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Another problem, according to the suit and the internal e-mails, was that Global Peace Onewas not ready to fly. The plane's permit requires it to undergo an annual maintenance inspection the FAA calls a C-check. Extremely expensive, C-checks require a crew of dozens to comb through the aircraft as it sits, out of commission, in a hangar. The suit alleges that Kilari never intended to fly the Jewish group to Poland and Israel; the plan was to use their money to fix the plane for inspection.
According to Global Peace Initiative's internal e-mails, the organization has left a trail of unpaid airport bills all over the globe, including Poland, whose flight authorities wouldn't let the plane land until they paid their tab. The e-mails show that in the 48 hours before they were supposed to fly, GPI staff scrambled to pay airports, amend insurance policies and pass the C-check.
Indeed, while the plane underwent inspection in a Dallas hangar, GPI International Director Doug Dodson fired off an angry e-mail accusing the Israeli government of disrupting Kilari's peacekeeping mission. Israel had denied Kilari's request for a multi-entry visa, which would've allowed the plane to drop the passengers off in Tel Aviv, go on to Syria and Sudan, and return to meet with Sharon and collect the passengers. It appears that meeting Sharon was very important to Kilari. Dodson's letter to the Israeli government uses Kilari's real name instead of "K.A. Paul," the only such use of the name in any of GPI's letters to heads of state.
In the e-mail to FIDF Chairman Larry Hochberg, Dodson writes: "Israel's arrogance toward us stands in stark contrast to the 51 presidents who have attended our rallies or have come to meet Dr. Paul in other venues. A perfect example is Israel's neighbor Ethiopia, whose 80 year old president, His Excellency President Girma, broke all rules of protocol to come to personally meet us at the airport with a red carpet welcome." (According to one passenger on that voyage, it was Kilari who brought his own red carpet.)
Without the multi-entry visa, Dodson wrote, the Jewish group had three options: Get off in Poland and find its own way to Israel, fly with Kilari to Syria before going to Israel, or cancel outright. The group called the bluff and chose Door No. 3. Because the $850,000 was a "donation," Global Peace Initiative refused to refund the money, which was sunk into the plane. Less than a month after Kilari stood up the Jewish group, the plane took a last-minute jaunt to Canada, where it confused officials at the tiny Thunder Bay, Ontario, airport, which hadn't serviced a 747 in years. It sat there for about a week, at which point the Federal Aviation Administration deemed it unairworthy. Yet for some reason, the administration permitted Kilari to fly the plane to Tijuana, where it is now collecting dust in a vacant lot.
Some time after earning a degree in economics at Bentley College in Massachusetts, Charles Ghankay Taylor returned to his native Liberia and became one of the most vicious African warlords in recent history.
He also became Kilari's friend.
Kilari says he met Taylor in 2003 and convinced him to relinquish his presidency. That same year, the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone indicted Taylor for crimes against humanity. Among the atrocities outlined in the indictment was the assertion that Taylor abducted children under 15 and used them to back rebel forces who were pillaging Sierra Leone's diamond deposits. The court accused Taylor of encouraging rebels to kill untold numbers of civilians and force women into sexual slavery.
Taylor lived in exile in Nigeria until this March, when he surrendered to UN authorities. As usual, Kilari was there; as usual, he was ignored.
The Presscaught up with Kilari shortly after he returned to Houston. The last 48 hours had been rough. Kilari touched down in Houston around 1 a.m. From there, he drove to his home in Huffman, patching an Associated Press reporter in to his talks with Taylor and Taylor's wife, Jewel.
Remarkably, sometime around 10 a.m., he slept, which is something the 43-year-old rarely seems to do. Just clearing five feet, with a light frame and charming smile, Kilari is a bottle rocket, ready to jump in his plane and blast off to see some notorious leader at a moment's notice. Taylor's isn't the only warlord's number in his cell phone. Kilari claims to have spent quality time with Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic. He considers it a testament to his insider status that he knew Al Qaeda's Abu Musab al-Zarqawi when he was a "nobody."
Kilari is incensed that Condoleezza Rice and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo took credit for inducing Taylor's surrender. Three years ago, he says, they also stole credit for Taylor's resignation. Kilari wants them both impeached.
In 2003, on the day Nigerian authorities took Taylor aboard a plane bound for his new home in Nigeria, television footage showed Kilari trying to board the plane as well, only to get shoved away like a nerd attempting to sit at the cool kids' table. They treated him like he was a nobody, and to Kilari, that is the greatest injustice of all.