Hong Kong gambling tycoonIn May 2007, the University accepted a £2.5m donation from Hong Kong billionaire Stanley Ho, who has previously been investigated by the US government for suspected money-laundering and links with organised crime.
Ho, an Asian entrepreneur who made his $7bn fortune running Macau’s gambling industry, announced that he was funding a new University Lectureship in Chinese History at a dinner attended by Vice-Chancellor John Hood.
Nicknamed the “King of Gambling” in his native China, his company controlled a government monopoly on the gambling industry in Macau for forty years between 1962 and 2002.
Attempts to expand his gambling businesses have drawn the attention of foreign governments. In 1999 he invested $30m opening a new capital in North Korea’s capital Pyongyang, next to the Korean Workers’ Party headquarters. Ho was the first to tell the media in March 2003 that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was offering political asylum to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
In September 2005, the Wall Street Journal reported that a number of US government agencies were investigating Seng Heng Bank, of which Ho is Chairman and Managing Director, for suspected links to criminal syndicates that were helping to finance North Korea’s nuclear programme.
In 1990, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police report on Asian Organised Crime listed Stanley Ho as a member of the Kung Lok Triad gang and allocated him gang-file number 89-11770. He was subsequently refused Canadian casino licences, withdrawing one application when Canadian officials opened an investigation and having others turned down for reasons which the government did not disclose.
A 1992 US Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs report found that while Ho was “not known to be involved in organised crime”, he had “some connection to organised crime figures” including former business partner and prolific gambler Yip Hon.
Ho denied any links to organised crime, when a spokesperson told Cherwell, “Dr Ho strenuously denies that he is involved in organised crime and has never been charged by any authorities anywhere. Furthermore, STDM [Ho’s gambling company] has historically co-operated with the Portuguese authorities in Macau in fighting against crime and triad activities.”Wafic Said
Syrian arms dealer
A £23m donation from former Syrian arms dealer Wafic Said in July 1996 led to the establishment of the Said Business School, located on Park End Street, in 2001. Said became a billionaire after brokering arms purchases for the Saudi Arabian government during the 1970s and 80s, overseeing the kingdom’s annual multi-billion dollar weapons imports.
After moving to Saudi Arabia in 1969 and establishing a design and consultancy firm, Said was awarded numerous construction contracts, many of which were related to defence. He later became Saudi defence minister, and in 1986 signed the ‘Al-Yamamah’ arms deal with the British government, purchasing over $30bn worth of arms equipment and services from British Aerospace and other defence firms for the next decade. Allegations appeared in the media that various prominent British figures were being paid large commissions illegally on arms contracts.
In July 1996, Said offered Oxford University £23m for a new business school. After congregation voted against proposals to build the new business school on a University playing field, the University proposed to build the new complex beside the city’s Victorian railway station. The application process was expected to take months following a lengthy inquiry and consultation period.
However, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office personally intervened to speed approval for the business school’s planning application. Despite massive protests from students, staff and members of the local community, the building went ahead and the Said Business School opened on 5 November 2001.
The School intends to construct an additional building on the Park End Street site. Said has agreed to donate a further £15m to fund the building, with the remaining funds for the building coming from an as yet unnamed donor.Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia
Oxford University accepted a “munificent benefaction” of £2m from the Prince Sultan of Saudi Arabia in 2005, establishing the Ashmolean Museum’s Gallery of Islamic art and 10 Oxford scholarships for Saudi Arabian students.
Senior dons called the University’s motives into question after the signing of a “Memorandum of Understanding” with Prince Sultan University in May 2006, supposedly on the “basis of mutual assistance and the furthering of academic study and understanding” between the two universities.
One senior Oxford staff member told the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES), “I think it is short signed to give the impression to a donor that his donation has bought collaboration.”
Another senior University member raised concerns about signing a memorandum with the little-known Prince Sultan University. “This deal sounds very worrying,” he said. “Prince Sultan University is not an internationally reputable institution. It is unclear what the terms of this deal are, but what benefit Oxford gets from it and how it was concluded is extremely puzzling. It will be interesting to know what the University Council made of it, if they knew about it.”
The agreement’s academic value was accused of being undermined by the absence of signatures from either the Vice-Chancellor or Registrar. One academic told the THES, “This is deeply problematical. The academic case for this is entirely obscure. It looks like the partnership has been bought and signed for on behalf of the University by the development office, bypassing academic monitoring.”
In November 2006, a University spokesperson told Cherwell, “These things don’t necessarily need to go through Council or Congregation. This one didn’t. It was picked up on at the time, and now it has been. There’s nothing sinister about it.”The Flick family
The millionaire grandson of a German who was jailed as a Nazi war criminal withdrew his sponsorship of an Oxford University professorship after a campaign by University staff and members of the Jewish community.
Gert Rudolph Flick removed his £350,000 endowment in April 1996, designated for a chair in Human Thought at Balliol College.
In a letter to Sir Peter North, then the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Flick thanked the University for its “unwavering support, for which I will always be grateful…It has been an honour to be associated with Oxford University but, nevertheless, I hope that you will understand my position and will concur with my wishes.”
The chair was originally created as an enterprise by two wealthy businessmen of Jewish origin, publishing magnate Lord Weidenfeld and General Electric Company chairman Sir Ronald Grierson.
Critics accused Flick of using his wealth without any sense of guilt or responsibility, claiming it was derived from “dirty money”. His grandfather, Friedrich Flick, is alleged to have used slave labourers in munition factories during the Second World War. He was convicted of war crimes at the Nuremberg Trials and served three years of a seven year prison sentence.
Having rebuilt his business empire following his imprisonment, he died in 1972 as one of the world’s wealthiest men. In 1983, it emerged that his son, Friedrich Karl Flick, had reduced his tax liabilities by bribing German politicians, leading to a government scandal and the resignation of minister for economic affairs Otto Graf Lambsdorff.
Friedrich Flick died in October 2006 as the wealthiest person living in Austria. The Flick family has continued to refuse to pay compensation to wartime victims.