Paul Lional Edward Helliwell was born in 1915. He was a lawyer before he joined the United States Army during the Second World War. Later he was transferred to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) where he served under William Donovan.
Helliwell was sent to China where he worked with Ray S. Cline, Richard Helms, E. Howard Hunt, Jake Esterline, Mitchell WerBell, John K. Singlaub, Jack Anderson, Robert Emmett Johnson and Lucien Conein. Others working in China at that time included Tommy Corcoran, Whiting Willauer and William Pawley.
In 1943 Colonel Paul Helliwell became head of the Secret Intelligence Branch of the OSS in Europe. Helliwell was replaced in this post by William Casey in 1945. Helliwell became chief of the Far East Division of the War Department's Strategic Service Unit, an interim intelligence organization formed after OSS was closed down.
In 1947 Helliwell joined the Central Intelligence Agency. In May 1949, General Claire Chennault had a meeting with Harry S. Truman and advocated an increase in funds for Chaing Kai-shek and his Kuomintang Army (KMT) in his war in China. Truman dismissed the idea as impractical. However, Frank Wisner, was more sympathetic and when Mao Zedong took power in China in 1950, he sent Helliwell to Taiwan.
Helliwell's main job was to help Chaing Kai-shek to prepare for a future invasion of Communist China. The CIA created a pair of front companies to supply and finance the surviving forces of Chaing's KMT. Paul Helliwell was put in charge of this operation. This included establishing Civil Air Transport (CAT), a Taiwan-based airline, and the Sea Supply Corporation, a shipping company in Bangkok.
It was Helliwell's idea to use these CIA fronted companies to raise money to help support Chaing Kai-shek. According to Joseph Trento (Prelude to Terror): "Through Sea Supply, Helliwell imported large amounts of arms for the KMT soldiers to keep the Burmese military from throwing them out of the country. The arms were ferried into Burma on CAT airplanes. CAT then used the "empty" planes to fly drugs from Burma to Taiwan, Bangkok, and Saigon. There the drugs were processed for the benefit of the KMT and Chiang Kai-shek's corrupt government on Taiwan."
Civil Air Transport (CAT), later renamed Air America, provided the CIA with the air power needed to sustain its covert operations for the next twenty-five years. Helliwell was to play an important role in running these covert, and often illegal operations.
By the late 1950s it became clear that Chaing Kai-shek would never be strong enough to invade China. The main focus changed to stopping the spread of communism to countries like Burma, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. At the time, the main group fighting communism in the region were the large private armies controlled by the drug lords. For example, General Vang Pao was employing his 30,000-man army to help the Pathet Lao. In return for joining the CIA, Helliwell helped Vang Pao to modernize the drug trade. William Corson claims that: "Portable heroin processing facilities were brought in. It was a creation of the CIA's technical services division." Some of these profits went to help CIA run some unofficial covert operations.
In 1960 Paul Helliwell was transferred to provide business cover for the CIA’s Cuban operations. According to Peter Dale Scott (The Iran Contra Connection) Helliwell worked with E. Howard Hunt, Mitch WerBell and Lucien Conein on developing relationships with drug-dealing Cuban veterans of the Bay of Pigs invasion. It was during this period that Helliwell met Ted Shackley and Thomas Clines. Helliwell later became CIA paymaster for JM/WAVE. In this way, Shackley was able to finance unofficial CIA operations against Cuba.
After the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Helliwell was sent by the CIA to the Bahamas where he set up offshore banks for CIA use. At first he established the Mercantile Bank and Trust Company and then the Castle Bank and Trust Company. Helliwell also ran the American Bankers Insurance Company based in Galveston, Texas. This provided insurance cover for businessmen who cooperated with the CIA. Helliwell also created the Intercontinental Holding, a company in the Cayman Islands that owned the Lear jet used by Barry Seal for his drug running activities.
Helliwell also established a Miami office for the Sea Supply Corporation. According to Joseph Trento (Prelude to Terror): "The primary objective of Helliwell's operations in Florida was to cement the CIA's relationship with organized crime." This included Santos Trafficante, who had a common business interest in Asia, the "successful exportation of Chinese white heroin."
According to Daniel Hopsicker (Barry and the Boys), Helliwell ran Red Sunset Enterprises in Miami. Hopsicker claims it was a CIA front company set up to recruit frogmen and explosives experts for Operation Mongoose.
In 1973 the Internal Revenue Service began an investigation called Operation Trade Winds. During its investigation it discovered that some major organized crime figures such as Morris Dalitz, Morris Kleinman and Samuel A. Tucker were using the Castle Bank and Trust Company. It soon became clear that the bank was laundering Cia funds and drug profits. The IRS eventually announced that it was dropping its investigation of Castle Bank because of "legal problems". According to the Wall Street Journal, the reasons for this was "pressure from the Central Intelligence Agency".
The CIA now needed a new bank. Later that year, Frank Nugan, an Australian lawyer, and Michael Hand, a former CIA contract operative, established the Nugan Hand Bank. Another key figure in this venture was Bernie Houghton, who was closely connected to CIA officials, Ted Shackley and Thomas G. Clines.
Nugan ran operations in Sydney whereas Hand established a branch in Hong Kong. This enabled Australian depositors to access a money-laundering facility for illegal transfers of Australian money to Hong Kong. According to Alfred W. McCoy, the "Hand-Houghton partnership led the bank's international division into new fields - drug finance, arms trading, and support work for CIA covert operations." Hand told friends "it was his ambition that Nugan Hand became banker for the CIA."
Paul Helliwell died from emphysema on 24th December, 1976.