Police suspected Hanson had links to Mafia




By Mark Huband

Financial Times, 19 November 2004

A police investigation into Lord Hanson, the late business tycoon, revealed strong suspicions of ties between two leading US Mafia families and companies in which he had a stake, documents seen by the Financial Times have revealed.

Suspicions that Lord Hanson, who died on November 2, was linked to the Gambino and Genovese organised crime families were revealed in a confidential report by the Metropolitan Police.

Their inquiry into Lord Hanson’s business affairs was launched in 1982 when he was seeking to become a director of Trident, which owned a casino and a television channel in Britain. At the time, the company’s parent, Trinity, was seeking to buy Playboy casinos.

Police investigations into the ownership of casinos in the UK was normal practice, and inquiries into the then Sir James Hanson’s business affairs in the US led the two police detectives who wrote the report to state “there is clearly insufficient data to conclude that Sir James Hanson is connected with organised crime . . . [But] there is clearly sufficient doubt created by some of the company connections to suggest that further research is needed, if only to dispel the uncertainty”.

The police investigation, which was first reported in the London Evening Standard yesterday, identifies the suspicion of these links as first emerging when a director of a Hanson subsidiary, Hanson Industries, was found to have links to drugs smugglers working for the New York Gambino family.

Several of the findings in the police report were confirmed in a separate investigation commissioned by Imperial Tobacco when it became the target of a takeover bid by Lord Hanson in 1986, the Standard reported.

Imperial would not comment on the allegations yesterday. But according to the police report, a US Customs investigation found that the smugglers had established a distribution network in Arizona and the south-west US, and that illegal immigrants from Mexico were used as mules to carry heroin.

The drugs were channeled across the US via Palm Springs, California. It was there that Lord Hanson had a summer home and a post office box that the police report alleged was being used as a postal address by several people who had aroused the suspicion of the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

The police report states: “Although there are no direct connections between Sir James Hanson and the groups mentioned . . . the strong indirect links and the coincidence of the Palm Springs route from Mexico are certainly disquieting.”

The report reveals that Lord Hanson’s US holdings included a food distribution and gaming company, Interstate United Corporation. The company was said by police in Denver at the time to have “known organised crime connections which further research has not yet been able to confirm”.

The police report did not lead to any action being taken against Lord Hanson, and its findings are not expected to be investigated, the Metropolitan Police said.


© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2008.