Top Secret

British Gang’s Audacious 1953 Plot to Kidnap Exiled Moroccan Sultan Mohammed Ben Youssef!

A Brush with International Espionage

In 1953, a British gang was involved in an audacious plot to kidnap Sultan Mohammed Ben Youssef of Morocco, who was exiled to Madagascar by the French authorities at the time. The gang was offered £250,000 for this task​1​​2​. The plan was orchestrated by Eddie Chapman, an English wartime spy, and Billy Hill, an English criminal. They intended to sail to Madagascar on a vessel named Flamingo, surround the police headquarters with the aid of 12 Arab gunmen, and then kidnap the Sultan.

Sultan Mohammed Ben Youssef And The Royale Family
Sultan Mohammed Ben Youssef And The Royale Family

The kidnapping was part of a larger plan to help the Sultan return to Morocco and lead the Arab Nationalist movement against French colonial rule. The British gang collaborated with an Arab leader for this mission, and after the kidnapping, a high Egyptian leader of the Arab-league was to arrange for the Flamingo to radio its position in the Indian Ocean, followed by Egypt sending a seaplane to pick up the Sultan and fly him to Morocco via Egypt​3​.

Eddie Chapman
Eddie Chapman

This plot was uncovered by French authorities, who were able to intercept the gang’s activities, forcing the gang to flee to Savona, Italy. The ship Flamingo was under surveillance by Interpol, and through international police cooperation, the French authorities managed to access the criminal records of Hill, Chapman, and the rest of the Flamingo’s crew. The plot was exposed when the ship’s carriage of guns raised suspicion. The gang’s members, Chapman and Hill, returned to England before the French authorities could apprehend them​3​.

The backdrop to this incident was that in 1953, French authorities had deposed Sultan Mohammed Ben Youssef, exiling him initially to Corsica and later to Madagascar, while installing Mohammed Ben Aarafa as the new Sultan​4​.

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