Sarah McKee – A former General Counsel of INTERPOL

One afternoon in 1993, in a windowless conference room in Washington, D.C., a tall visitor opened a powerful laptop and turned it to face a closed session of an interagency committee of senior investigative agents and lawyers from a dozen government offices.

Everyone sitting in that room investigated major multinational crimes or managed other substantial international cases on behalf of the United States.  All of us were concerned to recover profits of crime or to win redress for victims of civil wrongs.

Our successes, whether generally unknown or splashed across the media, were matters of public record.  We of course relied for them on an array of law enforcement investigative tools and governmental mechanisms for international cooperation.  But as he clicked on screen after screen Haggai Carmon, an international lawyer in private practice, surprised those of us meeting him for the first time with true tales of how, as a consultant to the U.S. government, his independent approaches had ferreted out millions in U.S. crime profits that perpetrators had cached abroad.  In this work Haggai had also gathered legal intelligence in more than 30 countries that proved to be at least significant and sometimes crucial to civil and criminal cases, money laundering cases in particular, involving the U.S. government.

The methods Haggai outlined were original, effective, and unusually swift.  Some made creative use of that slim computer of his.  All were perfectly legal.  Whether retained to work in tandem with government investigators, or operating independently for the government, Haggai had in numerous major cases been responsible not only for tracking down ill-gotten assets abroad, but for facilitating their return to the United States.

Nearly a decade later, Haggai surprised me again.  By then I’d retired from my Department of Justice job as General Counsel for the INTERPOL-U.S. National Central Bureau, slipping gratefully off to a quieter life.  But Haggai had another true tale, and he tracked me down to tell it.

During sleepless, jet-lagged nights in remote hotels, he’d pounded out an international legal/spy thriller based on his years as a money hunter in more than 30 countries.  Would I look at Triple Identity’s discussions of INTERPOL, to see that they were authentic?

I agreed to check relevant sections.  When the bulky manuscript arrived, however, I glanced at its first page, first sentence – and read straight through to the very last word.

Parts of the book sprang, it was obvious, from pure imagination.  Triple Identity’s David Stone, mythical head of a non-existent U.S. Department of Justice office, has “an ample budget.”  This does not happen.  Given their heavy and ever-increasing caseloads, no government international office I’ve known, regardless of country, has had a budget that its agents or lawyers would call “ample.”  Nice thought!  But it’s fiction.  

Nor would any government lawyer resort to a certain few of the ploys used by unbureaucratic Dan Gordon, the book’s dual-nationality Department of Justice lawyer and a veteran of the Mossad.  No government lawyer who tried them could keep job, law license, or, in the worst case, liberty.  You’ll spot these certain ploys.  They’re clever.  They’re highly entertaining. They’re even plausible.  In real life, though, they don’t happen. 

But what about that twisting plot, those interlaced subplots, incident after curious incident?  What about much more than $90,000,000 , spirited from a California bank?  What about the fugitive banker, real identity as elusive as he, who spirited these millions away?  What of that multinational cast of bad, good, and in-between guys criss-crossing Europe and the Middle East, double-crossing one another, intent on seizing the money, stalking the man, securing weapons of mass destruction materiel?  Did these spring from Haggai’s cases?  From cases that others handled?  From Haggai’s innovative and inventive mind?

Haggai says that they’re fiction.  He certainly should know.  So, fiction they are.  But as far as my experience goes, they nonetheless ring true.   I’d say that they could have happened.

– Sarah McKee

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