Author Bruce Aitken. Photo: Ali Ghorbani / aligstudios.com

Editor’s brief review: I chose this chapter out of more than 30 chapters included in Bruce Aitken’s newly published book Mr. Clean because I knew something about the subject matter. It turns out that everything written here jibes with what I’d known about the 1970s and ’80s Lockheed episode in Japan-US history, and I’ve learned a good deal more from reading it.

The author tells some fascinating tales. Just a word of caution to any readers who envy Aitken his previous life of adventure: Don’t try this at home. Among possible career moves, it’s limited by the fact that what the author was doing – as he himself is at pains to note – was illegal and could well have gotten him into a great deal more trouble than turned out to be the case. -Bradley K. Martin


It was not long after I had arrived back in Guam — where I’d gone to cover for the manager, Tony Evans, who was about to take annual leave — that the telex in the Deak & Company office there started tapping out messages in the middle of the night.

Things were afoot in Deak’s world of Japanese yen pickups and payments — and the “special assignment” earlier alluded to by Nicholas Deak in New York was about to come to fruition.

Nicholas Deak, chairman of Deak & Co, in 1975. Photo: Toronto Star

He urgently needed yen in Japan, and he needed a warm body to deliver it. Dirk Brink was on the case to find him one.

Guam was not my favorite place in the beginning. I felt so isolated there, although over time I began to relish the feeling and grew to like the place.

It was a hot and steamy morning in January 1973, and I was about an hour late arriving at work. The morning heat was getting to me: I wished I were in Hong Kong, which tends to be mild and dry at that time of year. While we worked on Guam, New York slept – and so our daily communications were with Hong Kong, not New York.

Tony Evans had gotten to the Guam office ahead of me and he startled me as I walked in.“Bruce, where have you been? Brink in Hong Kong has been calling every five minutes. Would you please get back to him and see what the hell he wants. And, by the way, ask him the rate for pesos today in Manila and what the hell to do with the 50 million yen we bought over the weekend. Tell him I need a good rate or we’ll sell it to Bank of America” – our competitor.

Suddenly, my spirits picked up. Dirk Brink calling? Maybe I’ll be heading back to Hong Kong soon.

Straight on the phone, I heard the familiar, quick double ring of the Hong Kong telephone system, and then the friendly voice of the receptionist: “Deak & Company Far East Ltd, who’s calling?”

Bruce Aitken. Photo: China Speakers Agency

“This is Bruce from the Guam office.”

“Oh, hold on, hold on.”

Must be important if she’s saying it twice, I thought. I wasn’t even put on hold, so I could hear her as she yelled: “Mr Brink, Mr Brink, Guam on the line.”

A split second later, the calm voice of Brink came on. “Bruce,” he said in his usual charming manner. “How would you like to come to Hong Kong for a couple of days?”

The following day, back in the Hong Kong office, Brink approached me with an unusual question. “Do you play golf?” He took me aside and opened a closet door. To my surprise, I saw before me a dozen or so very nice-looking golf bags. “To be clear, I don’t want you to play golf. I just want you to take the golf clubs from Guam to Tokyo from time to time.”

Naturally, this was yet another of Brink’s unorthodox schemes to move money.

“OK,” I said. “How much cash can you put in them?”

Brink smiled and proceeded to show me how to open the rivets on the bottom of the bag, then slide out a specially-made compartment lined with black cloth. “Each bag can comfortably hold millions of Japanese yen in ten-thousand denominated banknotes,” he proclaimed with extraordinary glee. That was the equivalent of several hundred thousand US dollars.

“OK, I get the picture. Have you done this before?” I asked.

“Yes, of course, all the time … but never to Japan.” Tony Pong, the counter boys and all the staff at Compass Travel in Hong Kong had been to Japan too many times and we were attracting too much attention, Brink explained. New blood was badly needed, and that new blood was mine.

“Mr Deak and I want you to make some trips for us, flying from Guam,” he said. Brink often cleverly referenced Deak, knowing that such authority would not be questioned and therefore making it nearly impossible to say no.

As with Compass Travel in Hong Kong, over in Guam we had the perfect cover: our subsidiary, Horizon Travel. The paradise island was known in Japan as “Honeymoon Island,” and 747 jumbo jets full of Japanese newlyweds descended on it each day – bringing huge amounts of yen notes.

Furthermore, many of the male parties among these honeymooning couples were golfing obsessives — and Guam’s ample courses meant that large, heavy golf bags were ubiquitous luggage items on flights from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Sensing I was about to be made a guinea pig, I asked Brink why we didn’t just swap yen that were already in Japan for our clients, giving them US dollars outside.

“If I could do that, I wouldn’t be asking you to take the yen to Japan now, would I?” he replied.

Japan’s strict exchange controls made it dangerous to do unofficial business there and Brink explained that our agent in the country, code-named ”Sanyo,” was scared as all hell: he suspected his phone was tapped, that he was being followed and that somehow the authorities were on to him.

“He has to lie low. He thinks the Japanese police are ready to pounce and says he can’t supply me with any yen for now. We have these urgent payments piling up, and I’m getting calls every hour from …”

Brink suddenly hesitated, looking slightly nervous. “You don’t want to know who from; I can’t say who, but he is attached to your bloody consulate here in Hong Kong.”

“The United States Consulate?”

“No, the New York Yankees!” he replied sarcastically.

It all made perfect sense. I had suspected it for a while in the wake of my visit to the Soviet Union and my deliveries to “General Chul” in South Korea, but now here was confirmation that we were making undercover payments for the US government. I pondered the thought, almost with a tinge of patriotism.

I remembered Deak’s past with the OSS — the Office of Strategic Services, today’s CIA — and his contacts inside the intelligence community. It was generally assumed, though rarely discussed, that he was still deeply connected with that world. Incidentally, I would eventually meet the US Consulate contact referred to by Brink on numerous occasions. Standing about six and a half feet tall and weighing at least 250 pounds, he wasn’t the kind of guy you forgot easily. His code name was “Frank Price.”

The night of my conversation with Brink, I was on a plane back to Guam, arriving just after 2 am. (Because of the island’s location, out in the middle of the ocean where America’s day begins, Guam flight schedules really suck.) From there, I was booked on the JAL flight to Tokyo in the afternoon. Clearing customs and collecting my golf bag, I suddenly felt uneasy.

I could still hear Brink’s parting words as I was leaving the office: “Don’t worry, man. There is nothing to it.” Dirk Brink was a very clever man. He had a quick, razor-sharp mind — and a gift for thinking up ingenious ways to move money, ranging from the devilishly complex to the stunningly simple. And this was one of the simplest.

“When you get to Tokyo,” he said, “check into the Okura Hotel, which is not far from the embassy, and wait for Father Jose to call.”

Father Jose. I had heard about him and was looking forward to meeting him. Turns out he was Deak’s other agent in Tokyo, and arguably the most important one in Japan. When Sanyo wasn’t running scared from the cops, he would pick up yen from yakuza, members of Japan’s notorious criminal syndicates — or even from our high-placed mole at an American bank, or anyone else who was selling — and give it to Father Jose, who would make our payments.

It was essential that those responsible for the pickups were kept separate from our payees. Otherwise, an agent might quickly put two and two together, match up buyer and seller and decide to do the business himself — thereby eliminating Deak’s commission.

Why the “fatherin Father Jose? Well, it was because he was a bona fide Spanish Catholic priest. He would lug bags of money all over Tokyo to make payments for Deak, then send 100 percent of his hard-earned commission of half a percent back to a church he’d founded for former prostitutes in Mexico City. He was truly a wonderful man.

As I waited at the gate to board my flight to Tokyo, I took great comfort from knowing the deal came from the US Embassy, and that our agent was a man of God. I told myself it was good karma.

My thoughts were interrupted by a sudden observation, however. I had gone to the office in Guam early, filled the golf bag with ¥50 million, and arrived at the airport at 2 pm. I’d then waited for a couple of jam-packed tourist buses to arrive, and chosen a check-in line along with about a dozen other fellows with golf bags. Now, standing at boarding Gate 3, I noticed that several of these looked almost identical to mine — white and red in color, and kind of heavy.

I got a little nervous. Shit, Brink, you are either an idiot or a genius — this must be the most popular color. I hope no one picks up my bag when we get to Tokyo. Suddenly, I did not feel so good, but what the hell could I do about it?

The attendant at the check-in counter stapled my luggage stub onto my ticket, and I watched the bag slide into the belly of the airport luggage system. Goodbye. I told myself not to lose the luggage check-in stub.

It was close to 9 pm when I touched down at the old Tokyo Haneda Airport, ready to make my way to my hotel. I had drunk a couple of beers during the last hour of the flight and felt quite relaxed. Japanese are always polite, even the immigration and customs officers. I lined up behind the other non-Japanese at our designated counter.

“Why you come to Japan?” an officer asked me. “How long you stay and where?”

A few short questions and off I went to the luggage carousel. I was beginning to feel the sweat on my palms as I searched three carousels, looking at all the red and white golf bags going around. One by one, they were picked up by others; my eyes watered, straining to look at the numbers on the check-in tags. I could feel stares coming from a nearby customs agent.

Suddenly, I saw mine. Thank God! I watched it come around the corner until it passed in front of me. Then I flipped it onto a luggage cart, put my hand-carry on top and went to the nearest customs check – all the while looking for an Indian passenger to get behind. Why an Indian? I’ll let you in on a little smuggling secret:

Brink used to say: “Customs will tear the Indians apart because they are always trying to smuggle something. In the mean- time, they’ll just wave you right on through. Remember, smuggling is a white man’s privilege.”

The next best thing to standing behind an Indian was lining up behind a little old lady — even better, in fact, to strike up some small talk with her, as this left a favorable impression on anyone watching. With not an Indian in sight, I managed to find an elderly couple to fall in behind. They were from Guam and spoke no Japanese. It didn’t matter. They were waved through.

Then the customs agent who had been staring at me asked me to step up to his counter. He noted I had nothing to declare. “You play golf here in Japan?” he asked, taking a long hard look at the red and white bag I had just placed in front of him.

It dawned on me that it must be very rare for non-Japanese to bring golf bags into Tokyo — especially in the winter. I could feel a knot building in my stomach, and my palms began to sweat.“Oh no,” I replied truthfully. “I don’t know anyone who will invite me to a club here and besides, the weather is too cold now. I plan to play a few rounds in Manila.”

Luckily, as insurance, my ticket had been written Guam / Tokyo / Manila / Guam. He asked to see it, then hesitated for what seemed like an eternity.

I stared him in the eyes, and my eyes told him I was beginning to become annoyed. Regaining my confidence, I asked quickly: “What is the problem?”

He still paused.

I lied and told him I would be leaving the golf bag in the stored luggage locker at the airport until my flight to Manila. My demeanor reflected that I was in a hurry.

“OK, go ahead,” he finally said.

Walking off, I let out a sigh of relief and cursed Brink for saying this would be “as easy as pumpkin pie.”

When I arrived at the Okura hotel, there were already three messages waiting for me — all from a “Mr Chan,” calling from Hong Kong. The reference was to Charlie Chan, the fictional Honolulu police detective. Of course, it was actually Brink.

Once in my tiny hotel room – the Okura was a five-star hotel, but all hotel rooms in Japan are small – I transferred the yen to a Horizon Travel shoulder bag and leaned the golf bag in the corner.

It was past midnight when the phone rang. It was Father Jose, calling to tell me he would contact me early the next morning. It was good that he did not want to meet in the hotel. We agreed to meet at a Spanish restaurant, Los Platos.

“Come at noon,” he said. “And make sure you come alone.”

I checked the map, took the underground, then a taxi, and almost got lost walking the last ten blocks or so, looking over my shoulder all the while.

After a bottle of Father Jose’s favorite wine — shipped from Spain — and a great lunch, I was feeling fine. A couple of hours later, I put him into a taxi, bag of yen in hand, and returned to my hotel. Father Jose had given me some accounts and coded payment records to send back to Brink. I decided to telex the info when I returned to Guam.

Father Jose was worried and would seem to be more worried each time I came to see him, which turned out to be more than a dozen times over the next two years. We decided to hold our future meetings at a different Spanish restaurant called El Castellano, closer to the US Embassy.

Back in Hong Kong, I saw the settlement accounts for the money I was delivering to Japan on behalf of the US consulate in Hong Kong. Our customer was none other than Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, the American aerospace manufacturer. Point of contact: John W Clutter, Lockheed Tokyo representative (and, we would later learn, a payment agent for the CIA).

The Lockheed L1011 Tristar passenger liner. Photo: Lockheed Martin

Father Jose, Sanyo and I became good friends. Father Jose was anxious about security and asked me to watch his back. We never met in public or allowed ourselves to be seen together, except at El Castellano, and Father Jose knew everyone there.

As for Sanyo, I would watch him meet with several Japanese men over the course of time — sometimes in a hotel car park, sometimes at the British Embassy car park, other times at a residence, even a couple of times at a phone booth. Due to his paranoia, he liked to have someone looking on from a distance.

But what was it all about? Why was Lockheed Aircraft Corporation using the services of Deak & Company? I was to find out the answer to that question two years later, in 1975.

Red alert

Brink’s secretary in Hong Kong, Mrs Silva, really ran the place while Brink was away, which was quite often. Brink traveled every other month between Hong Kong and White River, his family residence in South Africa. As assistant manager I sat at his desk during the times he was away and got to see firsthand what was really going on.

During one such spell, Brink had just returned the night before, and we were waiting for the “master” to arrive when Mrs. Silva came running in, frantically waving her arms.

“Bruce, the RED PHONE has been ringing all morning.”

“What?” I didn’t believe it.

I had worked in Hong Kong for almost two years, and the red phone had never rung.

It was never even touched.

There was a battery of phones on Brink’s desk, each with a special purpose. One was only for calls in German, another only for French, and there was even one for Esperanto. Brink was a brilliant eccentric.

But the RED PHONE was a very special phone, with a number that only special agents around the Far East knew — and they had to memorize it. It was only to be used in case of dire emergencies.

“What are we to do, Mrs Silva?” The words had barely left my mouth when the phone suddenly came to life again: RING! RING! RING! RING! I had never heard it ring and when it did, the sound was totally unexpected: fast and shrill, with a sense of urgency about it.

“Don’t touch it!” Mrs. Silva said.

Brink had told me to answer all phone calls while he was away. I hesitated as long as I could, hoping the damn thing would stop.

It didn’t. I picked up the receiver.

“Hello,” I answered quietly and calmly, in a voice not at all like my own. To my shock, the voice on the other end recognized mine anyway.

“Bluce,” it said, in a heavy Japanese accent. It was Sanyo calling from Tokyo. He never could pronounce my name. “Is Mr Blink there?”

“Yes, on the way soon. What is it?”

“Big, big, very big problem! Oh, my God, oh, my God, it is on the TV, and in all Japanese newspapers! Father Jose has been arrested by Japanese internal police! Oh, big news, you see! You watch TV. Good-bye! Sayonara! Tell Blink I go to hiding.”

A loud click followed. I felt sick. Father Jose was my dear friend.

Brink arrived a few minutes later and turned slightly pale at the news, but then the adrenaline kicked in. His first thought: What about the money, the accounts? Only Father Jose would have this information — not written down, only in his head. Many millions of yen paid out in recent days and weeks had to be accounted for.

“We must inform Mr Deak.” Brink said.

“Yes, let’s ask Mr Deak what we should do,” I said. For the first time, I was seriously asking myself: What was all this money we’d paid out really for?

We were about to find out what it was all for – because it became a story of immense interest and importance that would shake political and legislative systems to the core in America, Japan and a number of other countries.

In the late 1960s and early ’70s, the airline business was booming and the market for wide-body planes was taking off. The Boeing 747 had changed the world and rivalry among airplane manufacturers and airlines was fierce. Up against the 747 and the McDonnell Douglas DC 10, Lockheed’s TriStar airplane was by far the underdog.

The Lockheed Tristar eventually was featured in this futuristic illustration for an article entitled “Requiem for a Trijet Masterpiece.” Photo: Airline Reporter

To gain advantage against their competitors, therefore, top officers at Lockheed had inaugurated and directed a program of foreign bribery that involved payments of tens of millions of dollars to officials in several countries between 1970 and 1975.

In Japan, we would later discover, Lockheed had hired the underworld figure Yoshio Kodama – a right-wing ultranationalist – as a consultant in a scheme to lean on state-related Japanese airlines, including All Nippon Airways (ANA), to buy the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar.

Yoshio Kodama. Photo: Wikipedia

And the apex target of this pyramid of bribery was none other than Prime Minister Kakuel Tanaka, who would eventually be charged with taking $1.6 million from Lockheed – a considerable fraction of some vast amounts paid to an extended cast of Japanese officials and agents. It was the scandal of the decade, and Deak & Company was at the very heart of it.

Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka speaks at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in October 1974. (FCCJ file photo)

On the evening of Sanyo’s call, we were still in the office at around 9 pm local time, which was 9 am in New York, when the black phone began to ring.

The black phone was a direct hotline: it was reserved only for calls from Deak himself, and it was only to be answered by Brink. I thought it might have been Meak’s way of checking to see when Brink was in Hong Kong or South Africa but, in fact, when he was not in the office it never rang once.

When the black phone rang, everyone normally fled Brink’s office, leaving him to close the door and deal with the matter at hand. Strangely, this time Brink motioned for Ron Frame, Tony Pong and the secretary Silva to stay, along with myself.

The conversation is etched in my mind. Much of it switched back and forth between English and German, which only Brink understood. But what I remember clearly was the solemn look on his face. He just kept nodding his head, listening, nodding his head again, and then continuing to listen in silence. Obviously, this was extremely serious. After about 20 minutes, he slowly hung up.

Everyone started to speak at once. “What did Mr. Deak say? What can we do? What about Father Jose?”

There was a long pause before Brink said anything. “What about Father Jose?”

“Yes,” we all said in unison. “What about Father Jose? Damn it! What in Jesus’ name did Mr Deak say about Father Jose?”

After a long pause, Brink finally looked at us. With a sly grin, he repeated: “About Father Jose?”

“Yes, God damn you, Brink.”

“Mr. Deak said, about Father Jose – he said to pray for him.”

“Shit! That’s all he said? Pray for him?”

So praying was Plan A. The reality was much more serious.

Plan B would be devised three weeks later after Father Jose had been thoroughly interogated by the police and let out on bail. We kept a close ear to the ground until one day Sanyo called and said he had seen on TV that Father Jose had been released. The news said Father Jose knew nothing; he was only delivering documents for Deak & Company.

Sanyo said the police had been watching Father Jose for a long time. They knew that it was Deak & Company that was delivering money – and also that the Deak and Compass Travel couriers were coming from Hong Kong. What they had no idea about, it transpired, was the golf bags coming from Guam. In fact, to this very day, they never could figure out where most of the money was coming from or determine its source.

“Bruce, can you go to Tokyo right away?” Brink asked. “You know where to meet Father Jose.”

I was the only one besides Brink and Pong who had ever been to the little flat – in Shibuya-ku, not far from Tokyo University – from which Father Jose provided Spanish-Japanese translation services. He would be expecting someone, and that could only be me. I felt that big knot returning to my stomach.

“This may give me an ulcer,” I said out loud to myself. I weighed the risks and stupidly talked myself into believing there were none.

The next day, I was on the plane to Tokyo, having first flown from Hong Kong to Guam yet again. I was not relishing the thought of showing up at Father Jose’s flat at two in the morning, but that is what the situation called for. I took the train and walked the last ten blocks, then circled around from across the street. I had a good vantage point, and could see 360 degrees; I saw no one.

The entrance to the building was partly obscured by bushes, and if anyone approached me, I could keep on going around the building towards the university.

Convincing myself that I was helping my dear friend – and doing nothing wrong – I walked around the bushes and toward the lobby door. When I was less than ten yards away from the entrance, however, the door sprang open. My heart stopped for what seemed an eternity before, much to my relief, a young man in his twenties walked out, quickly crossed the road and disappeared into the metro, taking no notice of me.

Approaching the entrance, I glanced at the doorbells, found 8C, and rang the buzzer. Almost instantly, I heard a deep, familiar voice.

“Father Jose,” I said.

Silence, for a split second, and then a loud buzzing that broke the tension. The front door opened. I walked in alone and took the lift, pressing the button for the fifth floor, then took the stairs up to the eighth.

Father Jose and I drank my duty-free bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label and talked non-stop for the next three hours. He gave me all the account balances, payments outstanding, deliveries pending – the works – to bring back to Brink. As he talked about the uncertainty of his situation, and as the whisky flowed, emotions tumbled out. Ultimately, he felt the prosecutor would be kind to him, given that he’d only played a small role in the scandal and had no direct knowledge of what it involved.

Interestingly, when I asked him if he liked being famous, to my amazement he said yes. Since he had been on TV he had received many calls from young Japanese stewardesses from ANA, all of whom wanted to thank him for supporting ANA TriStar. In fact, they were knocking on his door day and night. When I had buzzed earlier that night, he’d thought I was another one., Of course, there was never any question of sexual impropriety on Father Jose’s part –— he just found it all quite funny and liked the attention.)

I left Father Jose’s flat before sunrise, making my way back to the train station, then to the airport for my flights to Guam and back to Hong Kong.

The police had been very thorough in monitoring airport arrivals and had been watching employees of Deak & Company and Compass Travel for more than two years. They saw them come and they saw them go. Every time they entered Tokyo, an alarm went off. They had also seen them every time they’d met with Father Jose: all the meetings were photographed and documented.

I was very fortunate not to have been connected to Deak Hong Kong or Compass Travel by the Japanese authorities, and I thanked God for my good fortune in having made all my trips from Guam undetected.

On the morning of my return to Hong Kong after seeing Father Jose, I went to the office at about 9 am. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I was feeling pretty good: A nice weekend at home beckoned.

When I pressed the lift button at Shell House, however, five Japanese men with cameras suddenly appeared behind me, all trying to squeeze into the same lift. I looked at them, and they looked at me. One of them pressed level four – our floor – and I thought to myself: this time the shit has really hit the fan.

When the elevator stopped at level four, they looked at me again, hesitated, and when I went out first, they immediately yelled: “You Mr Blink?”

“No! No! No!” I said truthfully, adding: “I don’t know any Mr Blink.”

Pretending to be a customer, I walked over to the Compass Travel counter and called Mrs Silva, who had just come running out of Brink’s office.

“What’s happening?”

“Oh!” she said, with a hearty laugh. “There are 20 Japanese journalists and photographers here, and all of them have been trying to squeeze into ‘Mr. Blink’s’ office since early this morning.”

Guilty

Lockheed President Carl Kotchian had approved payments to the prime minister for the purpose of influencing ANA. Tanaka, for his part, had agreed to do Lockheed’s bidding and had approached ANA Chairman Tokuji Wakasa, who also fell into line. A couple of months later, much to the surprise of Boeing and McDonnell Douglas, the contract had been awarded to Lockheed for a fleet of TriStars costing US$30 million dollars per aircraft.

Lockheed Aircraft Corporation President Carl Kotchian with a model of the Tristar. Photo: Wikipedia

Put crudely, Lockheed got the contract, with the go-between trading company Marubeni receiving a commission; ANA got 21 Tri-Stars at a cost of over $600 million; the Japanese public got good planes; and Tanaka and various other “agents” got a little pocket money.

The only problem was that it was all highly illegal — a minor detail the protagonists had failed to take seriously, at least until the scandal blew up in their faces. And that’s exactly what happened when a sub-committee of the US Senate led by Senator Frank Church started looking into the affair.

What followed was a complicated saga that would take years to unfold in the Japanese court system. As the heat from the story intensified, Tanaka quietly tried to return the money, but it was simply too late.

By the time matters finally came to a head, almost seven years had elapsed. There had been a total of 190 hearings, involving more than 100 witnesses; three of the 16 defendants had fallen ill, quite possibly to avoid testifying; and three witnesses and one judge had died. More than twenty 20 books concerning the trial had been published, with most of them becoming best-sellers.

Judgment day was set for October 12, 1983 – and when it arrived the whole of Japan reached a fever pitch. Millions stayed bolted to their televisions and radio sets; 17 helicopters hovered in the skies to witness Tanaka’s drive from his home in Mejiro to the courthouse; 450 members of a special police unit were deployed; 1,500 news personnel swarmed the two key locations; and thousands lined up to claim one of 52 available court-galley seats. Live coverage began at 7am.

Tanaka’s Chrysler motorcade arrived at the courthouse shortly after 9:30 am. The veteran politician had by this stage incurred legal fees estimated at $4 million, but the cost to the state was considerably more. Judge Okada delivered a 55,000-character ruling in which all of the defendants were found guilty. Okada admonished Tanaka for damaging the reputation of the nation and “forfeiting the people’s trust in public offices” as he handed the fallen leader a four-year jail sentence and a fine of JPY500 million – almost $4.5 million.

Also found guilty, along with a series of lesser figures who had been involved in the scenario – many of them businessmen from Lockheed, ANA and Marubeni.

The TriStar’s selection in Japan over the McDonnell Douglas DC 10 and Boeing 727 could only be described as a miraculous, mind-boggling turn-around that reeked of impropriety and corruption. For many in Japan, the fallout left a feeling of shame and humiliation. Back in the US, meanwhile, there was widespread shock at how Lockheed had resorted to bribery to win the contract – probably with a tacit “nod” from the CIA. Was this really the typical modus operandi of US companies in foreign lands?

The Lockheed Bribery Scandal, with Deak and the CIA caught up in its tangled web, led directly to the passage of the 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the first-ever law criminalizing bribery of foreign officials. Essentially, the act prohibited US citizens and entities from greasing the palms of foreign government officials to benefit their business interests.

The legislative response reflected the sense of shock at yet another Watergate-level scandal coming to light – America’s dirty laundry being thrust into the open for all to see. Lockheed was really a great embarrassment to the US government, which in fact subsequently put a gag order on the scandal under the guise of protecting “national interests.”

The truth about what we all knew – that the CIA was a Lockheed collaborator, or enabler – never really came out. What’s more, several of the Japanese players who had been involved in the scandal suddenly – and rather conveniently, you might say – “passed away,” taking their knowledge to the grave.

For Deak & Company, it was also a disaster. Having made all of the payments, amounting to at least $30 million, we were truly exposed. The ramifications of the affair for Deak & Company in Hong Kong, in America and for Nicholas Deak himself were to be far-reaching and devastating.

In the immediate aftermath, though, the business continued merrily on its way as if nothing had really happened. All of the Deak and Compass Travel counter boys in Hong Kong were now known to the Japanese police, but we recruited new couriers to service our Japanese accounts.

Father Jose was defrocked — but happy. We continued to meet over the years whenever I was in Tokyo or whenever he passed through Hong Kong on his way to Macau to visit his sister, who was a nun.

As to what had really happened, so much remained unknown. Dirk Brink said to me one day in confidence: “Look to a man named Clutter for the truth. He was our contact.” Clutter had been the bridge between Deak and the CIA.

“Did Clutter work for the CIA?” I asked. Brink’s eyes darted around the room quickly in confirmation.

“Ask Mr Deak,” was his reply.

I’ve often wondered whether it was because of what Nicholas Deak knew about the Lockheed affair and the off-balance sheet transactions he’d orchestrated for Uncle Sam over the decades that he was murdered some years later.

A 1/20 ounce gold coin bearing the image of Nick Deak, who among other things was a gold dealer, was struck by the Rodger Williams Mint. The back says, “For integrity there is no substitute.” Photo: exitledonline.com

Perhaps Lockheed was the final straw — the reason he just had to be removed from the picture.

As Brink once told me, sagely: “When you are dealing with clandestine government agents or agencies, you are dealing in a murky world. They are the real criminals, and they will stop at nothing.”

As to my own involvement in the whole business, years later — after I had found myself “kidnapped” by the US government, incarcerated and confronted with two major money-laundering indictments — I happened to be asked by my investigator, Steve Swanson, whether I had anything on the government as a result of Deak & Company’s having been the CIA’s purported “paymaster.” I immediately thought of Lockheed and Clutter.

When I proffered certain information via Swanson to the prosecutor, suddenly the government was ready to deal, even though they tried to tell me: “That Lockheed scandal is ancient history.” Oh, really?

Later still, another interesting footnote. In a chance meeting at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club in the Fall of 2013, I met the Japanese author and investigative jour- nalist Eiichiro Tokumoto.

Familiar with and intrigued by the Lockheed affair, he subsequently wrote about it in an article published in the influential Bungei Shunju, the same magazine that had originally broken the story wide open in 1975. His article, published in May 2014, finally revealed for the first time how most of the payments were made.

Bruce Aitken, having ended his career of crime, is a Hong Kong-based religious broadcaster and public speaker. His book is available from Amazon. Veteran Asia correspondent Bradley K. Martin is associate editor of Asia Times.

Jacket image courtesy of the publisher, One Hour Asia Media Limited. Cover design by Megan Tranner / thetravellingdesignstdio.com. Cover photo: Anna Gru / unsplash.com