James Le Mesurier: a reconstruction of his business activities and covert role

Paul McKeigue, Jake Mason, Piers Robinson, David Miller

Research output: Working paper


During the last few months, the Working Group on Syria Propaganda and Media was preparing a briefing note focusing on the publicly-funded business activities of James Le Mesurier. A near-final draft was ready when his death in Istanbul was announced on 11 November 2019. We have decided to publish it, with minimal updating, as the material is relevant both to understanding the role of the UK government in the Syrian conflict and also to the investigation of Le Mesurier’s death.
Le Mesurier was founder of three companies named “Mayday Rescue”: Mayday Rescue FZ-LLC in Dubai (2014), Mayday Search and Rescue Training and Consultancy Services Limited in Turkey (2014) and Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation in the Netherlands (2015). No accounts are available for any of these companies.
After providing misleading answers to questions submitted under the Freedom of Information Act, the FCO has admitted that its payments to “Mayday Rescue” for support of the White Helmets – £43 million from 2015 to 2018 – were made not to Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation but to the commercial company Mayday Rescue FZ-LLC in Dubai.
Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation is not registered as a charitable organisation (Algemeen Nut Beogende Instelling) and as it is “without commercial enterprise” it does not have to file accounts. In the Netherlands a Stichting is commonly used as a vehicle to disburse overseas investment income to undisclosed beneficiaries while minimizing tax liability.
From September 2016 to February 2018, while Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation was receiving payments from the Dutch Foreign Ministry, the Stichting complied with requirements for governance and transparency by appointing a Secretary and Treasurer. In April 2017 Le Mesurier founded what appears to have been a dummy company named R3Covery BV based in Amsterdam. This company has failed to comply with the legal requirement to file accounts. A possible intended or actual use for this company was to tunnel money out of the Stichting.
In January 2019 Le Mesurier registered My Zahara Limited as a dormant company in northern England. As the address belongs to a company formation agent that specializes in business tax management and compliance with money laundering regulations, it is likely that the intended use of this company was to repatriate money from Le Mesurier’s overseas companies.
OPCW inspectors have told us that during the investigations of alleged chemical attacks in opposition-held territory conducted by the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) from 2015 onwards, Le Mesurier worked closely with Len Phillips, the leader of FFM Team Alpha, to select White Helmets as “witnesses” for interview by the investigation team in Turkey. We have set out elsewhere evidence that these alleged chemical attacks were staged, and that in at least three of these incidents the staging entailed mass murder of civilian captives. As an experienced military intelligence officer, Le Mesurier should have been able to assess this evidence.
Le Mesurier’s activities during the final months of his life indicate that he was following (and possibly coordinating) efforts to smear and silence members of the Working Group on Syria Propaganda and Media. It is likely that by the end of October 2019 Le Mesurier was aware that both the business activities of Mayday Rescue and his connection with the increasingly controversial OPCW investigation of the Douma incident were coming under close scrutiny.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherWorking Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media
Publication statusPublished - 16 Dec 2019

Structured keywords

  • SPS Centre for the Study of Poverty and Social Justice


  • Foreign Office
  • Covert action
  • Intelligence
  • Propaganda
  • Mayday Rescue
  • White Helmets


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