Bin Laden’s estranged family, a sprawling, extraordinarily wealthy Saudi Arabian dynasty, is a substantial investor in a private equity firm founded by the Bechtel Group of San Francisco. Bechtel is also the global construction and engineering company to which the U.S. government recently awarded the first major multimillion-dollar contract to reconstruct war-ravaged Iraq. In a closed competitive bidding process, the United States Agency for International Development chose Bechtel to rebuild the major elements of Iraq’s infrastructure, including its roads, railroads, airports, hospitals, and schools, and its water and electrical systems. In the first phase of the contract, the U.S. government will pay Bechtel nearly thirty-five million dollars, but experts say that the cost is likely to reach six hundred and eighty million during the next year and a half.
When the contract was awarded, two weeks ago, the Administration did not mention that the bin Laden family has an ongoing relationship with Bechtel. The bin Ladens have a ten-million-dollar stake in the Fremont Group, a San Francisco-based company formerly called Bechtel Investments, which was until 1986 a subsidiary of Bechtel.