Sunday, October 15, 2006

Kilari Anand Paul

Remember the flight and arrest of Charles "Fiddy Cent Thousand Dead Child Soldiers" Taylor back in March? Sure ya do. You may also recall the bizarre involvement of Kilari Anand Paul, an Indian Protestant evangelist and - to be brutally frank - charlatan with a Boeing 747. Paul, who claimed to be Taylor's "spiritual adviser", has made a career of appearing in war zones to offer various tyrants religious counsel and a trip in the jet, the whole thing funded by charitable donations from the faithful but imprudent. Other clients he claimed at the time included Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, and various Haitian rebels.

Last week, to my considerable amazement, he intervened in the Foley scandal, suddenly turning up to wish himself on dead-man-walking Dennis Hastert. Fascinatingly, when's reporter Justin Rood caught up with him, he claimed to know Condoleeza Rice, Tom DeLay and George W. Bush, to say nothing of Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole and sundry other hard-right theocrats. But that isn't all. The Houston Press has a rather fantastic feature on the guy, detailing a wealth of bizarreries and frauds including a fake leper colony, the abduction of an 11-year old girl from India to the United States and her subsequent abandonment, and a fraud in which he accepted a large sum of money to fly a group of Jews to visit Auschwitz, welshed, and then used the cash to put his jet through a long-overdue C check.

Ah, the jet. It's a 1982-vintage Boeing 747SP, like a 747 Classic but with reduced capacity to make room for extra long range tanks. He claims it's the only private 747 except for Air Force 1 (not true - there are a couple belonging to oil sheikhs, and AF1 isn't a private jet, the clue being in the call sign), and nothing will part him from it. Not the exorbitant cost of maintaining a 24 year old jumbo, nor the giant fuel bill, nor FAA safety regulations. Among other things, he also spent quite some time flying around the world whilst not paying the crew. The C-check that the "Friends of the Israeli Defence Force" unwittingly paid for was carried out in Canada, presumably to evade pursuit.

None of this would be immensely surprising in the airfreight business, which is proverbially beset by shysters. Normally, though, it would go as far as lawsuits in odd places around the world and aggrieved creditors posting to PPRuNe.

But what is especially interesting about this seller of indulgences is that he appears to have decided to be a World Leader, sweeping into zones of international crisis in his long-range jet, dispensing pomposity by the gallon, and being photographed at the shoulder of the great and terrible - and simply gone out there and done it, without the impediments of getting elected or paying any of his own bills. When he called on the president of Ethiopia, he demanded the full honours of protocol, including a red carpet at the foot of the airstair - just in case, a carpet is part of his plane's equipment. One wonders whether the carpet is included on the MEL, the minimum list of equipment that must be present and functioning before the aircraft can take off.

He is a self-made statesman, or more accurately a one-man state - a true product of our times. More seriously, he is yet another example of the weird lack of quality control the leaders of Teh War on Terror so often display in their personnel judgements. Having wangled an invite to the Southern Baptist convention, where he shocked the assembled bible-wallahs by soliciting donations to his personal funds from the stage, he seems to have glommed directly on to the Republican Party's religious wing and its weird and sinister fascination for West Africa. Beyond that, he seems to have some features that would clearly endear him to Bush..
"Bluntly put, when Dr. Paul receives an answer he does not like, he seeks out someone who will tell him what he wants to hear. This is not the way to operate an aircraft; this is a very dangerous game to play, especially since Dr. Paul has little aviation experience. I have advised Dr. Paul and GPI in writing before -- many lives will be put at risk if someone doesn't start to understand what it is going to take in terms of time and money to operate this aircraft."

I can't help thinking this blog could do with an airborne command post. As part of our Global Struggle against Vapid Egregiosity.

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