Jan 18, 1979 • 2122 • State-Georgetown • 14147

[Editor’s note: This text was released at https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1979STATE014147_e.html.]

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STATE 014147
ORIGIN L-03
INFO OCT-01 ARA-11 ISO-00 JUSE-00 SSO-00 CA-01 OCS-06 H-01 /023 R
DRAFTED BY L/ARA:TJFORTUNE:RTG
APPROVED BY L/ARA – MGKOZAK
L/ARA – MGKOZAK
DESIRED DISTRIBUTION
PASS TO JUSTICE, J. HERGEN
——————122655 182319Z /75

O 182122Z JAN 79
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN
IMMEDIATE LIMITED OFFICIAL USE STATE 014147

E.O. 12065: N/A
TAGS: CASC, GY (PEOPLES TEMPLE)
SUBJECT: DISPOSITION OF PEOPLES TEMPLE PROPERTY IN GUYANA

1. MR. FORTUNE OF LEGAL ADVISER’S OFFICE, ACCOMPANIED BY MR. CASH, CALLED ON GONSALVES SABOLA, SOLICITER GENERAL OF GUYANA ON MONDAY, JANUARY 15. AFTER A BRIEF DISCUSSION CONCERNING THE ISSUANCE OF DEATH CERTIFICATES (WHICH EMBASSY IS REQUESTED TO REPORT SEPTEL) MR. FORTUNE INTRODUCED SUBJECT OF PRESERVATION AND DISPOSITION OF PEOPLES TEMPLE PROPERTY IN GUYANA, AND SPECIFICALLY, THE PROCEDURE THROUGH WHICH THE U.S. GOVERNMENT COULD PRESENT A CLAIM AGAINST THESE ASSETS FOR EXPENSES IT INCURRED IN REMOVING BODIES FROM GUYANA. SABOLA INDICATED THAT CERTAIN POLITICAL DECISIONS RELATED TO THESE ISSUES HAD YET TO BE TAKEN AND NOTED THAT HIS OWN ROLE WAS TO PROVIDE LEGAL ADVICE TO THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE. HE STATED THAT HIS OBJECTIVE WAS

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TO ARRIVE AT A SOLUTION WHICH WAS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAWS OF GUYANA AND WHICH TOOK INTO ACCOUNT THE INTERESTS OF BOTH GOVERNMENTS.

2. SABOLA ASKED WHAT THE LEGAL BASIS WAS FOR THE US CLAIM. FORTUNE REPLIED THAT THE MATTER WAS STILL UNDER REVIEW BY THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE BUT THAT, IN GENERAL TERMS, THE CLAIM AROSE FROM THE FACT THAT THE U.S. HAD BEEN FORCED TO PERFORM A DUTY OWED BY THE PEOPLES TEMPLE TO ITS MEMBERS, THAT IT HAD ACTED IN A NON-OFFICIOUS WAY TO AVERT A SERIOUS THREAT TO PUBLIC HEALTH CREATED BY THE TEMPLE LEADERSHIP, AND THAT IT WAS THEREFORE ENTITLED TO COMPENSATION. SABOLA REMARKED THAT THE POSITION OF THE TWO GOVERNMENTS WAS SIMILAR, AND THAT THEIR RESPECTIVE CLAIMS WERE COMPLEMENTARY RATHER THAN ANTITHETICAL.

3. FORTUNE INQUIRED AS TO THE PROCEDURES AVAILABLE TO THE GOG FOR DISPOSING OF THE TEMPLE PROPERTY. HE NOTED THE EXISTENCE OF TWO GUYANESE CORPORATIONS AND THE POSSIBILITY OF WINDING THESE UP UNDER COURT SUPERVISION. SABOLA RESPONDED THAT THE 1978 CORPORATION WAS MERELY A SHELL FORMED TO AVOID TAXES AND THAT IT OWNED NO ASSETS. AS TO THE GROUP INCORPORATED BY ACT OF PARLIAMENT IN 1975, SABOLA SPECULATED THAT THIS WAS NOT IN FACT A CORPORATION WITH PERPETUAL EXISTENCE BUT MERELY A RELIGIOUS BODY HEADED BY 5 NAMED DIRECTORS WHOSE EXISTENCE IN GUYANA HAD BEEN RECOGNIZED BY PARLIAMENT. HE FURTHER SPECULATED THAT THE GROUP’S EXISTENCE MAY HAVE BEEN TERMINATED BY THE DEATH OF 4 OF THE 5 DIRECTORS. FORTUNE NOTED THAT THE ACT PROVIDED FOR THE TRANSFER OF THE GROUP’S ASSETS TO THE CALIFORNIA CHURCH IN THE EVENT OF A DISSOLUTION. SABOLA REFERRED TO THE COURT PROCEEDINGS IN CALIFORNIA AND NOTED THAT, SINCE

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THE PARENT CHURCH WAS SOON TO BE DISSOLVED, THERE MIGHT BE NO GROUP TO WHICH THE ASSETS COULD BE TRANSFERRED. IN THAT CASE THE ASSETS WOULD GO TO THE GOG BY ESCHEAT.

4. FORTUNE INFORMED SABOLA THAT THE CALIFORNIA CHURCH WOULD NOT BE FORMALLY DISSOLVED UNTIL THE COMPLETION OF WHAT WOULD CERTAINLY BE A LENGTHY PROCEEDING. HE RAISED THE POSSIBILITY THAT A RECEIVER APPOINTED BY THE CALIFORNIA COURT MIGHT SEEK TO MARSHALL ASSETS FOR THE TEMPLE IN GUYANA AND RETURN THEM TO THE CALIFORNIA COURT. SABOLA DOUBTED THAT THE RECEIVER’S AUTHORITY WOULD BE RECOGNIZED BY THE COURTS OF GUYANA. HE FURTHER STATED, IN WHAT WAS CLEARLY A POLITICAL RATHER THAN A LEGAL ASSESSMENT, THAT THE GOG WOULD NOT PERMIT A WHOLESALE REMOVAL OF THE TEMPLE ASSETS FROM GUYANA IN VIEW OF THE PRECARIOUS ECONOMIC SITUATION OF GUYANA.

5. FORTUNE ASKED WHAT PROCEDURE WOULD BE EMPLOYED FOR THE SETTLEMENT OF ANY CLAIM THE U.S. WISHED TO ASSERT IN THE EVENT OF AN ESCHEAT OF TEMPLE PROPERTY TO THE GOG UNDER THE THEORY ADVANCED BY SABOLA. SABOLA REPLIED THAT THE PRIME MINISTER COULD WAIVE ESCHEAT IN FAVOR OF THE U.S. IN AN AMOUNT MUTUALLY AGREEABLE.

6. THE DISCUSSION THEN TURNED TO SPECIFIC ASSETS OF THE TEMPLE IN GUYANA. SABOLA NOTED THAT THE U.S. CURRENCY SEIZED BY THE GUYANESE POLICE WAS PRESUMPTIVELY HELD IN VIOLATION OF GUYANESE CURRENCY LAWS. SUCH CURRENCY IS FORFEITED TO THE STATE FOLLOWING CONVICTION OF THE PERSON HOLDING IT. IN THE EVENT THAT NO ONE IS TRIED (WHICH SEEMS LIKELY) SABOLA SPECULATED THAT, FOLLOWING A PERIOD OF NOTICE TO POTENTIAL CLAIMANTS, FORFEIT WOULD OCCUR.

7. FORTUNE MENTIONED THE NECESSITY OF BLOCKING BANK ACCOUNTS TO PREVENT IMPROPER DISBURSEMENTS. SABOLA STATED THAT THE GOG HAD NO AUTHORITY TO BLOCK THE ACCOUNTS, BUT

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THAT THEY HAD BEEN BLOCKED ON ORDERS OF THE BANKS’ SOLICITERS AND THAT HE WAS CONFIDENT THAT THERE WOULD BE NO UNAUTHORIZED DISBURSEMENTS. HE STRONGLY DENIED RUMORS (WHICH HAD COME TO THE ATTENTION OF THE EMBASSY) THAT THERE HAD BEEN WITHDRAWALS FROM THE NATIONAL COOPERATIVE BANK OF GUYANA ACCOUNT, TERMING SUCH WITHDRAWALS “IMPOSSIBLE”.

8. FORTUNE INFORMED SABOLA THAT A FEDERAL GRAND JURY WAS INVESTIGATING CHARGES OF FRAUD AND EMBEZZLEMENT AGAINST TEMPLE AND THAT ACCESS TO BANKING RECORDS OF THE TEMPLE WAS OF GREAT IMPORTANCE TO THE SUCCESS OF THE INVESTIGATION. HE NOTED THE INTENTION OF U.S. TO REQUEST ASSISTANCE OF GOG IN OBTAINING SUCH RECORDS. SABOLA STATED THAT ACCESS TO BANK RECORDS WAS PRECLUDED BY BANK SECRECY REGULATIONS. FORTUNE INQUIRED ABOUT POSSIBILITY OF GOG OBTAINING SUCH RECORDS IN CONNECTION WITH A CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION (EMBASSY HAD BEEN RELIABLY INFORMED THAT GUYANESE POLICE HAD SOUGHT AND OBTAINED BANK RECORDS IN CONNECTION WITH INVESTIGATION INTO CONSPIRACY TO DEFRAUD.) SABOLA STATED THAT HE WAS UNAWARE OF ANY SUCH EFFORTS BEING MADE IN THIS CASE. FORTUNE STATED THAT IF THE GOG WERE TO GAIN ACCESS O BANK RECORDS, HE HOPED THAT THESE COULD BE SHARED WITH U.S. SABOLA STATED THAT ANY SUCH REQUEST BY U.S. WOULD BE GIVEN SYMPATHETIC CONSIDERATION.

9. FORTUNE REITERATED DESIRABILITY OF COMPLETE INVENTORY OF TEMPLE PROPERTY AND REPEATED EARLIER OFFER OF U.S. ASSISTANCE. SABOLA SHOWED LITTLE INTEREST IN THIS SUBJECT AND SUGGESTED THAT A DETAILED REQUEST BE SUBMITTED TO THE FOREIGN MINISTER.

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10. OTHER MEANS OF DISPOSING OF TEMPLE PROPERTY SUCH AS EXPROPRIATION AND SPECIAL ACT OF PARLIAMENT WERE RAISED BY SABOLA, BUT QUICKLY PASSED OVER. IN CLOSING, SABOLA REPEATED HIS DESIRE FOR A EQUITABLE AND LAWFUL SETTLEMENT WHICH WOULD RECOGNIZE THE INTERESTS OF BOTH GOVERNMENTS. HE NOTED THAT IT MIGHT BE PREFERABLE TO POSTPONE ANY FINAL ACTION FOR THE PRESENT TIME PENDING FURTHER ACTION BY THE CALIFORNIA COURT. FORTUNE AGAIN NOTED THAT THE CALIFORNIA LITIGATION WOULD CERTAINLY BE PROTRACTED, AND PROPOSED FURTHER DISCUSSIONS AFTER A COMPLETE INVENTORY HAD BEEN COMPILED.

11. COMMENT: IT APPEARS THAT THE GOG IS LOOKING FOR A SOLUTION WHICH DOES NOT REQUIRE RECOURSE TO THE COURTS OR TO PARLIAMENT. IT ALSO SEEMS THAT THE GOG WILL NOT TROUBLE ITSELF UNDULY WITH LEGAL NICETIES IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE ITS OBJECTIVE. THE GOG APPEARS WILLING TO RECOGNIZE A U.S. CLAIM, ALTHOUGH THE AMOUNT INVOLVED IS UNCERTAIN. GOG CAN BE EXPECTED TO MOVE SLOWLY ON THIS PROBLEM AND TO CONTINUE TO CAST ABOUT FOR A COLORABLY LAWFUL MEANS OF OBTAINING TEMPLE PROPERTY THROUGH ADMINISTRATIVE MEANS WITHOUT INCURRING OBLIGATION OF PAYING COMPENSATION.

12. FOLLOWING MEETING WITH SABOLA, FORTUNE CALLED ON GORDEN GILLETTE, GUYANESE COUNSEL RETAINED BY THE DEPT. GILLETTE’S REACTION TO LEGAL POSITIONS TAKEN BY SABOLA CONFIRMED IMPRESSIONS REPORTED PARA 11 SUPRA. IN ORDER TO ASSIST GILLETTE IN ANALYZING LEGAL ISSUES, EMBASSY IS REQUESTED TO CONVEY TO HIM SUBSTANCE OF PARAS 1-10, AND TO POSE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS FOR HIS REVIEW:

A. DID THE EVENTS AT JONESTOWN AND THE DEATH OF 4 OF 5 DIRECTORS RESULT IN A BEGIN UNDERSCORE DE FACTO END UNDERSCORE DISSOLUTION OF THE 1975 CORPORATION WITHOUT THE NECESSITY OF JUDICIAL OR PARLIAMENTARY ACTIOH?

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B. IF THE 1975 CORPORATION IS CONSIDERED TO BE DISSOLVED, WHAT IS THE EFFECT OF SECTION 4 OF THE CHARTER CONCERNING RETURN OF ITS ASSETS TO THE PARENT (CALIFORNIA) CHURCH?

C. WOULD A RECEIVER ACTING BY ORDER OF THE CALIFORNIA COURT BE RECOGNIZED IN GUYANA AS HAVING AUTHORITY TO CLAIM THE ASSETS OF THE SUBSIDIARY CORPORATION.

D. WOULD THE GOVERNMENT OF GUYANA BE JUSTIFIED IN TREATING THE CALIFORNIA CORPORATION AS NO LONGER EXISTENT ON THE BASIS THAT IT HAD ELECTED TO DISSOLVE, ALTHOUGH NO ORDER OF DISSOLUTION HAD BEEN ISSUED?

E. DOES THE DOCTRINE OF ESCHEAT APPLY TO THE PROPERTY OF DEFUNCT ORGANIZATIONS? IF SO, WOULD IT APPLY IN THIS CASE IN VIEW OF THE PRESENT EXISTENCE OF A PARENT CORPORATION?

F. CAN CURRENCY BE FORFEITED TO THE STATE IN THE ABSENCE OF A TRIAL AND CONVICTION? G. WHAT LEGAL RIGHT DOES THE GOVERNMENT HAVE TO OBTAIN ACCESS TO BANK RECORDS. WHAT STEPS HAVE BEEN TAKEN IN THIS CASE TO OBTAIN ACCESS TO PEOPLES TEMPLE BANK RECORDS?

13. EMBASSY SHOULD REQUEST WRITTEN RESPONSES FROM GILLETTE AND CONVEY THESE TO DEPARTMENT AND TO DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE.

14. DEPARTMENT UNDERSTANDS THAT NOTE REGARDING BLOCKING OF BANK ACCOUNTS AND ACCESS BY U.S. TO BANK RECORDS HAS BEEN TRANSMITTED TO FOMIN. DRAFT NOTE CONCERING PROPOSAL FOR INVENTORY FOLLOWS SEPTEL.

CHRISTOPHER

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<< END OF DOCUMENT >>

Originally posted on October 21st, 2020.

Last modified on December 26th, 2020.
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