti and Chiappe were wanted for murder, as were David and Sarti (according to Clark and Horrock). Contrabandista states that David, Sarti, Angeletti, and Chiappe were extremely violent men who carried guns constantly and did not hesitate to use them.14 The authors specifically stated that Sarti and Chiappe were what Latins call "pistoleros."15
Thirdly, Henrik Krüger wrote in his 1976 book—The Great Heroin Coup—that François Chiappe’s nickname was "Big Lips."16 This is significant because several eye witnesses to the Kennedy assassination said they saw a "negro" man with a rifle looking out of a window on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository minutes before the assassination.17 With a bit of dark make-up, a white man with big lips could easily pass for being black, especially from a distance. In addition, Christian David told Steve Rivele that "on jobs like this [political assassinations], they were always in disguise." (Reference transcript from The Men Who Killed Kennedy.)
Fourth point: Krüger wrote that Chiappe "had worked for the Guerini mob"18 which means that Antoine Guerini very well might have offered him the contract to kill Kennedy, just as he had offered it to Christian David.
Fifth point: Angeletti, Chiappe, and Sarti were very big players in the heroin business. They were also French-Corsicans with ties to The Guerini Family of Marseilles. Alfred McCoy—primary author of The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia—linked the Guerini Family to heroin smuggling from Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. In addition, Kennedy’s assassination has been linked to escalation of the Vietnam War (reference Jim Garrison and other researchers). Angeletti, Chiappe, and Sarti all worked as lieutenants for Auguste Ricord who was a direct beneficiary of drugs produced in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. He smuggled narcotics made from opium grown in the Golden Triangle back into the United States. Ricord was the number one smuggler of heroin into the United States during the late 1960s and early 70s. Put it all together and this makes Angeletti, Chiappe, and Sarti prime suspects in the assassination of President Kennedy.
Christian David was a French Corsican who eventually became Auguste Ricord’s bodyguard and headed one of Ricord’s five divisions. He was also a bold international criminal, highly respected and feared within the underworld, who had lived with violence since his childhood in occupied France. His criminal career swung like a pendulum, mostly doing mercenary work for both the French underground but often performing assignments for that country’s secret political police as well.19
David was born in 1929 in the city of Bordeaux in the south of France.20 He was about 33 or 34 years old when President Kennedy was killed on November 22, 1963.21 He was only 58 when he appeared in The Men Who Killed Kennedy 1988, although he looked like an old man in the documentary because he had endured severe torture in a Brazilian prison in 1972.22
Of medium height and slender physique, a swarthy complexion common among Corsicans, a younger healthier Christian David walked with the firm, assured stride of a warrior, preferred elegantly tailored Continental-style clothes, and always carried a weapon. He was carrying a pistol with a silencer and a grenade when the Brazilian police arrested him in 1972.
Danish journalist Henrik Krüger wrote the following description of Christian David in his book, The Great Heroin Coup:
[Christian David has] been a pimp, robber, hired assassin for French intelligence, hatchet man in Algiers torture chambers, arms trader, spy, narcotics trafficker and true to form, lover of beautiful women. He’s one of the few alive who knows the truth about the Ben Barka affair that shook France in 1965; he knows details of the brutal power struggle within French intelligence agency SDECE; of SDECE collaboration with the Corsican Mafia; and of the secret CIA operations in Latin America. Ample grounds for anyone’s paranoia. But David is cunning and tough, and that is why he’s still alive.23
David liked to gamble; he loved the casinos in Rio, Buenos Aires, Asunción, and Montevideo. Although he was Corsican—known for their code of silence—David had a reputation as a talker. He once boasted that in 1969 Ricord’s organization had moved 1,000 kilograms of heroin into the United States in one big load. The heroin had been concealed in bags of money, placed in an armored truck, driven from Mexico to Houston, Texas, where it was stored in a warehouse then later distributed to buyers in Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and New York.24
Often using aliases, Jean-Pierre, Eduardo, and Beau Serge,25 David was often seen with Auguste Ricord at the Maison des Anciens Combattants Français, a well-known haven for international gangsters in Buenos Aires, Argentina. David was an international criminal at that time. In the 1960s he was wanted by the French authorities for murdering Paris Policeman Lieutenant Maurice Galibert26—who, when he was shot, was investigating the kidnapping and murder of Moroccan political exile, Mehdi Ben Barka.27 This indicates that Christian David was likely involved in Ben Barka’s death.
Mehdi Ben Barka was a Moroccan revolutionary politician who lived in exile in Paris in the early Sixties. It was widely viewed that Ben Barka would soon be president for the Republic of Morocco. When Morocco and Algeria had a brief war in 1963, Ben Barka sided with Algeria and went into exile. He was subsequently accused of high treason for an alleged plot against King Hassan II and was sentenced in absentia to death. He moved to Paris and became leader-in-exile of the opposition to Hassan. On October 29, 1965, Ben Barka disappeared. He was never found, and investigators concluded that gangsters were paid to kidnap and murder him. It was suggested several times that the plot was headed by General Muhammad Oufkir, Hassan's minister of the interior. The Ben Barka affair created a political crisis for the government of French President Charles de Gaulle and led to ruptured diplomatic relations between France and Morocco for almost four years.28
In the spring, summer, and fall of 1972, the governments of South and Central American were working with the Nixon administration to stop heroin from being smuggled into the United States. In October 1972 the Brazilian federal police arrested David and Nicoli along with several other Brazilian underworld figures. Most of them were using false identity papers. David, Nicoli, and another Frenchmen were transported by air to federal police headquarters in Brazilia, the nation’s capital, where Brazilian police interrogated them in a manner that has made Brazil notorious throughout the world.29
David was stripped of his clothing and hung upside down in the interrogation cell. He claimed he was tortured with electric shocks applied to his testicles and the head of his penis. Evidently he did not talk; however, the torture became so severe that he attempted suicide by swallowing a light bulb rather than undergo more. He later cut his wrists with glass fragments. After that he walked bowlegged from the pain.30 This was the Christian David that the world saw in Nigel Turner’s documentary, The Men Who Killed Kennedy—a man of 58 using a walker who appeared to be closer to 80.
Ultimately David was extradited to the United States, along with Auguste Ricord, for heroin smuggling. This was part of the Nixon administration’s war on drugs. David was taken to a Brooklyn courthouse where his bail was set at $2.5 million. Within two weeks federal judge Jacob Mishler sentenced David to twenty years in prison for smuggling half a ton of heroin into the United States. In addition, the trial revealed David’s ties to the French intelligence service known as Service d’Action Civique (SAC). His tri-colored SAC ID was placed on display as he explained: "I was taken from prison in 1961 to work for an organization called SAC. It was arranged by someone with connections in the highest political circles." He also commented on his incarceration in Brazil: "I was tortured by the Brazilians for thirty days and fed nothing for twenty-six days. They stole my money. Today I can’t afford a lawyer, I haven’t a cent."31
Michel Nicoli was the man who corroborated Christian David’s claim, in The Men Who Killed Kennedy, that Lucien Sarti and two other "unnamed" Corsican assassins shot and killed President Kennedy; and that Sarti, while dressed as a police officer standing behind the picket fence on the grassy knoll, shot Kennedy in the head using an exploding bullet.
Michel Nicoli was the same age as Christian David; born in about 1929. He was about 33 or 34 years old when President Kennedy was killed on November 22, 1963.32 He was Christian David’s deputy in Auguste Ricord’s drug cartel. David, as stated before, was Ricord’s personal bodyguard and became one of Ricord’s top four lieutenants as well.
Nicoli was quite different from Ricord’s violent lieutenants, Christian David, Lucien Sarti, François Chiappe, and Jean-Paul Angeletti, in that he was far less lethal; although he carried a gun from time to time for protection. In his line of work, this was not unwise; however, Nicoli was quite sophisticated and a smooth convincing talker, which made him an excellent witness as Steve Rivele pointed out in The Men Who Killed Kennedy. Although he was obviously a criminal, he had the reputation among narcotics agents for giving truthful and consistent information when he talked. Corsican criminals in particular are taken seriously because they have an ancient tradition of not talking when captured, even when tortured. Consequently, when one of them talks, people listen. But capturing Nicoli in a compromising situation where it was beneficial for him to talk was no small task.
As a drug trafficker, Nicoli exemplified the qualities that confounded and frustrated narcotics agents to no end. He was a master at changing identities. He used several aliases: Abraham Goldman, Miguel dos Santos, and Raniers, to name a few.33
Frank DeSantis, an American Customs agent said of Nicoli in the early 1970s: "It’s fantastic. These people are not jerks. We’ve ripped off a thousand of their couriers and this group doesn’t founder. It perseveres. They change identities like we change shirts. Take Raniers [Michel Nicoli], who is Miguel—we get six countries telling us he’s six different people. Bust him, and he doesn’t give you just a passport—he gives you documents like this!" DeSantis pointed to a stack about six inches high. "Driver’s license, BankAmerica, the works. The people in junk—everybody knows about complexity, but the phony identification you wouldn’t believe!"34
Layers of multiple identification, and supporting legal documentation, was a technique Michel Nicoli learned from Auguste Ricord who mastered this wily approach during his career with the Gestapo under German-occupied France during World War II.35
In October 1972 the Brazilian federal police arrested Nicoli along with Christian David and several other Brazilian underworld figures. Like David, Nicoli was also tortured; stripped, hung upside down and tortured with electric shocks. Like Christian David he apparently did not talk, which intensified and prolonged the torture. He became depressed, began banging his head into the cell walls. Later he was examined by American authorities who observed bumps and bruises on his head, and found indications of permanent nerve damage.36
Obviously he recovered by 1988 when he appeared in The Men Who Killed Kennedy. At least he appeared to be in much better physical condition than his old friend Christian David, who was the same age, 58 at the time.
Auguste Joseph Ricord, the Heroin Kingpin
Auguste Joseph Ricord was a French Corsican born in Marseilles, France on April 26, 1911.37 He was 52 years old when President Kennedy was killed on November 22, 1963. He was 62 when he was convicted of drug trafficking in the United States in 1973. A small-framed man, he stood less than five feet four; a half-inch scar crossed his right upper lip. By the early 1970s his hair was gray-white, although not much was left of it.38
Marseilles is the largest commercial seaport in France and the second largest city. Founded more than 2,500 years ago, it is located on the Mediterranean’s Gulf of Lion within a semicircle of limestone hills. Although a colorful city, Marseilles has a history of vigorous independence and criminal activity.39 Most law-enforcement people familiar with Auguste Ricord believe it was the sinister influences within the ancient city of Marseilles that led Ricord not only to a life of crime, but developed him into a tough con artist, a master of deception.40 A cunning, hardened man, Ricord acquired a skill for slipping out of trouble as easily as he slipped into it.41
Two weeks before his sixteenth birthday, Ricord was convicted of theft and extortion. Within a few months the Marseilles authorities had added another entry to his record: "violence, unauthorized possession of a firearm."42 At that point Ricord left Marseilles and became a fugitive living on the run. While in Paris, on November 15, 1927, another entry was added to his criminal record: "possession and sale of stolen property."43 On January 3, 1939 the police in Paris arrested him for unauthorized possession of a side arm.44 After that the Paris police reported that he "lived from the proceeds earned from prostitution but was never arrested for it."45
When the Nazis marched through Paris in June of 1940 they formed alliances with various elements within the criminal underworld. Auguste Joseph Ricord was one of those people.46 It is not known precisely what role he played with the Nazis, but in July 1950, he was convicted of collaborating with the Third Reich and sentenced to death in absentia by the Permanent Military Court of Paris. A year later the civilian court of Eure-et-Loir reduced his sentence to twenty years hard labor and ten years banishment from France; the latter sentence was for a theft conviction several years earlier.47
After World War II Ricord knew he would soon be declared an enemy of France because of his Gestapo connections. Consequently, he fled the country, first going to Germany and Austria, then settling in Milan, Italy for a time. In 1948 he moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina, thereby escaping the French death sentence in 1950.48
Somewhere along the way Ricord left behind a wife, probably in Paris. In Buenos Aires he remarried a shapely German-born nightclub stripper named Ingebord Gabski. Together they had a daughter, Josephine Brigette (or Josefina Brigita in Spanish), before separating in 1960.49
While living in Paris, Ricord reportedly owned a restaurant, called the Navarin, with his half-sister, Maria Traversa Bonsigour. They sold it for $40,000 before fleeing the country.50
Ricord later boasted from his jail cell in the Tacumbu prison—the largest prison in Asuncion, Paraguay—that he had left France for Italy and South America "with more than $100,000 in my pockets."51
After moving to Argentina Ricord operated several restaurants and night clubs, with help from Maria. First he bought two night clubs, Le Fetiche and Lido. At various times he owned and operated six restaurants: El Nido, Chez Danielle, L’Etoile, the Bar el Sol (later renamed L’Auberge Provençale), the M. André, and the Pompitor.52
Ricord’s business soon turned into a vast underworld enterprise. He used several aliases: M. André, Cori, Dédé,53 Lucien Darguelles.54 He also used variations of his real name: Auguste José Gallese (his parents’ name), and variations on existing aliases: Lucien Dorguelle, Lucio Maria Darguelles, or Lucien Gegelles.55 Maintaining multiple identities was a con-trick he learned as a young man in Paris.56
Although ostensibly a restaurateur and nightclub owner, the bulk of his income came from his interest in prostitution. According to some estimates, revenues from Ricord’s enterprise ran as high as $3 million a year. His business was based in Buenos Aires but spread into Brazil, Uruaguay, and Caracas, Venezuela.57 Much of his fast-growing power was attributed to his expertise at harboring international criminals—many of them were ex-Nazis or Nazi collaborators from France when Germany occupied that country—by channeling them into his prostitution syndicate.58 Many "trusted men" within the underworld were sent to Ricord from Marseilles, Algiers, Milan, Casablanca, Rome, and Barcelona. These fugitives would meet Ricord, or his designee, at the Bar el Sol at 380 Marconi Street in the suburb of Olivos.59 In addition, Ricord used to frequent the Maison des Anciens Combattants Français, a well-known haven for international gangsters.60
In 1957 Ricord was arrested by the Argentine police for corruption and criminal association after Interpol—the international police information-swapping organization—learned of his prostitution network. The French quickly learned of his arrest and requested that Argentina hand him over for previous convictions which included, primarily, collaborating with the Nazis. Interpol, however, did not recognize that as a crime. In addition, Argentina refused to extradite Ricord. Like Uruguay, Argentina was populated by many European immigrants who fled their homelands to escape political oppression. As a result, the Argentine government turned the French down and released Ricord. He immediately fled to Montevideo, Uruguay and used the alias, Lucien Darguelles. In Uruguay, France sought his extradition again, but Uruguay followed Argentina’s lead and refuse to hand him over to the French authorities. Ricord was soon released and quickly went underground but surfaced in Caracas, Venezuela in 1958 as the owner of Le Domino, a nightclub that was very active in prostitution.61
In 1967 François Chiappe accompanied Auguste Ricord to his lawyer’s office (at 1800 Calle La Valle, Buenos Aires, Argentina) when Ricord gave Jacob Grodnitzky, alias Jack Grosby, $20,000 to pay the bail for Ricord’s nephew, Louis Bonsignour, alias Felipe Spadaro. Louis was the son of Ricord’s half-sister, Maria Traversa Bonsignour. Louis had been arrested in the United States and indicted, in May 1967, for conspiring to smuggle heroin into the country.62 Grodnitzky had been solicited by Louis’s girlfriend to fly to Argentina and get $20,000 for his bail. Also present at Ricord’s lawyer’s office were Christian David, Michel Nicoli, among others.63
The stated meeting is significant because it would eventually be used by US narcotics agents to reveal Ricord’s South American involvement in heroin trafficking. Prior to 1967, US narcotics agents thought that most of the heroin smuggled into the US came solely from a French smuggling ring. Ricord’s nephew, Louis Bonsignour, was French and, consequently, the US narcotics agents had incorrectly assumed that France was the source of the smuggling ring. The fact that Louis’s bail money came from his uncle in Argentina would eventually be used to build a case against Ricord as the kingpin of a Latin-based heroin cartel.
Around 1968 Ricord returned to Argentina. Almost immediately he helped two old acquaintances, Lucien Sarti and Francisco "François" Chiappe, both fugitive Corsican murderers on the run. Sarti was wanted for murdering a Belgian policeman and Chiappe had been sentenced to death for another murder. Shortly after arriving in Argentina, and being given safe haven by Ricord, the two fugitives held up a money order exchange. The police arrested them and Ricord. A search of Ricord’s restaurant near the Rio de la Plata Football Stadium in Buenos Aires turned up a cache of arms, including machine guns. Ricord was declared persona non grata and kicked out of Argentina. Ironically, none of them went to jail for the crime.64 It was the machine guns and other arms found after their arrest that got Ricord ousted from Argentina, not the armed robbery by Sarti and Chiappe.65 Ricord then moved to Asunción, Paraguay.66
It is not known for certain exactly when Ricord began trafficking narcotics, but a French intelligence report indicated that it began between 1957 and 1968, flourished after his arrival in Paraguay.67 Paraguay was the perfect location to manage a large-scale heroin cartel. It was basically uninhabited—two and a half million people crowded around Asunción. The Chaco Boreal(Footnote 9) is two-thirds of the land area but only 100,000 people live out there, and it is full of landing fields unmonitored by governmental authorities.68
By 1969—at the age of 59—Ricord’s health began to weaken. He suffered from diabetes and was frequently struck by terrible weariness or bursts of listlessness and dissatisfaction. He felt under pressure because he was a fugitive in many countries; Argentina had thrown him out twice; Uruguay once; his homeland France wanted him back but only to put him in jail.69 His four younger lieutenants—Christian David, Lucien Sarti, Francois Chiappe, and Jean-Paul Angeletti—had strong ambitions and were greedy to establish themselves. All four had come to him from Europe fleeing police warrants. Although he gave them political safety, false documents, and responsibilities within his criminal enterprise, Ricord sometimes feared that his leadership was being eroded by these aggressive younger men.70
One of the few things that gave him pleasure was the construction of Le Paris-Niza, an inn and restaurant in Asunción, Paraguay. It ended up costing over $100,000, but it was more than a restaurant. It was his Franco-Mediterranean island in Latin America. He took particular pride in the restaurant. He hired an expatriate French couple to manage it and insisted that the waiters be taught the Gallic manner of serving.71
When President Nixon took office in January 1969, he stepped up the war on drugs and focused on heroin smuggling. Under Nixon’s direction the Ricord Case became a joint effort between the US Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (USBNDD) and the Bureau of Customs.72
In the late Sixties narcotics agents realized that heroin shipments were being sent to the United states by way of South America, although rumors of the Latin route had been around since 1964 and 65.73 Customs agent Albert W. Seeley—the man who built the case against Ricord—said that in 1962, the amount of heroin being smuggled into the United States was "no big deal."74 Special Agent Bill Knierem, with the Bureau of Customs, stated the following in a 1973 interview:
From ’62 to ’67 it was all bodies and suitcases. [The term "bodies" means that individual smugglers/couriers strapped packets of heroin to their bodies.] They get it in France, they go to the US, Canada, Mexico. We are getting beat. They also begin to ship from Europe in freezers, in oscilloscopes. Automobiles get knocked off. They are full of it. The French must have been saying, ‘You Customs guys got no imagination at all.’
’60 to ’68 was still a good period for federal law enforcement. Then the red lines (he points to the smuggling routes marked in red on his flip chart) begin to fan out. Fort Lauderdale, Boston, Washington, et cetera. It’s no longer just New York and Montreal—they’re coming in everywhere.
We are looking at Marseilles and Barcelona and New York and Montreal and they were hitting us underneath, from Latin America. We ought to be ashamed there. We were looking the wrong way. It was basically a failure in law enforcement."75
The observations of narcotics agents Seeley and Knierem are significant because they indicate that heroin did not become a problem until around the time of President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, and it slowly increased thereafter until becoming an epidemic in 1968. That was the year that Richard Nixon campaigned for the Presidency. The war on drugs became a major campaign issue for him.
In 1969 the "demand" for heroin in America had increased so dramatically that Ricord decided to use Contrabandistas—a network of light aircraft that flew cigarettes, whisky, wigs, and Levis from Miami into various South American countries. This was the only way he could send the high-volumes needed for the US market.76
Ricord used the Contrabandista network in a three tiered approach. Firstly, a pilot—and usually an assistant—flew a small airplane to an appointed place and waited for instructions. They did not know the buyer of the cargo and without this "connection" they were powerless to hijack the load even if they had wanted to double-cross the system. Secondly, a couple of men were sent to meet the pilot et al and shepherd them to the delivery point. At that point, the shepherds knew where the heroin was and they would transport it to a contact man in New York. This contact man was the "third tier."77
The third tier person knew where to drop off the heroin to the buyer. Even the third tier did not know much information about the buyer—not even his/her name. Only Ricord knew that. The third tier was only given a location where the goods would be delivered. Often the third tier would be advised to walk along a certain street at a specified time with a suitcase full of heroin. A car would stop and someone would quickly snatch it and drive away. They would then meet the third tier in 30 minutes or so to drop off a suitcase full of cash if they felt the quality of the goods was sufficient. Ricord insisted on using a Frenchman, Pierre Gahou, as the third tier contact man with the buyer because he obviously needed someone he could trust. The first two tiers did not have to be as trustworthy because his system was essentially fool-proof at those levels.78
On March 15, 1971 a federal grand jury in Manhatten returned a secret indictment against Ricord, charging him with conspiracy to smuggle heroin into the United States.79 Paraguay’s President General Alfred Stroessner subsequently ordered Ricord’s arrest.80 The arrest order was carried out March 26, 1971, but President Stroessner had second thoughts about extraditing Ricord to the United States to face conspiracy charges for smuggling heroin. Stroessner had cultural issues with the extradition request. In Paraguay, smuggling was a way of life; and conspiracy laws did not exist. Consequently, Ricord sat in a jail cell in Tacumbu Penitentiary in Asunción, Paraguay for a year and a half while Paraguay and the United States engaged in a diplomatic tug of war over custody of the wily heroin kingpin.81 Finally in September 1972 Ricord was extradited to the United States and prosecuted for conspiracy to smuggle narcotics into America.82 On December 16, 1972 he was convicted of that crime, and on January 19, 1973, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison and fined $25,000.83
Lucien Sarti was the man who shot President Kennedy in the head with an exploding bullet from behind the picket fence on top of the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza. Sarti was identified as the stated assassin by Christian David whose assertion was corroborated by Michel Nicoli in The Men Who Killed Kennedy. Sarti was a lieutenant for Auguste Ricord.
Sarti was a French Corsican born in about 1931 and was about 32 years old when President Kennedy was killed on November 22, 1963.84 Sarti had been an "enforcer" for criminal elements in Europe. He had killed a policeman in Belgium—a crime that hit men normally avoided lest they incur the wrath of all other policemen in the world.85
In December 1967, Sarti managed a heroin smuggling network based in Montreal, Canada for Auguste Ricord. The network consisted of at least 15 couriers who smuggled heroin into New York City from Montreal.86
As previously stated the Nixon administration intensified its war on drugs in the spring, summer, and fall of 1972, and the governments of South and Central American worked closely with the United States government to bring down Auguste Ricord and his heroin cartel.
In the spring of 1972 the Mexican authorities were closing in on Lucien Sarti and his younger colleague, Jean-Paul Angeletti. The two men were arrested in La Paz, Bolivia, but were released before the police realized their true identities. Shortly thereafter, American narcotics agents set up a trace on them. The pair traveled northward, through Peru and across South and Central America, finally stopping at Mexico City forty-five days later. The Americans quietly alerted the Poliçia Judicial Federal, the equivalent of Mexico’s FBI.87
April 27, 1972 was a muggy evening in Mexico City. At about 8:40 pm, a glistening European car stopped quietly at the curb in front of 107 Temistocles Street in an upper-class residential area of Mexico City. The automobile was driven by a beautiful, thirtyish woman in casual, stylish attire. She was later identified as Lucien Sarti’s wife, Liliane Rous Vaillet. Shortly after the lovely young lady parked the car, and waited behind the wheel, Sarti walked quickly from the house moving toward the automobile on the driver’s side.88
Just before he opened the car door, two Mexican agents advanced from the shadows. Instinctively, Sarti drew a .38-caliber Colt Cobra(Footnote 10) and ran away as fast as he could. A few seconds later he was killed in a hail of bullets when ambushed by several Mexican agents hidden close to the house.89
That night another group of Mexican policemen stormed Angeletti’s hideout and surprised him while he was having sex. Being caught off-guard probably saved his life. The police officers quickly restrained him before he could grab the pistol on the table nearby.90
The Mexican authorities seized fourteen false passports, an abundance of jewels, firearms, cash, and "several notebooks … with notes on large and small narcotics distributors." The Mexican police determined that Angeletti, Sarti, and their wives had landed in Mexico from Panama aboard a smuggler’s small aircraft. In addition, the Mexican agents determined that the group had been planning to smuggle 100 kilograms of cocaine into the United States.91
Sarti’s body was never claimed and was buried in Mexico. Angeletti, his wife, Sarti’s widow, and another drug smuggler arrested with Angeletti that night were eventually extradited to France and Italy.92
Around the same time that Sarti was killed, his former mistress—Héléne Ferreira, a sexy Brazilian model—was arrested in Peru and questioned about Sarti and his Corsican friends. She refused to cooperate at first, so the Peruvian authorities turned her over to the Brazilian police who were infamous for torturing suspects in order to extract information. Whatever they did to her is uncertain, but she began to talk immediately. She told them the whereabouts of an army of Brazilian, Corsican, and Italian underworld figures—including Christian David and Michel Nicoli.93
In October 1972 the Brazilian federal police arrested David and Nicoli along with several other Brazilian underworld figures based on information supplied by Héléne Ferreira—Lucien Sarti’s former mistress. Once arrested David and Nicoli were subjected to relentless torture by the Brazilian authorities.94
I have concluded that Jean-Paul Angeletti was one of the three hit men who fired a rifle at President Kennedy’s motorcade. He likely took position in either an upper floor in the Texas School Book Depository or the ground floor of the Dal-Tex Building. Angeletti was a lieutenant for Auguste Ricord.
Angeletti was a French Corsican born in about 1941 and was about 22 years old when President Kennedy was killed on November 22, 1963.95 He was fairly tall for a Corsican, a thin man with a thin face and dark, straight hair. The heavy bags under his eyes were put there by nature, but they added to his reputation as a swinger, a man who lived it up at the Carnival in Rio every year and frequented gambling casinos in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. His criminal record was quite extensive.96
Angeletti and Francois Chiappe ran Ricord’s heroin cartel while he was incarcerated in a Tacumbu Penitentiary cell in Asunción, Paraguay for over a year—after being arrested in March 1971—pending extradition to the United States.97
As previously stated, Angeletti had been traveling with Lucien Sarti when, on April 27, 1972, Sarti was ambushed and killed by Mexican police after resisting arrest and brandishing a firearm. Later that evening Angeletti was arrested by Mexican authorities, caught in the act of making love. Angeletti, his wife, Sarti’s widow, and another drug smuggler arrested with Angeletti that night were eventually extradited to France and Italy.98
I have concluded that Francisco "François" Chiappe was one of the three hit men who fired a rifle at President Kennedy’s motorcade. He likely took his position in either an upper floor in the Texas School Book Depository or the ground floor of the Dal-Tex Building. Chiappe was a lieutenant for Auguste Ricord.
Chiappe’s precise age is not known, although he was considerably younger than Auguste Ricord—presumably within the age-range of his collegues, Lucien Sarti, Jean-Paul Angeletti, and Christian David.99 That means he was born between 1930 and 1941, and consequently, was between 22 and 33 when President Kennedy was killed on November 22, 1963.
Chiappe, a burly, bulky 6-foot French Corsican who weighed about 210 pounds (in 1971), was under sentence of death for two murders in Paris.100 Chiappe and Jean-Paul Angeletti ran Ricord’s heroin cartel while the latter was incarcerated in a Tacumbu Penitentiary cell in Asunción, Paraguay for over a year—after being arrested in March 1971—pending extradition to the United States.101
Chiappe and Michel Russo (another leader within Ricord’s syndicate) were arrested by Argentine police in Buenos Aires while attempting to transport over 100 pounds of pure heroin.102
As previously stated, it is worth noting that according to author Henrik Krüger, François Chiappe’s nickname was "Big Lips."103 This is significant because several eye witnesses to the Kennedy assassination said they saw a black man with a rifle looking out of a window on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository minutes before the assassination.104 With a bit of dark make-up, a white man with big lips could easily pass for being black, especially from a distance. In addition, Christian David told Steve Rivele that "on jobs like this [political assassinations], they were always in disguise." (Reference transcript from The Men Who Killed Kennedy.)
The Mafia Comes to Asia
Alfred McCoy, et al, described in his 1972 book, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, how the American Mafia and the Corsican crime syndicates of Marseille turned to Southeast Asia in the 1960s as their main supplier of opium. This is critical information because it reveals how the underworld benefited from opium production in Southeast Asia shortly after Kennedy’s death. It also reveals that the US military knew of drug trafficking activity in Vietnam but looked the other way. Here is an excerpt from McCoy’s book:
The flourishing heroin traffic among Vietnam-based GIs was undoubtedly the most important new market for Indochina's drug traffickers, but it was not the only one. As we have already seen, increasingly insurmountable problems in the Mediterranean Basin had forced the American Mafia and the Corsican syndicates of Marseille to look to Southeast Asia for new sources of heroin and morphine base. Faced with the alternative of finding a new source of morphine base or going out of business, the Corsican syndicates of Marseille turned to their associates in Southeast Asia for help. "There are people who think that once the problem in Turkey is cleaned up, that's the end of the traffic," explains John Warner, chief intelligence analyst for the U.S. Bureau of Narcotics. "But the Corsicans aren't stupid. They saw the handwriting on the wall and began to shift their morphine base sources to Southeast Asia."105
The Corsican narcotics syndicates based in Saigon and Vientiane had been supplying European drug factories with Southeast Asian morphine base for several years, and links with Marseille were already well established. During the First Indochina War (1946-1954) Corsican gangsters in Marseille and Saigon cooperated closely in smuggling gold, currency, and narcotics between the two ports. In 1962 Corsican gangsters in Saigon reported that Paul Louis Levet, a Bangkokbased syndicate leader, was supplying European heroin laboratories with morphine base from northern Thailand.106 Furthermore, at least four Corsican charter airlines had played a key role in Southeast Asia's regional opium traffic from 1955 to 1965. Although they were forced out of business when the Laotian generals decided to cut themselves in for a bigger share of the profits in 1965, most of the Corsicans had remained in Southeast Asia. They had opened up businesses or taken jobs in Vientiane and Saigon to tide themselves over until something new opened up.107
When Gen. Edward G. Lansdale of the CIA returned to Saigon as a special assistant to Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge in 1965, he quickly learned that his old enemies, the Corsicans, were still in town. During the fighting between the French 2ème Bureau and the CIA back in 1955, the Corsican gangsters had been involved in several attempts on his life. "So I wouldn't have to look behind my back every time I walked down the street," Lansdale explained in a June 1971 interview, "I decided to have a meeting with the Corsican leaders. I told them I wasn't interested in doing any criminal investigations; I wasn't in Vietnam for that. And they agreed to leave me alone. We had some kind of a truce." General Lansdale can no longer recall much of what transpired at that meeting. He remembers that a large-busted French-Vietnamese named Helene took an active role in the proceedings, that the affair was amicable enough, but not much else. Lansdale later learned that the Corsicans were still heavily involved in the narcotics traffic, but since this was not his responsibility, he took no action.108
Most of what Lansdale knew about the Corsicans came from his old friend Lt. Col. Lucien Conein, the CIA agent who had helped engineer President Diem's overthrow in 1963. As a former OSS liaison officer with the French Resistance during World War 11, Conein had some experiences in common with many of Saigon's Corsican gangsters. During his long tours of duty in Saigon, Conein spent much of his time in fashionable Corsican-owned bars and restaurants and was on intimate terms with many of Saigon's most important underworld figures. When Conein left Vietnam several years later, the Corsicans presented him with a heavy gold medallion embossed with the Napoleonic Eagle and the Corsican crest. Engraved on the back of it is Per Tu Amicu Conein ("For your friendship, Conein"). Conein proudly explains that this medallion is worn by powerful Corsican syndicate leaders around the world and serves as an identification badge for secret meetings, narcotics drops, and the like.109
Through his friendship with the Corsicans, Conein has gained a healthy respect for them. "The Corsicans are smarter, tougher, and better organized that the Sicilians," says Conein. "They are absolutely ruthless and are the equal of anything we know about the Sicilians, but they hide their internal fighting better." Conein also learned that many Saigon syndicate leaders had relatives in the Marseille underworld. These family relations play an important role in the international drug traffic, Conein feels, because much of the morphine base used in Marseille's heroin laboratories comes from Saigon. Corsican smugglers in Saigon purchase morphine base through Corsican contacts in Vientiane and ship it on French merchant vessels to relatives and friends in Marseille, where it is processed into heroin.110 "From what I know of them," says Conein, "it will be absolutely impossible to cut off the dope traffic. You can cut it down, but you can never stop it, unless you can get to the growers in the hills."111
This pessimism may explain why Conein and Lansdale did not pass on this information to the U.S. Bureau of Narcotics. It is particularly unfortunate that General Lansdale decided to arrange "some kind of a truce" with the Corsicans during the very period when Marseille's heroin laboratories were probably beginning the changeover from Turkish to Southeast Asian morphine base. In a mid-1971 interview, Lieutenant Colonel Conein said that power brokers in Premier Ky's apparatus contacted the leaders of Saigon's- Corsican underworld in 1965-1966 and agreed to let them start making large drug shipments to Europe in exchange for a fixed percentage of the profits. By October 1969 these shipments had become so important to Marseille's heroin laboratories that, according to Conein, there was a summit meeting of Corsican syndicate bosses from around the world at Saigon's Continental Palace Hotel. Syndicate leaders from Marseille, Bangkok, Vientiane, and Phnom Penh flew in for the meeting, which discussed a wide range of international rackets but probably focused on reorganizing the narcotics traffic.112 According to one well-informed U.S. diplomat in Saigon, the U.S. Embassy has a reliable Corsican informant who claims that similar meetings were also held in 1968 and 1970 at the Continental Palace. Most significantly, American Mafia boss Santo Trafficante, Jr., visited Saigon in 1968 and is believed to have contacted Corsican syndicate leaders there. Vietnamese police officials report that the current owner of the Continental Palace is Philippe Franchini, the heir of Mathieu Franchini, the reputed organizer of currency- and opium-smuggling rackets between Saigon and Marseille during the First Indochina War.
Police officials also point out that one of Ky's strongest supporters in the Air Force, Transport Division Commander Col. Phan Phung Tien, is close to many Corsican gangsters and has been implicated in the smuggling of drugs between Laos and Vietnam.
From 1965 to 1967 Gen. Lansdale's Senior Liaison Office worked closely with Premier Ky's administration, and the general himself was identified as one of the young premier's stronger supporters among U.S. mission personnel.113 One can only wonder whether Conein's and Lansdale's willingness to grant the Corsicans a "truce" and overlook their growing involvement in the American heroin traffic might not have been motivated by political considerations, i.e., their fear of embarrassing Premier Ky.
Just as most of the Corsican gangsters now still active in Saigon and Vientiane came to Indochina for the first time as camp followers of the French Expeditionary Corps in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the American Mafia followed the U.S. army to Vietnam in 1965. Like any group of intelligent investors, the Mafia is always looking for new financial "frontiers," and when the Vietnam war began to heat up, many of its more entrepreneurial young members were bankrolled by the organization and left for Saigon. Attracted to Vietnam by lucrative construction and service contracts, the mafiosi concentrated on ordinary graft and kickbacks at first, but later branched out into narcotics smuggling as they built up their contacts in Hong Kong and Indochina.
Probably the most important of these pioneers was Frank Carmen Furci, a young mafioso from Tampa, Florida. Although any ordinary businessman would try to hide this kind of family background from his staid corporate associates, Frank Furci found that it impressed the corrupt sergeants, shady profiteers, and Corsican gangsters who were his friends and associates in Saigon. He told them all proudly, "My father is the Mafia boss of Tampa, Florida."114 (Actually, Frank's father, Dominick Furci, is only a middle-ranking lieutenant in the powerful Florida-based family. Santo Trafficante, Jr., is, of course, the Mafia boss of Tampa.115 Furci arrived in Vietnam in 1965 with good financial backing and soon became a key figure in the systematic graft and corruption that began to plague U.S. military clubs in Vietnam as hundreds of thousands of GIs poured into the war zone.116 A lengthy U.S. Senate investigation later exposed the network of graft, bribes, and kickbacks that Furci and his fellow profiteers employed to cheat military clubs and their GI customers out of millions of dollars. At the bottom of the system were 500,000 bored and homesick GIs who found Vietnamese rice too sticky and the strong fish sauce repugnant.
The clubs were managed by senior NCOs, usually sergeant majors, who had made the army their career and were considered dedicated, trustworthy men. While the officers were preoccupied with giving orders and running a war, the sergeants were left with responsibility for all of the minor details involved in managing one of the largest restaurant and night club chains in the world—ordering refrigerators, hiring bands, selecting liquor brands, and negotiating purchasing orders for everything from slot machines to peanuts. Accounting systems were shoddy, and the entire system was pathetically vulnerable to well-organized graft. Seven sergeants who had served together in the Twenty-fourth Infantry Division at Augsburg, Germany, during the early 1960s had discovered this weakness and exploited it fully, stealing up to $40,000 a month from NCO clubs.117
In 1965 these seven sergeants started showing up in Vietnam as mess custodians and club managers at the First Infantry Division, the American Division, and U.S. army headquarters at Long Binh.118 Most important of all, the group's ringleader, Sgt William 0. Wooldridge, was appointed sergeant major of the army in July 1966. As the army's highest-ranking enlisted man, he served directly under the army chief of staff at the Pentagon, where he was in an ideal position to manipulate personnel transfers and cover up the group's activities.119
At the top of the system were the civilian entrepreneurs—Frank Furci and his competitor, William J. Crum—who worked as agents for a host of American companies and paid the sergeants lavish kickbacks on huge Army purchase orders for kitchen equipment, snacks, liquor, etc.
Furci was also heavily involved in the currency black market. A U.S. Senate investigation of illegal currency manipulations in Vietnam later showed that he had exchanged $99,200 through a single unauthorized money changer at the black market rate of 300 or 400 piasters to the dollar, considerably more than the official rate of 118 piasters.120
Unfortunately for Furci, his competitor, William J. Crum, was also aware of these illegal transactions, and he decided to use this knowledge to force Furci out of business. Frank Furci was simply outclassed by the crippled, half-blind William Crum, an old China hand who has made a profit on almost every war in Asia since 1941. Attracted by the economic potential of the growing Southeast Asia conflict, Crum came out of his milliondollar retirement in Hong Kong and moved to Saigon in 1962.121
While the massive U.S. military buildup in 1965 had attracted other commercial agents as well, Crum seemed particularly resentful of Furci, whose competing line of liquor brands, slot machines, and kitchen equipment had "stolen" $2.5 million worth of his business.122 Crum passed on information about Furci's illegal currency transactions to the Fraud Repression Division of the Vietnamese customs service through a U.S. army general whom Crum was paying $1,000 a month for protection.123 Vietnamese customs raided Furci's offices in July 1967, found evidence to support the accusations, and later fined him $45,000.124 Unable to pay such a large fine, Furci left Saigon. Crum later bragged that he had "paid for" the raid that had eliminated his competitor.125
Furci moved to Hong Kong and in August opened a restaurant named the San Francisco Steak House with nominal capital of $100,000.126 More importantly, Furci was instrumental in the formation of Maradern Ltd., a company that the Augsburg sergeants who managed NCO clubs in Vietnam used to increase illegal profits from the military clubs. Although Furci's name does not appear on any of the incorporation papers, it seems that he was the "silent partner" in the classic Mafia sense of the term.127
Maradem Ltd, was not a wholesale supplier or retail outlet, but a broker that used its control over NCO clubs and base mess halls to force legitimate wholesalers to pay a fixed percentage of their profits in order to do business.128 Maradem's competitors were gradually "squeezed out" of business, and in its first year of operation the company did $1,210,000 worth of business with NCO clubs in Vietnam.129
By 1968 Frank Furci had gained three years of valuable experience in the shadow world of Hong Kong and Indochina; he was friendly with powerful Corsican syndicate leaders in Saigon and had the opportunity to form similar relationships with chiu chau bosses in Hong Kong.130 Thus, perhaps it is not too surprising that the boss himself, Santo Trafficante, Jr., did Furci the honor of visiting him in Hong Kong in 1968. Accompanied by Frank's father, Dominick Furci, Trafficante was questioned by Hong Kong authorities regarding the purpose of his visit, and according to a U.S. Senate investigation, he explained that "They were traveling around the world together at the time. They stopped to visit Furci, Frank Furci in Hong Kong and to visit his restaurant ....131
After a leisurely stopover, Trafficante proceeded to Saigon,132 where, according to U.S. Embassy sources, he met with some prominent Corsican gangsters.133 Trafficante was not the first of Lansky's chief lieutenants to visit Hong Kong. In April 1965 John Pullman, Lansky's courier and financial expert, paid an extended visit to Hong Kong, where he reportedly investigated the narcotics and gambling rackets.134
Although the few Mafia watchers who are aware of Trafficante's journey to Asia have always been mystified by it, there is good reason to believe that it was a response to the crisis in the Mediterranean drug traffic and an attempt to secure new sources of heroin for Mafia distributors inside the United States. With almost 70 Percent of the world's illicit opium supply in the Golden Triangle, skilled heroin chemists in Hong Kong, and entrenched Corsican syndicates in Indochina, Southeast Asia was a logical choice.
Soon after Trafficante's visit to Hong Kong, a Filipino courier ring started delivering Hong Kong heroin to Mafia distributors in the United States. In 1970 U.S. narcotics agents arrested many of these couriers. Subsequent interrogation revealed that the ring had successfully smuggled one thousand kilos of pure heroin into the United States—the equivalent of 10 to 20 percent of America's annual consumption.
Current U.S. Bureau of Narcotics intelligence reports indicate that another courier ring is bringing Hong Kong heroin into the United States through the Caribbean, Trafficante's territory. From Hong Kong heroin is usually flown to Chile on regular flights and then smuggled across the border into Paraguay in light, private aircraft.135 In the late 1960s Paraguay became the major transit point for heroin entering the United States from Latin America; both Hong Kong and Southeast Asian heroin smuggled across the Pacific into Chile and European heroin smuggled across the Atlantic into Argentina are shipped to Paraguay before being forwarded to the United States. Argentina and Paraguay are popular refuges for Marseille gangsters wanted in France for serious crimes. The most prominent of these is Auguste Joseph Ricord, a Marseille-born gangster who worked with the Gestapo during World War 11. Using a variety of means ranging from private aircraft to stuffed artifacts, Ricord is believed to have smuggled some 2.5 billion dollars' worth of heroin into the United States from Argentina and Paraguay in the last five years.136 Although law enforcement officials have always assumed that Ricord and his associates were being supplied from Marseille, current reports of shipments from Hong Kong and Southeast Asia to Paraguay have raised the possibility that their sources may have shifted to Asia in recent years.137
(Alfred W. McCoy, et al, Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia. Reference The Mafia Comes to Asia, pp. 210 - 217)
Dallas Drug Smuggler Hallucinated About JFK in Open Court
As the Nixon administration began to crack down on drug smugglers from Latin America, a strange event occurred in Dallas, Texas.
In mid-April 1971 a Panamanian government official, Joaquim Him-Gonzales, was apprehended by American narcotics agents and tried in the Federal Court in Dallas, Texas for conspiracy to smuggle heroin into the United States. Also tried in the same case were J. D. Vicars, of Hurst, Texas, and a former World War II Air Corps pilot named Robert Louis Robertson, III, of Dallas, Texas.138 Gonzales and Robertson were part of Auguste Ricord’s heroin smuggling network.
Robertson had a mysterious background. He had been president of the Robertson Aircraft Company of Dallas and had been an executive of the major international airline for eleven years. But many people in Dallas believed that Robertson may have been a CIA operative. This was never established, but in Dallas circles, it was observed that Robertson and the two or three companies he had formed in recent years flew some unusual trips into Latin America.139
As the government prosecutors built cases against Him-Gonzales, Vicars, and Robertson, the latter became hysterical. On Friday, April 23, 1971, Robertson fell apart on the witness stand and ran from his seat shouting, "I can’t tell the truth under these conditions." Federal Judge Sarah T. Hughes responded sternly, "No! You get back on the stand. You are just putting on a show for the jury. Now you collect yourself and get back up here on the stand." She later had Robertson undergo a psychiatric examination, which found him fully capable to stand trial.140
The following Monday Robertson seemed even more unbalanced, babbling over and over again, "I am Judge Sarah T. Hughes … I am John F. Kennedy. I was assassinated in Dallas, Judge Sarah T. Hughes, on November 23, 1963 … I am a sinner, I am a sinner."141
Despite Robertson’s erratic behavior, the jury found the threesome—Robertson, Him-Gonzalez, and Vicars—guilty two days later; however, Robertson was never sentenced. He died in his cell at the Dallas County jail four days after he was convicted. April 26, 1971 a deputy marshal gave sworn testimony that Robertson had told him, "I will be dead in five days." He was off by one day.142
Transcript of Colonel Prouty’s Interview From The Men Who Killed Kennedy
Colonel Fletcher Prouty made some interesting comments about the techniques employed to kill President Kennedy and how the crime was covered up afterwards. Here is the transcript of his remarks from The Men Who Killed Kennedy:
But the Mafia could hardly have acted alone, given the intricacy of the assassination plot and the strength of the cover-up for twenty-five years. Colonel Fletcher Prouty was Chief of Special Operations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during Kennedy’s presidency. He believes even more powerful forces were ultimately responsible.
[Scene switches to Colonel Prouty:]
I think without any question, it’s what we called "the use of hired gunmen." And this isn’t new. In fact, this little manual here [Prouty holds up a manual entitled Clandestine Operations Manual for Central America] which is called the Assassination Manual for Latin America contains a line which says, talking about Latin America [reading] "If possible, professional criminals will be hired to carry out specific selective ‘jobs.’ " --- Jobs in quote which means murders. Well, if this manual for Latin America, printed within the last few years in a government manual says that, there’s no question but what the application of the same technique was dated back in Kennedy’s time. In fact I know from my own experience. You know I was in that business in those days.
So, with that knowledge, you begin to realize that hired criminals, the way this book says, can be hired by anybody in power with sufficient money to pay them, but more importantly with sufficient power to operate the cover-up ever after. Because you see it’s one thing to kill somebody. It’s another thing to cover-up the fact that you did it, or that you hired somebody to do it; and that’s more difficult. So they used the device of the Warren Commission Report to cover-up their hired killers. Now who would hire the killers, and who has the power to put that Warren Commission Report out over the top of the whole story? You see you’re dealing with a very high echelon of power. It doesn’t necessarily reside in any government. It doesn’t necessarily reside in any single corporate institution. But it seems to reside in a blend of the two. Otherwise, how could you have gotten people like the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to participate in the cover-up? The police in Dallas to participate in the cover-up? Et cetera. And the media. All the media, not just one or two newspapers; but none of them will print the story other than Oswald killed the President with three bullets, which is totally untrue.
(The Men Who Killed Kennedy – The Forces of Darkness, N. Turner)
The "high echelon of power" to which Colonel Prouty referred is not as mysterious and elusive as he made it seem. It is merely Jewish political forces and friends of Israel within the United States and other governments. Those were the forces who sponsored the assassination of President Kennedy.
It must also be noted that Colonel Prouty’s final comment about the media is no longer valid. He stated that the news media will only report that "Oswald killed the President with three bullets." That was a factual statement when he made it in 1988. But since then, the news media has retreated from the official lie for fear of losing credibility—a small victory, but a victory nonetheless after thirty-plus years. (Reference "The Exoneration of Lee Harvey Oswald" in Chapter 6.)
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(Note: This endnote was used by Alfred W. McCoy, et al, the authors of Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia.)
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