Serial 411

[Editor’s note: Text from https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1978GEORGE03938_d.html.]

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GEORGE 03938 260057Z
ACTION L-03
INFO OCT-01 ARA-11 ISO-00 SCS-06 CA-01 FBIE-00 JUSE-00 H-01 CIAE-00 INR-10 NSAE-00 SS-15 NSCE-00 SSO-00 INRE-00 /048 W
——————084173 260105Z /73

O 252240Z NOV 78
FM AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC NIACE IMMEDIATE 8208
C O N F I D E N T I A L GEORGETOWN 3938

E.O. 11652: GDS
TAGS: CASC OREP GY AFSP
SUBJECT: ENGAGEMENT OF LOCAL LEGAL COUNSEL TO ASSIST USG IN DISCHARGING ITS RESPONSIBLILITIES IN CONNECTION WITH DISASTER AT JONESTOWN AND ESTATES OF THE DECEASED AMERICAN CITIZENS.
REF A) STATE 296852 B) STATE 296909

1. In view of authorization contained reference A and B, embassy has given much thought to best possible legal talent which might be engaged to assist in our effort to identify (1) the magnitude of the Guyanese-based assets of the Peoples Temple Peoples Temple, and (2) the application of local law to the liquidation of the personal estates left by Jones and the individual members of Peoples Temple who died November 18 at Jonestown.

2. Before considering the engagement of any local counsel embassy was obliged to discard the names of many competent lawyers who have been active politically in the recent past because obviously any legal counsel whom we engage must have immediate access to the various offices of the gov’t of Guyana if he is to do the job promptly and completely. It was also necessary that any counsel with whom we broached the subject not have a current legal connection with the

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Peoples Temple. With these consideratons [considerations] in mind the ambassador met at noon November 25 with Lloyd Luckhoo [name withheld by FBI], one of the best-known attorneys in Georgetown and a man who has specialized in the past in civil law, and who has represented such American firms as Reynolds and Texaco in their relationships with the government of Guyana. Luckhoo’s firm, which includes his elder brother, Sir Lionel, is one of the oldest and most prestigious law firms in Georgetown.

3. During the conversation with Luckhoo, it was made clear that due to the dimensions of the problem which had been created by the multiple murders/suicides at Jonestown, it was most important at the outset to establish certain fundamental points:

A) The legal relationship between the GOG [Government of Guyana] and Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple,
B) Whethrer [Whether] or not Jonestown existed within Guyana as a corporate entity or as osme [some] other form of legal personality.
C) What the total assets in Guyana might be both in terms of real property and bank accounts.

4. The ambassador explained to Luckhoo that as of now we had authority 1) to make this preliminary sounding with him to find out from him if he, Luckhoo, were legally inhibited from taking such a case because of some previous or continuing relationship with the Peoples Temple, and 2) to determine if he ahd [had] an interest in the case. In answer to the ltter [latter] question, Luckhoo said he would be free and available to serve as legal adviser to the USG [U.S. Government] in Guyana in resolving

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the legal problems of the Jonestown disaster.

5. Luckhoo said that there had been a past relationship between his firm and the Peoples Temple involving the stoen custody case. In that process, his brother, sir Lionel, acted in defense of Jones, but he himself had not had any direct involvement. He added that his brother a renowned criminal trial lawyer who appears in the Guinness Book of Records as the successful defender of over 200 murder cases, has been approached by at least one of the Americans who has been charged with murder since this episode at Jonestown began. (Embassy has heard informally today that Amcit [American citizen] Larry Layton, who has been arrested and charged in connection with the shotting [shooting] at Port Kaituma airstrip which resulted in the death of Congressman Ryan and others of his prty [party], has been seeking to engage Sir Lionel as defense counsel. Suspecting that ambassador’s request for a metting might be related to the Jonestown episode Lloyd Luckhoo told his brother to delay acceptance of the case as defense counsel pending his talk with the ambassador).

6. The ambassador explained to Luckhoo that, in the first instance, his task would be a relative narrow one dealing largely with determining the corporate relaionship [relationship] of Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple with the GOG and identifying the local assets of jim Jones, et al. He was told that it was quite likely that the office of legal advisr [advisor] of the Department of State would be sending a member of its staff to Georgetown to take overall charge of such an investigtion [investigation] and the precise detials [details] of his engagement would then be worked out should both partties [parties] be prepared to accept the arrangements.

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7. Comment: Luckhoo is probably as qualified as legal adviser as can be obtained in Georgetown at this moment. The possible involvement of his brothr [brother] as defense attorney for an American citizen accused of murder in connection with the shooting of Congressman Ryan, however, is a potential problem. If that is not an overriding consideration, it is recommeded [recommended] that we make a decision very quickly to engage Lloyd Luckhoo and move promptly to draft the terms of reference within which we expect him to work.

Burke [John Burke, U.S. Ambassador to Guyana]

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Originally posted on March 24th, 2019.

Last modified on December 26th, 2020.
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