Serial 1726

[Editor’s note: This document was released both as a State Department cable as part of its 1981 FOIA release, and as Serial 1726 of the FBI’s RYMUR release. The text was released at https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1979PORTO00269_e.html.]

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PORT O 00269 222114Z
ACTION L-03
INFO OCT-01 ARA-11 ISO-00 JUSE-00 FBIE-00 CA-01 OCS-06 SS-15 SSO-00 /037 W
——————031791 222121Z /64

O 222108Z JAN 79
FM AMEMBASSY PORT OF SPAIN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3583
LIMITED OFFICIAL USE PORT OF SPAIN 00269
ALSO PASS JUSTICE, JIM HIRGIN [Hergen]
E.O. 12065: N/A
TAGS: CASC, TD, GY (PEOPLE’S TEMPLE)
SUBJECT: (LOU) PROTECTION OF US INTERESTS VIS-A-VIS PEOPLE’S TEMPLE ASSETS IN TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
REFS: A) STATE 16429; B) 78 PORT OF SPAIN 3542

1. (LOU) Entire text

2. We believe there is reason for State and Justice to reconsider the advisability of immediately lodging the proposed formal statement with the GOTT [Government of Trinidad and Tobago]. We are prepared to act quickly but will withhold action until reinstructed.

3. We fully appreciate why the USG [U.S. Government] should make claims against PT assets, be they here or elsewhere. We cannot, however, find any evidence of such assets being in this country. Washington, of course, may have information we lack.

4. The GOTT is extremely thin-skinned and sees the USG endeavoring to push its weight around in instances where larger or longer-independent states take actions such as

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Ref A proposes in their stride. We don’t mind stepping on GOTT toes if it is necessary, but want to avoid inducing an undesired reaction that would damage our interests in this case.

5. We have been informally advised by an official of Barclay’s Bank that an account in the name of Helen Swinney was closed on December 8, 1978, as was reported Ref B and may be the same account referred to in Ref A. This official stated that he had no knowledge of an account in the name of Asociacion E. D. Charitable Internationale Empressa, S.A., or of any other accounts maintained by the People’s Temple with Barclay’s bank in T&T. When the Swinney account was closed, members of PT who were in Port of Spain on board the PT vessel “Albatross III” informed the Embassy that the account was established for the sole purpose of covering expenses and purchases relating to the vessel’s operation. Both Helen Swinney and Richard Janaro left the “Albatross III” and returned to the US by commercial air on December 10.

6. Abraham Shipping Co. Ltd., the local agent for the “Albatross III” has advised us that it maintains an agency account for the vessel from which expenses and operating costs are disbursed. It is not an account owned by the PT or its members and cannot be drawn on by them. The agency official further stated that he is unaware of any bank account maintained by the vessel in T&T and said there is no reason for such an account in view of the agency arrangement.

7. If is [it] is nevertheless considered important to lodge a statement, consideration should be given to eliminating

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The definite declaration that a PT-related account exists at Barclay’s. Also please let us know whether similar statements are being lodged with other governments.

8. Please advise.

O’Mahony [Joseph O’Mahony, Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy, Port of Spain]

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Originally posted on May 1st, 2018.

Last modified on July 17th, 2022.
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