Just How Rich is Tokyo Sex Whale?

It's a damned shame that Ian Fleming is dead and buried.

No, not because it would give him the chance to slap around the bunch of talent-free hacks who have turned the James Bond franchise into a cartoonish series of films featuring Daniel Craig as a relentlessly horny version of Bugs Bunny. That particular shark got jumped the day Sean Connery decided that he had better things to do.

Rather, it's because if you didn't know better you'd swear that the idea of an insanely richdiamond dealer and oilfield tycoon named Tokyo Sex Whale, with entire - and entirely corrupt - governments in his pocket who jets about the globe with impossibly gorgeous women in tow and who is attempting to take control of a huge transnational multi-billion dollar criminal conspiracy was something straight out of Fleming's salad days.

Which brings us to FIFA Presidential contender Mosima Gabriel Sexwale, whose friends call him Tokyo because he practiced karate back in the day and whose enemies call him Sex Whale because - well, use your imagination. This is a family website. Assuming you have a rather odd family.

Sexwale seems to be running on a platform which amounts to a) He's an African, Africa has more federations in FIFA than anyone elseand thus an African should run the thing, b) there's nothing wrong with FIFA that a little housekeeping won't fix and c)  (his latest) that the sponsors ought to butt the hell out.

This last has raised eyebrows over the last few days as he keeps telling interviewers how "wrong" he feels it is that four of the big World Cup sponsors demanded that Blatter be replaced. Apparently he either doesn't understand or doesn't care that said sponsors pay gargantuan amounts of money into FIFA's coffers not because they feel it's a civic duty but rather because they want their brands associated with the single greatest sporting competition on Earth.

Conversely, they are manifestly not interested in having their products associated with a huge criminal conspiracy. Go figure.

Of course there's more involved here, in that the four brands involved are American and there is apparently some nervousness about whether being financially involved with FIFA will carry some legal consequences down the road if and when the Attorne General decides that the whole thing is one vast RICO.

The first time much of anyone ever heard of Sexwale, he was serving as Sepp Blatter's prop back in 2011 when, in the face of universal public outrage over the FIFA President's incredibly stupid remarks that a) there is absolutely no racism in soccer and b) even if there's an occasional unfortunate remark between players, the traditional post game handshake makes it all better.

As I wrote at the time, FIFA immediately reached into their photo vaults and widely distributed an old photo of Sepp actually touching a black person, from which we were instructed to infer that the Swiss Gasbag really really LOVES those dark people he sees around from time to time.

We were told that the designated Sepp-embracer was none other than famous South African World Cup organizing committee member Tokyo Sexwale. The fact that no one had ever heard of him was beside the point.

When this preposterous PR effort was met with universal derision, FIFA trotted Sexwale out to read, on Blatter's behalf, a textbook example of a non-apology which said in part that Sepp felt really bad "that my statements earlier this week have resulted in an unfortunate situation" and that he "deeply regretted" using "unfortunate words".

Sexwale then added from a personal perspective that "It takes a big man to say 'I'm sorry' (which of course Blatter never did)" and that "In Fifa we kick the football and not the man", before the retch-fetching conclusion that having spoken to Sepp on the phone earlier in the day he "could feel this was a man full of contrition".

Saving the best for last, Sexwale told the incredulous reporters: "I'm informed that in their response Fifa used the picture of Mr Blatter and myselfIn some circles this may have inadvertently created the impression Mr Blatter was trying to clean up his image."

Well, gosh, got us there Tokyo. That was pretty much what we inadvertently thought. Silly us.

Of course, if we were better read in South African politics and history we would have known that Sexwale is, as they say, a big deal.

That status was assured for all time by the fact that he spent 13 years in the same Robben Island prison as the immortal Nelson Mandela, and for the same reason, which in SA makes one the equivalent of a national founding father/hero/icon. He was captured after an armed skirmish with South African security forces.

(For years after the fall of apartheid, Sexwale was banned from entering the US due to his being listed as a member of a terrorist organization. This didn't change until the mid 2000's when, frustrated by the bureaucratic hurdles required to remove his name - turns out that the law would actually have to be changed - US Secretary of State Condi Rice finally gave up trying and issued a special waiver on his behalf.)

Point being, this is not some cheesy Sub Saharan version of Jack Warner; he's a serious man who is widely respected in his country, having served in various national cabinet and regional governmental positions - as well as various ANC executive positions - and has been a genuine contender for President of the country, which is how he got himself appointed to help lead the World Cup preparations.

It's also why Sepp picked him to be the face of his "Who me?" racist apologia. Sepp wasn't appealing to the West, who he wrote off a long time ago. He was speaking to Africa, and a genuine, gold plated Robben Island alum was the perfect guy.

And I do mean gold.

Because, in addition to a reputation as a serious revolutionary heavyweight, Sexwale picked up one other thing as a result of his Robben Island incarceration: the love and the hand of Judy van Vuuren, a paralegal who was working on his case for a law firm in Cape Town.

 

His previous wife being lost in the shuffle somewhere, upon his release Sexwale married van Vuuren and embarked on a career which might seem surprising for a former violent Marxist revolutionary but, heck, a man's gotta eat.

Long story short, there was suddenly a lot of money to be made more or less fronting for white owned corporations who needed to prove substantial black ownership. Obtaining large investment loans from banks all-too-eager to participate was a piece of cake.

Large, white-owned corporations - which is to say all of them - were understandably worried when the Black Economic Empowerment laws mandated substantial black ownership participation. The prospect of partnering up with former black revolutionaries scared them to death.

It's said that in Sexwale, married to a very handsome and "stylish" white woman with family connections, they also found someone with impeccable credentials and political contacts all of which soothed corporate nerves jangled by the prospect of suddenly having a black revolutionary in the boardroom.

Sexwale made the most of it, using a practically limitless line of bank credit to buy up everything in sight. People began calling him "Deal-a-Minute" Tokyo.

How much is that? Ernst & Young found that, in 2003 alone, the total value of Black Empowerment deals was $6 billion and 60 percent of those deals went to consortia led by either Tokyo Sexwale, or one other top black businessman.

In the process, Sexwale accumulated vast holdings in diamonds, oil and a grab bag of other commercial enterprises.

All of which made his very public, very messy 2013 divorce from Judy Sexwale very expensive indeed. After almost 20 years and two children, Tokyo will be paying through the nose for the rest of his life.

Still, Sexwale has rebounded nicely, as witness his new girlfriend, lovely model Nataxa Da Silva.

I'm not going to comment except to quote the wisdom of the philosopher who opined that "Girls don't like boys, girls like cars and money", and note that apparently the 60-something Tokyo has enough of both to keep the charming Miss DaSilva in wheels and shiny doodads for the foreseeable future.

I could add that one snarky local columnist said that it would be unfair to call Miss Da Silva a gold digger since Tokyo is mostly in the diamond business, in which field he is acknowledged to be the third largest dealer in the world.

But of course not many guys make his kind of money without cutting a few corners here and there, and that's where Tokyo's candidacy may hit a rough patch with FIFA's Ethics Committee, which is currently trying to weed out any contender who carries even a whiff of illegality, impropriety or, God forbid, outright lawbreaking.

And there are more than enough of all three in his background to give anyone pause.

His Mvelaphanda Group holds mining concessions across Africa and Russia, areas where, generally speaking, such concessions aren't acquired by fair and open bidding. To say the least.

For example, his 2014 deal to acquire mining rights in Guinea was obtained by "loaning" US$25 million to the President and his family to, um, "develop" stuff. Observers are unable to figure out where the money really went but nothing much seems to be under "development".

He was also named by the United Nations for gross violations of the Oil for Food program, which involved a good deal more oil than food.

Nelson Mandela's daughters filed suit to have him removed as a trustee of their father's foundation due to, reportedly, some rather sketchy dealings.

The US government is currently hot on Sexwale's trail after a company he founded and owns was discovered to be behind a massive bribery scheme (as much as US$100 million) which snagged exclusive mineral rights deals in the Congo and several other African countries including Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe is reported to have pocketed tens of millions which he then has used to help crush his opponents..

It's hard to say exactly how deep FIFA is willing to look and what kind of things are they even competent to investigate, but it's clear that if squeaky clean is the goal then Tokyo Sexwale really isn't the guy.

Still, as people used to say back when Nelson Rockefeller wanted to be President of the United States, what financial inducement could you possibly offer the guy that he wouldn't laugh at?

So maybe the criteria shouldn't be whether a guy is honest, but rather whether he's bribeable. Unlike Sepp, Sexwale certainly doesn't need FIFA to pay for a private plane and five star accommodations. He and Miss Da Silva can easily handle them on their own.