One of Australia’s most wanted fugitives, Michael Hand, the co-founder of the Sydney-based international merchant bank Nugan Hand, has been found alive and well and living in small-town America.
He vanished in 1980 amid rumours of CIA and organised crime involvement in the bank as the United States attempted to back anti-communist governments and anti-communist insurgents at the height of the Cold War.
Sydney author Peter Butt found Hand. In his new book, Merchants of Menace, Butt reveals that Hand, 73, is living under the name Michael Jon Fuller and resides in the small town of Idaho Falls.
Hand manufactures tactical weapons for US Special Forces, special operations groups and hunters.
Hand disappeared in June 1980 after his partner, Griffith-born lawyer Frank Nugan, then 37, was found dead beside a .30-calibre rifle in his Mercedes-Benz outside Lithgow and as corporate and police investigators, ASIO and the FBI started investigating the Nugan Hand bank. A coroner founded Nugan had killed himself.
The bank collapsed with debts in excess of $50 million and a subsequent royal commission found evidence of money-laundering, illegal tax avoidance schemes and widespread violations of banking laws.
Over the years, the two words Nugan Hand became shorthand for drug-dealing, gun-running, organised crime and clandestine intelligence activities.