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The CIA, Nugan Hand Bank, the Murder of Donald Mackay … and Rupert Murdoch

Alex Constantine - August 15, 2007

CIA's Paul Helliwell meets Michael Hand and Frank Nugan

When Frank Nugan was found dead in Australia in 1980, it was accepted as a suicide and the sighs of relief could almost be heard in Langley, on the other side of the globe. But then William Colby's business card was found in Nugan's wallet, and Nugan's partner, Michael Hand, had been a contract agent for the CIA in Vietnam. Australian authorities began tracking Nugan Hand Bank, which developed into the most fun story of Golden Triangle drugs, money-laundering, profiteering, corporate shell games, and financial fraud that has yet surfaced in the CIA's unofficial history.

The most intriguing aspect of Nugan Hand Bank was the list of Yankees who were in on the scam. Theodore Shackley, Richard Secord, Thomas Clines, and Edwin Wilson played peripheral roles, while Gen. Edwin Black ran the Nugan Hand Hawaii office, Gen. Erle Cocke ran the Washington office, Gen. LeRoy Manor ran the Philippine office, Colby was their lawyer, former CIA deputy director Walter McDonald was a consultant, Adm. Earl Yates was president of Nugan Hand, and Robert Jantzen, a former CIA station chief in Thailand, got out of Nugan Hand when he smelled drugs. He needn't have bothered; apart from Kwitny's Wall Street Journal articles in 1982, Nugan Hand received little coverage and no official interest in the U.S., perhaps because evidence was lacking that it was a direct CIA proprietary.
Donald Mackay Murder - Twenty Five Years On

16 July 2002
Presenter: James O'Brien

Donald Mackay

25 years ago, the people of Griffith in Southern NSW were coming to grips with news anti-drugs campaigner, Donald Mackay has been shot & killed by well-known Mafia Figures.

It's believed he was murdered outside the Griffith Hotel at about 6 o'clock on the evening of July 15, 1977, although his body has never been found.

The case, the country's first major drug crime, captured the nation's attention, and led to the international police hunt for Robert Trimboli, who ordered the killing.

Amongst those reporting on the event was a young cadet journalist with the local paper, "The Area News", Mike Donaldson, who now works for ABC Radio News in Canberra.

James O'Brien from Statewide Drive spoke with Mike Donaldson about his memories of the time, growing up and working in Griffith when this all occured.


Ex-cop killed Mackay’

Latest book details new theory on murder

DONALD Mackay was killed by a corrupt ex-cop on the orders of a member of the Nugan family, an explosive new book has claimed.

The theory – floated in John Jiggens’ book The Sydney Connection - Nugan Hand, Murray Riley and the murder of Donald Mackay – flies in the face of popular belief Mr Mackay’s death was linked to local organised crime figures.

According to Mr Jiggens, the head of the Nugan Hand Bank, Frank Nugan, ordered the hit out of fear Mr Mackay would expose a money trail leading from the bank to several notorious Griffith marijuana growers.

He turned to Fred Krahe, the book claims, a former detective sergeant nicknamed the “Killer Cop”.

Krahe, an alleged contract killer suspected of a number of other murders, was in Griffith working for Frank Nugan in 1977, the year of Mr Mackay’s murder.

In the book, Mr Jiggens claims secret accounts in the names of local marijuana growers were found at the Nugan Group packing shed for hundreds of thousands of dollars. He claims Mr Mackay found out about the secret accounts scandal in the week before he was murdered.

“The man who ordered the hit was Frank Nugan,” Mr Jiggens said.

“Through the Nugan Hand Bank, he was at the centre of the drug trade, not only in Australia, but also at an international level.

“He was a man who believed he had a licence to kill,” Mr Jiggens said.
Mr Jiggens, a Brisbane academic, also speculates Bob Trimbole’s Griffith Mob, with the nod from NSW Police, may have been working for Nugan Hand at the time. Donald Mackay disappeared from outside the Griffith Hotel on July 15, 1977.

A Melbourne heavy, James Bazley, got life in 1986 for conspiring to kill him.
Bazley has always maintained his innocence, fingering Fred Krahe for the murder.

The dogs have been barking for years that a NSW policeman killed Don Mackay. That policeman was Fred Krahe,” Bazley said in the early ’80s.

The price for the hit was said to be $10,000, but Dr Bert Weiner, an anti-corruption campaigner with vast knowledge of Victorian criminals at that time, told Mr Jiggens, “Jim Bazley would not break your arm for $10,000”.

Frank Nugan committed suicide at Lithgow in January 1980.

In a recent article, investigative journalist Evan Whitton agreed Fred Krahe may have been responsible for Mr Mackay’s murder.

But not everyone supports the theory.

Author of Shadow of Shame Bob Bottom, one of the nation’s foremost authorities on the Mackay murder, said it was “highly unlikely” either Fred Krahe or Frank Nugan were involved.

“I’m very sceptical about the theory … no way,” Mr Bottom said.

“Nobody did more at the time to investigate Fred Krahe than me and let me say I never thought he was involved in the murder.

“With no body found and no confession, the murder has always provided fertile grounds for all manner of conclusions.

“Remember at the time there were theories Mr Mackay had taken off with another woman and even the nonsense that his family were behind the murder.”


Jan 27 Sydney: Co-founder of the Nugan Hand Bank, Francis John Nugan, found dead with a bullet wound to his head.


"... As a co-conspirator in the Mackay disappearance and alleged murder, Bazley was sentenced to nine years in prison and four years for the theft of $260,000 from the security van. He was also found guilty of murdering the Wilsons and given a life sentence.

"He appealed against the murder convictions in 1986 but the appeal was subsequently dismissed.

"In an interview with Tom Prior from the Sydney Sun newspaper in 1987, Bazley denied the charges saying: "I didn't kill Mackay and I didn't kill the Wilsons." ...

The RUPERT MURDOCH-owned Foxtel (Australian pay-TV) Version - "Mafia did it" (no mention of Frank Nugan or the CIA):

"MARKING the 30th anniversary of the murder of popular Griffith anti-drugs campaigner Donald Mackay will be the world premiere of The Disappearance of Donald Mackay.

"Crime Investigation Australia: The Disappearance of Donald Mackay retraces the events of his shocking Australian underworld murder on Foxtel’s Crime and Investigation Network premiering tonight at 7.30pm.

"Hosted by Steve Liebmann, this home-grown compelling documentary retells the sensational events that occurred in the NSW town of Griffith in July 1977 when Mafia drug dealers took revenge on drug informant Donald Mackay. ... "

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