Serial 1241

[Editor’s note: This document was released both as a State Department cable as part of its 1981 FOIA release, and as Serial 1241 of the FBI’s RYMUR release. The text was released at https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1978GEORGE04316_d.html.

[The FBI withheld several names from this cable. They are denoted below in red type.]

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ACTION ARA-15
INFO OCT-01 ISO-00 CA-01 SCS-06 L-03 EB-08 TRSE-00 HEW-04 AID-05 FBIE-00 CIAE-00 INR-10 NSAE-00 DODE-00 H-01 SY-05 SYE-00 NSC-05 SS-15 SSO-00 INRE-00 CTME-00 HA-05 /084 W
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O 161520Z DEC 78
FM AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATTE 8480
LIMITED OFFICIAL USE SECTION 1 OF 2 GEORGETOWN 4316
E.O. 12056: NA
TAGS: CASC, OREP (RYAN, LEO), GY
SUBJ: PROPERTY OF THE PEOPLES TEMPLE AND ITS MEMBERS

1. Summary: The property of the Peoples Temple and its members in Guyana can be divided into three parts i.e., Jonestown; Georgetown; and convertible assets. The embassy requires departmental guidance and instructions on pursuing a claim and/or in disposing of the property.

2. Jonestown: An inventory of individual property is not possible although Mr. Ward of CS/CA did a walk-through inventory of larger movable items on tape. It is unlikely that any identifiable personal effects will be recovered or inventoried. This is because individual members of the settlement were not permitted to have valuables; furniture and appliances belonged to the community; and most of the waring [wearing] apparel is not individually identifiable since some nine hundred of the members were housed 14 persons to each smal [small] 14′ x 20′ cabin and about 50 persons were in each of the four dormitory type buildings.

The buildings and imporvements [improvements] at Jonestown appear to belong to the GOG [Government of Guyana]. The lease provides that in the event of certain

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breaches of the lease: “the land comprised therein and all improvements thereon may be forfeited forthwith” (Article 13(c) of the lease no. A9890 signed February 25, 1976). A decision should be taken forthwith whether the USG [U.S. Government] intends to pursue a claim on the corporate estate at Jonestown. Thus far the ambassador has made representations to Guyanese authorities and consular officers have visited there on nine separate occasions and posted notices which have since been taken down, presumably by Guyanese authorvities [authorities]. If the USG intends to lay claim to the moveable property in Jones[town], this should be done immediately. Guyanese authorities are evidently proceeding in a timely fashion to plan for the disposal and/or use of Jonestown and the property there. A conservator has been appointed and the defense forces intitially [initially] posted there have been replaced by police officers. The refusal of the authorities to permit Consul General McAninch and two vice consuls to visit Jonestown on Saturday, December 9, 1978 is further evidence of the apparent gog belief that Jonestown has reverted to government control. During his visit there on December 14 McAninch was introduced to an official of the planning department of the GOG. Although the official did not reveal the governemnt’s [government’s] plans for the future use of Jonestown, McAninch observed workmen busily surveying and fumigating the area.

The U.S. helicopters are presently scheduled to stay in country only unitl [until] December 21 and it will be much more difficult to do an inventory after their departure. Also, the department will be in a much better position in replying to inquiries (congressional & others) if a decision has been worked out on our position on the Jonestown property.

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The embassy does not believe that a claim to the moveable property at Jonestown is feasible because of the foregoing, and,

(a) Why claim something we will probably not get; and

(b) If the GOG did agree that the USG could take possession of the moveable prpoerty [property] in Jonestown it could very well ask the USG to remove such property from Guyana. In this case the USG would most likely wish to donate the property to the GOG (if the GOG would accept) because of the costs of shipping versus the value of the property.

3. Georgetown: the property in Georgetown is divided into three groups i.e., the house, furniture, and one or more vehicles at 41 Dennis Street, Lamaha Gardens; a known 114 crates of “missionary supplies and equipment” consigned to Peoples Temple at three different shipping companies, and correspondence, files, tapes, documents and some equipment from Jonestown now at the consular section.

(a) Lama [Lamaha] Gardens: Consular officers will complete an inventory of property and effects at Lamaha Gardens if the present occupants (including Rev. Jones’ son, Stephan) who are members of the Peoples Temple will permit this to be done. The furniture, vehicle or vehicles will be maintained at Lamaha Gardens, possible with guard services, if GOG agrees that furniture and other poessions [possessions] there are the reqponsibility [responsibility] of the USG. Any items which are located at Lamaha Gardens and can be identified as personal effects of an individual deceased us citizen will be inventoried separately and brought to the consular section.

(b) Shipments in Customs: One hundred and fourteen crates manifested as “missionary supplies and equipment” and

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ACTION ARA-15
INFO OCT-01 ISO-00 CA-01 SCS-06 L-03 EB-08 TRSE-00
HEW-04 AID-05 FBIE-00 CIAE-00 INR-10 NSAE-00
DODE-00 H-01 SY-05 SYE-00 NSCE-00 SS-15 SSO-00
INRE-00 CTME-00 HA-05 /079 W
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O 161520Z DEC 78
FM AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8481
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consigned to the Peoples Temple are pending customs clearance at three shipping companies. In addition, there are certain commodities and a dodge van at a fourth shipping company. These will be treated as corporate assets. It is believed that the GOG will take the same stance towards these effects and towards the vehicle and furniture at Lamaha Gardens. The embassy will attempt to learn the GOG’s intentions in this area as soon as possible.

(c) Effects and documents at consular section: the consular section has been told that an unspecified amount of jewelry which was confiscated by the GOG along with currency will be released December 18. The consular section will inventory the jewelry as corporate assets unless it is identifiable by initials on rings, etc. as belonging to a certain individual. In such case it will be returned if belonging to a survivor or inventoried as property of a deceased individual. The consular section is also in the process of investigating a small amount of corporate property which was brought from Jonestown in connection with the investigation conducted by the FBI.

4. Convertible assets: The liquid assets are thus far known or suspected to exist in major sums in three locations i.e., those

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monies confiscated by the GOG; the checks in possession of the embassy; and bank deposits.

(a) funds confiscated by GOG: according to information given the ambassador by Guyanese officials, the GOG has confiscated us $500,000.00 and Guyana $150,000.00. Unconfirmed reports indicate that high officials believe the GOG can legally retain the confiscated us $550,000.00 since those funds were presumably brought into the country in violation of Guyana’s strict currency control laws. The embassy will await the department’s instructions on steps it should take in pursuing a claim to these funds.

(b) Checks in possession of embassy: the consular section has in its possession some 750 US treasury checks totaling approximately $160,000.00. All checks have been endorsed by the payee and none is endorsed to a third party. There are nineteen checks totaling $23,045.49 drawn on a California branch of the Bank of Montreal payable to cash and endorsed by drawees. There are sixty five personal checks, money orders and traveler’s checks totaling $3,917.51 payable to the Peoples Temple, Jones or other persons who, according to notations on the checks, are receiving funds on behalf of the Temple. The department’s instructions on the disposition of these instruments have been promised but thus far not received.

(c) Bank deposits: It is rumored but unconfirmed that the Peoples Temple maintained accounts at one or more banks in Georgetown. A letter is being sent to all banks in Georgetown asking whether they have accounts in the name of Peoples Temple, the Reverend Jim Jones or any other deceased member of the

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settlement. If an account is found for an individual deceased member, it will be added to the inventory of the deceased. A corporate account will be treated in the same manner as funds referred to in paragraph 4 (a).

(d) Finally, a representative of GUYSTAC [Guytrac: Guyana Tractor & Equipment] informed the embassy that two surviving Peoples Temple members had requested the refund of g$44,000 whih [which] had been a down payment on a tractor. The Temple members were told that the funds would be held to await the legal determination of their ownership. There may be similar credits on the books of other Guyanese companies.

5. Action requested: the department’s comments on the embassy’s assessment of the Peoples Temple property situation in Guyana would be appreciated. However, the embassy urgently requests instructions on further steps which the embassy should take with regard to the corporate Peoples Temple property in Guyana.

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

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