Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dr. Larry C. Ford

Shady Dealings

Police suspected Ford of having links with the apartheid-era South African militarys biological weapons program from the beginning of the investigation. Bryan Card said that the doctor had at one time worked for the U.S. government on a chemical weapons project. According to the L.A. Times, Ford acted as a consultant to the South African Defense Force providing advice on protecting military personnel against biological attacks.

Former Surgeon-General Niels Knobel
Former Surgeon-
General Niels Knobel

In the 1980s, Ford had met Niels Knobel, the surgeon general of the South African Defense Force (SADF). Knobel and Ford shared similar interests, including working toward a cure for AIDS. Investigators also found that Knobel and Ford had other similar interests. Knobel, who also served as the administrative overseer to a secret weapons project, had introduced Ford to South African biological weapons developers.

Dr. Wouter Basson (AP)
Dr. Wouter Basson

The May 2000 issue of Cockburn claimed that Dr. Wouter Basson, the head of the South African biological warfare program secretly known as Project Coast, had been enlisting medical researchers worldwide to assist in the development of weapons. According to a South African newspaper, the Sunday Independent, Ford had given weapons training seminars to scientists working with the SADF on Project Coast. The training consisted of instruction on how to use bacteria called clostridium to contaminate tea bags, porno magazines and doilies with the goal of poisoning African National Congress members. In June 2000, claimed investigators found evidence connecting Ford with the SADF and Project Coast; however, the extent of his involvement was not clear. Many of the documents from Project Coast were either destroyed or hidden away.

The L.A. Times wrote on March 20, 2000, that Fords involvement with the SADF and Project Coast well extended beyond the weapons. The article stated that Ford had also worked under Basson to create commercial drug products and covert sensory irritants for the military to use. The developments were said to have taken place at a company known as Delta G Scientific lab. Sources told the Associated Press in early November 2000 that the company was actually a front for Project Coast. One formula, which was developed at the company by Ford, was said to be an effective treatment for baldness. Other sources had said that the formula was not as much a cure for baldness as it was a deadly poison, called silatrane. In November 2002, Basson was interviewed by Mike Wallace on CBSs popular news program 60 Minutes.

During the program, Wallace confronted Basson with a document, which read, The acquisition of any relevant chemical and biological weapons literature from Dr. Ford. The document was supposedly found in Bassons possession by investigators searching for evidence to convict the former SADF and Project Coast leader. Basson denied ever seeing the document. When Wallace confronted Basson about Ford developing silatrane at the Delta G lab, he again denied that Ford had ever developed such a formula. Basson insisted that silatrane was never developed for use as a weapon. According to 60 Minutes, a South African scientist had testified that silatrane was a poison and that scientists had developed creative devices for its inconspicuous delivery. One such device, which had been supposedly developed by the South African scientists, was umbrellas that were altered to distribute the poison. Intriguingly, one such umbrella was discovered in the home of Dr. Ford during the search conducted by investigators. The evidence was just another clue linking Ford to Basson and Project Coast.

It was also reported by 60 Minutes that the U.S. government was concerned that Basson may have been selling biological weapons secrets obtained during research for Project Coast. Basson had frequently visited countries such as Libya, Iraq and Iran, throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Investigators and federal agents have voiced suspicion that the trips were connected with Project Coast. Basson claimed that the CIA threatened his life if he pursued any relationships with those counties. It is unclear if there was any chemical or biological weapons information exchanged between Basson and the three countries.



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