History

How Warlord Churchill bribed Franco to Stay Neutral

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Winston Churchill approved millions of taxpayers’ pounds in bribes to prevent Spain’s General Franco from supporting Germany in Second World War, according to a new book. Churchill apparently convinced Spanish banker Juan March to act as a secret agent, organising payments of millions of dollars to Franco’s generals in return for Franco agreeing not to side with Hitler.

The Times reports the bribes were revealed by the historian Pere Ferrer in Juan March: The Most Mysterious Man in the World, after researching papers in British and US archives. The book claims that in 1940 Churchill was concerned that Spain, like Italy, Romania, Hungary, Finland and other nations would join forces with Germany after reports that Spain was planning to invade Gibraltar.

Ferrer said that British officer Alan Hillgarth came up with the plan. A letter quoted in the book from Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Solborg, a US agent in Portugal, to J. Donovan, the head of strategic services, read: ‘The Spaniard selected to be the main internal instrument to acquire the political favours of these generals was the rich financier Juan March.’

A $10 million bribe was deposited in a US bank account in 1940 but the plot nearly collapsed a year later when the US Treasury thought the money was being used to support Hitler, the paper reports. The British Ambassador in Washington convinced President Roosevelt that British military interests depended on the account being unfrozen. The Americans relented and in 1942 alone the generals received between $3 million and $5 million.

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