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Story Update

Alexander Legault and Ari Ben-Menashe
CBC News: Disclosure
Broadcast March 5, 2002
Watch the update GO

Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe
Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, is seeking re-election.

There's an historic election in Zimbabwe later this week. President Robert Mugabe -a controversial figure worldwide- is seeking re-election.

Now, his main opponent has been accused of trying to have him killed. At the centre of that explosive charge are two shadowy Montreal businessmen who we first told you about on Disclosure earlier this season.

The men in the spotlight are Ari Ben-Menashe, a one-time Isreali spy and arms dealer, and his partner Alexander Legault. Last fall, Disclosure revealed Legault is a U.S. fugitive, wanted in Florida, Texas and Louisiana for fraud.

Ari Ben-Menashe (left) and Alexander Legault
Ari Ben-Menashe (left) and Alexander Legault

Our story showed that Legault and Ben-Menashe were busy brokering deals around the world for commodities like grain and rice. But there were allegations of fraud.

Olivier Damiron, a former employee, says customers would pay a deposit, but the goods would never be shipped.

"It's just a scam, basically," says Damiron. "[They] take the ten percent and run."

Now a grainy videotape has shown up. It was recently broadcast on Australian television, causing an international storm of controversy.

It shows a meeting secretly taped in Montreal last December by Ben-Menashe.

The video purports to show him being approached by Zimbabwe's opposition leader to arrange the assassination of the country's president, Robert Mugabe.

Ben-Menashe later told CBC News that he was only playing along to expose the plot:

"They wanted to hire us straight forward to eliminate the president and help them organize a coup d'etat in Zimbabwe against the president."

Morgan Tsvangirai
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai says he was framed.

But the man who's fingered for the plan, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, says he was framed. He says Ben-Menashe approached him, offering himself and Legault as lobbyists, and then suggesting the assassination.

"It's of course intended to divert people," says Tsvangirai of the video. "To confuse people. But people aren't confused. They see through this whole ploy. It's a conspiracy they've concocted."

But, the heavily edited tape is enough for President Mugabe. He's had Tsvangirai charged with treason because of the tape. He faces life in prison.

Canada's minister of Foreign Affairs has asked the RCMP to investigate the supposed plot. But his department can hardly claim to know little about Ben-Menashe or his dealings with controversial African regimes.

Note: You'll need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the documents linked to below (they're in Adobe PDF file format). If you don't have it installed on your computer, you can download it at www.adobe.com.

In fact, government documents obtained by Disclosure show the department has a long and curious history with Ben-Menashe.

Through an Access to Information request, we received over 400 pages showing Ben-Menashe was regularly de-briefed by Canadian intelligence officers, plumbed about what he knew of the inner workings of the governments he was involved with.


Ben-Menashe's offer to set up a meeting between (then) Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy and "Secretary One" of Burma:

page one
page two
page three
page four
page five

Note: The hand-written numbers at the side of the documents refer to the exemption sections of the Access to Information Act under which the documents were censored.
For more information about the exemptions, see the Act's official website.

The documents are heavily censored, but what's left reveals that Ottawa has known for years about Ben-Menashe's trips to Zimbabwe's capital and his association with Robert Mugabe.

But, even as they were using him a resource, Ben-Menashe was pitching Ottawa on his clients -offering to arrange meetings between Canada and the regimes he represented.

Such as: a military leader in Burma -a country which Canada has shunned for its human rights abuses; and a government minister in Sudan -a man Canada has investigated for war crimes.

The documents show Ottawa seriously considered both requests, taking them to the minister's office for consideration before taking a pass.

Keith Martin is Foreign Affairs critic for the Alliance. "You have a company who with highly questionable activities abroad," he says, "that is working with the Department of Foreign Affairs, that has been asked for the Department of Foreign Affairs for information and the relationship is highly suspect and it just, quite frankly -it stinks."


The Department of Foreign Affairs takes a pass on Ben-Menashe's offer regarding Burma:

page one
page two

But, even as Foreign Affairs was relying on Ben-Menashe to help build Canada's intelligence files, trade officials in the same department were issuing strong warnings he couldn't be trusted.

The commercial disputes from soured business deals were stacking up -from Hungary to Zambia- prompting a senior trade commissioner to the Baltics to warn that Ben-Menashe and Legault's company, Carlington Sales, had done:


Ben-Menashe offers to set up a meeting with Qutbi Al-Mahdi, then Sudanese Minister for Foreign Intelligence:

page one
page two
page three

"Very serious damage to the commercial relationship between Canada and Estonia, by what could only be termed unethical conduct."

And a warning issued back in 1996:

"…That any Canadian government official deal with extreme caution with Carlington."

But, there's no indication Canada passed that warning on to foreign companies inquiring about Carlington.


Senior Trade Commissioner H. Jacob Kunzer's memo warning about Carlington Sales:

version one
version two
(the two are versions of the same document, but they have been censored differently by DFAIT)

Zambian banker Raj Mahtani, burned in a multi-million dollar deal for maize, says Canada let him down:

"I am totally disappointed and disillusioned," he says. "For me, to be honest with you, I would not enter into any contract with Canadians."

Last fall, a British arbitration court ordered Carlington to pay $10-million on the Zambian deal. But Carlington filed bankruptcy saying there's no money left.

The lawyer in the Zambian case is Neil Sampson.

"The most important thing we have to do is find the money," says the lawyer in the Zambian case, Neil Sampson. "I would ask anybody who knows anything, the affairs of Carlington Sales, of Alexander Legault or Ari Ben-Menashe, to contact us and hopefully help us find the money."

Foreign Affairs officials refused to talk on camera about Ben-Menashe or Carlington. Nor would they talk about why the intelligence officer who conducted many of those briefings, retired in 1999 to work for Carlington.

With the company now bankrupt, Ben-Menashe and Legault are working under a different name, Dickens and Madson. Their new lobbying firm is now at the centre of the Zimbabwe assassination plot.

"The company has a long, storied and questionable history," says Alliance MP Keith Martin. "Not only within Canada, but in other parts of the world. I think it's up to the RCMP to investigate that because I'm sure that the Canadian public has absolutely no interest whatsoever in having companies in Canada engaging in destabilizing activity abroad."

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