Over the past six months, Neil Bush, the son of former President George Herbert Walker Bush and Barbara Bush, and the younger brother of President George W. Bush, has been shepherded around several former Soviet republics by a man wanted for fraud by Russian authorities, and has showed up in the Philippines and Taiwan at the side of a self-styled messiah.
If people know anything at all about the star-crossed Neil Bush, it likely relates to either his role in the failed Silverado Savings and Loan scandal during the 1980s -- which cost taxpayers more than $1 billion -- or, more recently, the lurid details of his divorce from his wife of 23 years.
After a brief hiatus from the spotlight, Neil Bush is back. Within a three-month period, Bush showed up in Latvia, Ukraine and Georgia with Russian fugitive Boris Berezovsky, and appeared at the side of the Unification Church's Rev. Sun Myung Moon in Taiwan and the Philippines.
In September, Bush visited Latvia with Boris Berezovsky, described by the Washington Post as "a fugitive Russian tycoon who made millions in the violent scramble for control of Russian government assets after the fall of communism."
Bush, whom the St. Petersburg Times characterized as "the scandal-tainted brother of the U.S. president," and Berezovsky, who currently lives in London, where he has received political asylum, was toodling around the former Soviet republics to promote Ignite! Learning, the Texas-based interactive education software company Bush founded in 1999.
Berezovsky took Bush "on a tour of countries from the former Soviet Union that have spun out of Moscow's sphere of influence," the newspaper pointed out. In June, it was Ukraine, then Georgia, "where Berezovsky's longtime partner and Tbilisi power broker Badri Patarkatsishvili was on hand to wine and dine the U.S. president's brother."
"He asked me to think about possible projects in the regions that I know about," Berezovsky said. "I've known this region for a long time. The CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] is my area of expertise."
According to the newspaper, Berezovsky, "a former Kremlin king-maker... served a stint as executive secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States under former President Boris Yeltsin." He later clashed with Russian President Putin shortly after he was elected in 2000.
Ken Leonard, the president of Ignite!, said that he had no knowledge of any political problems that Berezovsky -- a shareholder in the company -- might have. "We know him in terms of his relationship directly with the company," he said.
The newspaper also pointed out that the U.S. Embassy in Moscow had disavowed any knowledge of Bush's activities, while the State Department denied any "involvement in, or any role in arranging, the activities of these two private individuals in Riga."
Leonard refused to discuss the company's earnings or profits, nor would he comment on how many schools were using the company's software. He did point out, however, that "thousands of students" had access to it in a number of states, including Texas, Florida, Washington and California.
The company has start-up projects in Latin America and South Korea, and is eager to move into the former Soviet space. The Bush/Berezovsky trip resulted in several countries ordering "10 of Ignite!'s science courses for pilot programs in their schools," the St. Petersburg Times reported. "So far, the agreement is to use the English-language U.S. curriculum available in existing material, Leonard said. But the programs, if successful, might be first translated into Russian and then localized to meet each country's curriculum, he said."
While traipsing through Eastern Europe with Berezovsky raised some eyebrows, the St. Petersburg Times reported that other Bush business deals are also controversial.
During his divorce proceedings Bush said he was co-chairman of Crest Investment Corporation, a company based in Houston, Texas, that invests in energy and other ventures. He said that he received $15,000 every three months for working an average three or four hours a week.
One of Bush's business partners is Jamal Daniel, "a Syrian-American businessman, who is co-chairman with Bush of a fund called Crest Investment Company." According to the newspaper, "Daniel boasts important connections with leaders and their families in the Middle East, including former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, the Financial Times reported in a December 2003 investigative article on the Daniel-Bush relationship."
Last year, despite being a "little-known fund," Crest Investment Company was "granted lucrative rights to develop a plant to process liquefied natural gas near Freeport, Texas, in the process pushing out ExxonMobil, which had first rights to develop the plant."
Jamal Daniel was also a member of the advisory board of New Bridge Strategies, a low-profile Washington firm set up to help companies invest in postwar Iraq. Directors of New Bridge include political heavyweights Joe Allbaugh, the former manager of the Bush-Cheney election campaign in 2000, and Ed Rogers, a former senior White House aide to President Bush.
Neil and the Rev. Sun Myung Moon
More recently, Bush showed up in the Philippines and Taiwan at the side of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the head of the controversial Unification Church. In the Philippines, Bush attended the inaugural convocation of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) in Manila, the Manila Bulletin reported. Bush, along with other "peace leaders" joined with Moon in meeting with Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The president "praised Moon for his global peace efforts and God-centered, family-centered economic and social initiatives in various parts of the world, including projects in a number of Philippine cities," the Manila paper reported.
Moon's tour has come up with a new way of promoting world peace, which he is calling the "World Peace King Bridge-Tunnel":
"For thousands of years, Satan used the Bering Strait to separate East and West, North and South, as well as North America and Russia geographically. I propose that a bridge be constructed over the Bering Strait, or a tunnel be dug under it, so that it will be able to connect the world super highway starting from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa to Santiago in Chile, and from London to New York, making the world a single community."
Moon's Philippine trip, one stop on a 100-day tour that is taking him to 100 cities in 67 nations and covering nearly 100,000 miles, is also centered on building momentum for his idea of developing a faith-based path to peace by re-vamping the United Nations.
John Gorenfeld, a veteran investigative reporter and a longtime chronicler of Moon's sojourns, described Moon's thinking on another ongoing project, his attempt to transform the United Nations: "Moon speaks in parables from the Book of Genesis. He says the U.N. is like Cain, but he wants to build a second entity that is like Abel. Ideally, his 'Abel U.N.' -- a body fusing all religions -- would be embraced by the U.N. But if not, he wants to set up his own alternative diplomatic machine to outshine the U.N."
During a May 2003 meeting with President Bush at the White House, Philippines President Arroyo suggested that the United States might consider co-sponsoring the proposal, the conservative online news magazine, NewsMax.com reported. According to that report, the president "expressed deep interest and asked his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, to study the matter."
"Some 3,000 people, including Vice President Annette Lu, US President George W. Bush's younger brother Neil Bush and Washington Times president Joo Dong Moon, listened to Reverend Moon's speech at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei," the Taipei Times reported.
Neil Bush is no stranger to showing up at out of the way places searching for business: One month after 9/11, Bush showed up at an international technology conference in Dubai where he was hunting for investors for Ignite!
A few months later, he was in Saudi Arabia, where he delivered the keynote address on the concluding day of the three-day Jeddah Economic Forum. Bush told conferees that the best way to change perceptions in the United States about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was to expand their political lobbying.
Divorced and fancy free
Stained by his involvement in the savings and loan debacle, Neil Bush's reputation was further soiled by revelations contained in a deposition that was part of his divorce from his ex-wife Sharon. In those documents, Bush revealed details about rewarding business deals and a series of sexual encounters with women in Asia.
Sharon Bush's lawyer, Marshall Davis Brown, questioned Bush about an August 2002 contract with Grace Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp., a firm backed by Jiang Mianheng, the son of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, that would pay him $2 million in stock over five years: "You have absolutely no educational background in semiconductors do you?"
"That's correct," Bush responded.
"And you have absolutely over the last 10, 15, 20 years not a lot of demonstrable business experience that would bring about a company investing $2 million in you?"
In the deposition, Bush also admitted to having had a series of sexual encounters with Asian woman, while on trips to Thailand and Hong Kong. According to Bush, the women knocked on his door, entered and engaged in sex with him. According to a CNN report, Bush "said he did not know if they were prostitutes because they never asked for money and he did not pay them."
"Mr. Bush, you have to admit it's a pretty remarkable thing for a man just to go to a hotel room door and open it and have a woman standing there and have sex with her," Brown said.
"It was very unusual," Bush said.
Reverend Moon has been a longtime friend to the Bush family. After supporting George W. Bush's election in 2000 through his flagship publication, the Washington Times, the newspaper's foundation sponsored a prayer luncheon attended by some 1,700 religious, civic, and political leaders the day before Bush's inauguration.
In 1995, former President George H. W. Bush received $10,000 to speak at a Moon-sponsored Buenos Aires banquet that launched the Reverend's Latin American publication, "Tiempos del Mundo" (Times of the World). "A lot of my friends in South America don't know about the Washington Times but it is an independent voice," the former president said. "The editors of the Washington Times tell me that never once has the man with the vision interfered with the running of the paper, a paper that in my view brings sanity to Washington DC."
Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His WorkingForChange.com column Conservative Watch documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right. Thanks to Laura Ross for her research assistance.
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