considering the truthfulness of claims in the book 'Taming the Tiger' by Tony Anthony

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In the summer of 2001, Tony Anthony pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving, and perverting the cause of justice. He was sentenced to 15 months' in prison.
In 2003, Tony established 'Avanti Ministries'.
Given his colourful history and convictions, it seems right that he should be doubly careful to be wholly truthful in everything he says and writes.  

This paper sadly concludes that there are far too many holes and discrepancies and downright untruths in his story for him to be considered reliable in what he says about his 'past' life.  It is possible that all of the doubts can be assuaged, in which case, of course, we'd be delighted.  But until then, the suspicions remain.

It seems clear the events leading up to his imprisonment in Cyprus (assuming that to be true), are fictitious:
1985-89 : he was not the bodyguard to the Saudi ambassador to London, Italy and Cyprus.  Much of what is recounted cannot therefore be true.
Early 1980s : the account he gives in Saudi Arabia is also untrue, for reasons we show.
This leads to doubts as to his working for the (so called) IKFF - which raises questions about his role in any of the IKFF.
Even his time in China is to be questionned (see below).

The Bible calls witnesses of Jesus Christ to be reliable, and to give up deceitful ways.

2 Corinthians 4:2 "We have repudiated shameful practices devised in secret; we do not employ cunning methods nor do we tamper with God’s word, but by an open declaration that reveals the truth, we recommend ourselves to everyone’s conscience as living in God’s sight,"

Whilst we acknowledge that every author will colour their work somewhat, deliberate exaggeration should be considered unhelpful, and falsehoods downright wrong.
If gospel ministers are not reliable, trustworthy and transparent, then why should people believe their message?

The Bible also teaches each of us that we are sinners, and none of us is innocent of sin - which means we are all able to exagerate and deceive, in a variety of ways.  The answer is to come to Christ in repentance and faith - in confessing our sin, in repentance (before God, and others, as appropriate), and receiving the full forgiveness of sins that Jesus has provided for.  This means, with reference to Tony, that if there are parts of his book which are untrue or fabrications, then he would do well to acknowledge them, and repent of them.  Equally, given the concern that some of the book is false, it would be helpful to identify those key areas where he has used 'writer's license' to amplify what actually happened.
As Tony holds on to Christ, we know him as our brother - which makes the repentance all the more important.

Early childhood

Since Tony was in his early 20s by 1985, he must have been born around 1962-4.  This means he went to China at the age of four, around 1966-68.
This was the height of the cultural revolution, where China was in utter turmoil, and it was anyone's guess who would survive the next purge.
Foreigners had next to no place in the country (Christians had been expelled in 1950)
Yet there is no mention of any of this turmoil, in the slightest.  This is remarkably odd.  (But of course does not mean it's not true).   [In context, it would be like living in East Asia in the early 2000s, and not mentioning the tsunami;  or in Ethiopia in the 1980s and not mentioning the famine.]

It's unusual also that the plane trip is described so briefly.  There's no mention of transit, of customs, of immigration. It's as if he is describing air travel in the 1960s as if it were the 1990s or beyond.   There were not the direct flights we have now, and planes had less of a range.   (But of course does not mean this isn't true).

We note that Tony doesn't comment also on how he learns the language.  On p27 (age 6) he can understand what the boys from Shanghai are saying, even though they are laughing at him for not speaking their language properly  (they speak Mandarin in Shanghai, yet he is speaking Cantonese).  By age 8 (p35) he is studying "calligraphy, languages, history", and by age 10 (p43) he is writing well  (he says he can write from "early morning until late in the evening").  By the time he is returning to the UK age 12 (p45), he struggled to speak and understand English, as Cantonese had quickly become his first language. He tells us that every year he returns to China to the age of 17 (p51), at which point he can still read the Chinese characters and is still speaking Chinese (Cantonese, presumably - though he goes to Shanghai) fluently.  Even in prison in Cyprus, he is still 'writing calligraphy nameplates'  (p133).

Tony therefore claims that he had eight years living in China, and five more returning for months at a time, during which time he was treated by a fierce grandfather, who not only drilled into him world-class kung fu, but also the Chinese language.  These are explicit claims in his book.  If his grandfather was half as harsh on him learning the Chinese writing as he was in kung fu (and there's little reason to assume he would be), then Tony will have been thoroughly fluent.  He certainly gives that impression by the age of ten, writing all day  (with "a fine set of brass quills").

On Saturday 20th April 2012, Tony was presented with two sentences in Chinese.  He couldn't read any of it.  He claimed to be able to make out some characters, but was unable to identify any specifically.  This is astounding.  More comment can be found below, but this must raise serious questions about Tony's time in China.

If Tony didn't learn Chinese as he claims in his book - then did he really learn kung fu?
How is it that Tony can't identify the Chinese characters for kung fu, when the whole raison-d'etre of him being in China from the age of four was to continue the family tradition of king fu?  When he went to all the competitions, is it not likely that the phrase kung fu would have been somewhere?   It is like David Beckham not knowing what a football looks like.

This raises huge questions. Of course there may be a reasonable answer.  
- it is surely unrealistic to think that you can forget such characters over the years.  These were pictures etched on to his mind, his character, his being, for the fifteen most formative years of his life.  He can remember all the details about conversations in China (in Chinese, presumably) - but not the words themselves.

This opens up more questions:  if the grandfather didn't really teach him Chinese properly, then could it be the grandfather didn't teach him kung fu to such a high standard?  It is surely easier to become proficient in Chinese than it is to become a world champion kung fu expert  (there are more of the former than the latter, after all).  So Tony's claim to be a grand-father trained world champion almost requires him to have excellent Chinese.  Which he clearly has no more.

If his kung fu credentials are open to question, then one has to ask what he actually means by being a 'world champion'.
And if this is open to question, then what kind of personal protection was Tony involved in?

Who is the International Kung Fu Federation (based in Geneva)?

There doesn't seem to be an International Kung Fu Federation in Geneva at the moment.  
There is one - in Azerbaijan.
They have world championships.
We have tried to contact them by email, without any response just yet.  
They have a Skype number, so it would be useful to call them and ask:
- who were the world champions in the 1980s

If it is not this one, then of course the onus is on Tony to specify exactly who was the sponsoring body.  If they had world championships in the 1980s when they gave £10,000 of prize money (which Tony refers to), then presumably they will be a major player - or they will have been.. People will remember them, and there will be a list of world champions.  £10,000 in those days - assuming paid in US dollars - would be worth about £25-50,000 today :   This is no small amount - especially since sports prizes were much lower in those days.  (At least generally).   

Given that Tony says he competed once in Thailand and twice in Hong Kong (p.65), he is indicating that this was a serious world body.

Saudi story - "hostile takeover" 

Tony's remarkable escape from Riyadh revolves around his working for an American businessman, who had to go to Saudi to resolve a dispute over a hostile takeover he had led (leaving some Saudis so unhappy it made it dangerous to go to Saudi).

They flew to Riyadh in a private jet from the US, stopping off in London and Bahrain for refuelling.
This is most unlikely: just look at the map.  Bahrain is a detour.

They stayed in "Le Meridian" hotel in Riyadh (in the mid 1980s).
This is most unlikely.  Apart from the false spelling, the hotel wasn't built until 2006.(  )

That said, the premise for the trip is clearly false:
Hostile takeovers began to take place in the 1970s and 1980s, yet they were still rare in London and New York.
The Saudi stockmarket was not in existence in the early 1980s:

Working for the Saudi Ambassador to London, Italy and Cyprus: 1985 - Christmas 1989

Much depends on the truthfulness of this account.  Tony says he worked for the ambassador from 1985 until 1988/89, and that the ambassador was ambassador to London, Italy and Cyprus, concurrently.  He had a home in Naples, where Tony rescued a Romanian prostitute Rosana, and a home in Cyprus, where Tony ended up being imprisoned (but acted as the ambassador's "thug").

A number of points are highly questionable, the most serious being the claim the ambassador was one to three places.

The Saudi ambassador to London is a full time job.  In 1985 Britain signed the largest military order in our history with Saudi Arabia. As if the ambassador would have time to serve in two other countries!   It's like saying Tony was the personal bodyguard to David Beckham whilst he played for Manchester United, Southampton and Southend - at the same time!

The Saudi embassy has confirmed (email of 20 April 2012) that the current (2012) Saudi ambassador to London was previously ambassador to Italy and Malta.  (Not Cyprus, and not at the same time!)

It is also amazing that a Saudi ambassador, presumably a member of their Royal family, should employ a UK citizen, who is not a Muslim, as the head of security.  And that this non-Muslim should be taken into the ambassador's confidence such that he should become a debt collector (on his own)

So Tony surely didn't work for the Saudi ambassador with homes in Naples and Cyprus.  In which case, how much of his story is true - from bodyguarding, to Rosanna in Naples, to his time in Cyprus.  If he did end up in prison in Cyprus, then what led him there - as it can't have been the Saudi ambassador?

On Sat 21 April 2012, the author met Tony in person, and asked him about his work for the Saudi ambassador.  He explained that the ambassador wasn't the ambassador to these three places at the same time, but that he was ambassador in each of these three places separately - one after the other.  Whilst I'm not sure that's how the book reads, he blamed it on a lack of editor for the book.  (He blamed a number of other errors and discrepancies on the lack of editor for the book:  'we didn't even have an editor' was his phrase. (I'm interested to know what the publishers think, and why it's been translated into so many languages if it is so poorly edited, and Tony is aware of the discrepancies.)
 The reader can decide whether it is really likely that a Saudi ambassador would move 'down' the pecking order from London, then Italy, then Cyprus.  (Was he that bad an ambassador?)

Prison in Cyprus
Michael Wright is clearly a key figure here.  
Whilst it will be hard to verify many of the day to day incidences, it is assumed that the conversations with Michael, and the activities he is involved in, are true  (since he and the other missionaries and indeed church have had plenty of time to challenge these).

Notes on a conversation with Tony in person on Saturday 21 April 2012
I met Tony on Saturday at a Passion conference in Brighton.  
He was aware that I had some questions to ask (John Lawson introduced me).

I began by saying thank you to Tony for his ministry, as I feel his message that morning was quite right.  As an Anglican, I am aware that many churches have lost the centrality of preaching Jesus Christ.  Tony's message was straight forward:  the priority of the church must be to preach Christ.  Amen to that.
I also said I felt genuine love for him for his boldness, and for what God has done in his life.  That is wholly genuine.
I raised the point that George Osborne made in the second talk, about the danger of mixing falsehoods with sufficient truth to make it credible (a point by J O Saunders).  
I pointed out that was why Christians must be above reproach, transparent, and whiter than white.

I began by picking up something Tony said in his talk: that 35,000 people die of Aids "every week" (his quote).  I pointed out that this meant that 1.6m die per year.  Yet the death rate in South Africa is 17 per 1,000, which of a population of 50 million, means 850,000 die in totla per year. That means his statistic is misleading.  He said he was just making the point that lots of people die of Aids, but our priority should be to preach Christ.  I agreed with the priority, but said I felt the use of the statistics was misleading.  He then said he got them from a World Missions book.  To be fair, he said that it would be better to get in touch after the conference, and not bombard him on a busy and tiring day  (point taken. I only raised it though so as to show my concern for not sitting loose to the truth).

I then raised the issue of the Saudi ambassador - asking whether he really worked for him in those three places at the same time.  He insisted he did work for him, but that the Saudi ambassador was first in London, then Italy, then Cyprus.  That explains the movements.  This is crucial.  Because Tony has confirmed to me that he definitely did work for the ambassador.  I consider that his integrity now rests on that..There was not hint of saying 'actually it was another person but I used writers' license'.  He insisted the man was moving jobs, and Tony followed.

I remain highly sceptical that Tony worked for said ambassador.  I doubt very much that the ambassador should move from London to Italy then to Cyprus  (Tony suggested he was coming to the end of his career).  That is not done in diplomatic circles. You move up - London would be your last posting.  It's the opposite of football.  To suggest he would have moved down - it beggars belief.  That said, I have yet to find out the names of the Saudi ambassadors to London, Italy and Cyprus in that period:  they will be public knowledge, so this is verifiable.

The concern remains:  if Tony didn't work for that ambassador, then why did he lie to me today?  Why did he deceive me, and insist that he did?  
(Of course, if he did, then Tony is telling the truth, and I will be thankful for that.  I have shown reasons why I find this dubious)

Tony warned me against people on the internet - denying, for instance, that he is the 'Tony Antoni' who has a different birth date from him, of Greek parents, etc.  He simply said that wasn't him.  Fine.  None of my questions were about that.

I then showed Tony two sentences in Chinese which my brother had written for me.  I asked Tony whether he could read it.  He said he could make out some of the characters.  On pressing him, he said he could only make up some parts of the characters - and then explained to me that characters are often made up of a combination of characters. (which I knew!).  He talked to me about the difference between Mandarin and Cantonese (which I also knew).  But folded the sheet up and put it away.  I returned to the sheet, and asked if he could spot any of them characters.  He couldn't.  He explained that he'd been beaten as a child and struggled to learn Chinese.  I pointed out that in his book he talks of learning calligraphy with his grandfather, and he shows he can both speak it and read it.  He said he left when 12, but I reminded him he went back every summer until 17.  He said his wife taught reading and writing to school children, and many of them can't do it very well.  We returned to the sheet.  It turned out that Tony couldn't spot even half characters (ie one element of a character, which may have two or three in it).  Not even one part.  I pressed him and he couldn't show me any.

The shock for me is that the phrase my brother wrote said:  

“We have heard that your grandfather’s kungfu was second to none. We are looking forward to seeing how your skill is.”

This phrase contains the Chinese characters for kungfu.  Yet Tony says he couldn't spot any - not even parts.
This has to raise fundamental questions. 
I was taught German when I was 13 to 16, but can still remember some words.
Tony says he lived in China from 4 to 12, went back every year for another 5 years, was a world champion in Kung Fu .... but can't recognise the Chinese characters for King Fu.
That is very surprising.

We left it that I would write to Tony with any concerns, and he would get back to me on them.

I concluded, as I walked away, that my love for Tony remains, and I genuinely have compassion for him.  But as a minister of the gospel, I am deeply concerned that he sits loose to the truth. None of us can ever be whiter than white.  We will all exaggerate and get things wrong at times.  I would not seek to apply the standard of perfection to Tony.  But my meeting did not encourage me, or give me confidence in his reliability.

He said at the end of the day, if people didn't want to believe him, that's fine.  But I'm not so sure it's that simple.  He made the point that they weren't being paid for today, that he didn't have a house in his name - that it wasn't for money he was doing this.  (I applaud his sacrifice, genuinely).  But again, that's not the point.  A gospel minister needs to be truthful - and transparently so.  I would urge those overseeing Tony's ministry to investigate his claims as fully as possible, and ensure that Tony is a stickler for transparent truth.

General observations and questions from the book:  (note form)
p.27 : age 6:  is accosted by the pond, by boys laughing cos he doesn't speak their language (yet he understands them).  Not also they are from Shanghai (Mandarin).

Re: flying to China. No mention is made of transfers, or borders, or customs. Indeed, air travel is spoken of as if it was as easy as the 1990s, which it was not in the 1960s / 1970s.
No mention is made of the Cultural Revolution at all.

p. 28 'everyone knew they would never receive the same level of training as me'   
p.38 Tony has 'especially heightened extra sensory perceptions'
p35. studied calligraphy, language, history (age 8)
p43: is writing as well (age 10)
p.45 Cantonese not English is his language. He had made several trips home during 8 years in China, sometimes staying months at a time.  
[yet no explanation is given as to why he didn't ask to stay home in the UK, or his feelings, or what his parents said;  even where the money came from to make all these flights]

p.48 what is the real name of 'Steve Jenkins'.  where was his school?  what teachers can he remember?   (we all remember teachers from our teenage, and teachers remember us, generally;  certainly it is likely that teachers will have remembered a boy who was mad keen on kung fu, who spent several months a year in China, who was fluent in Cantonese, and who was struggling with English).

p.50 IKFF
Who is the Mr Chang who ran the IKFF branch in Swiss Cottage?  (That Tony tells us he was much better than).

Kingsley, from Jamaica, Tony's first real friend

Who is Mr Sizer, who taught RE?

p51. every year he returned to China for 2-3 months until 17.
Age 17, he can still read characters
p53 he is clearly still speaking Chinese fluently

p62 travels to Pakistan   (I wonder if he has kept his old passport)
p64 still working with Mr Chang (age 17)
p65 £10,000 prize money in 1984.  Once Thailand, twice Hong Kong  Li Chang Po from Xi'an, twice his opponent
[what weight? what age group?]

p66 main training warehouse in rue de la Confederation, Geneva
p71 early 20s, now a guard  (Diane)
p72 "next few years I rose up the ranks"
p73 hostile takeoever in Suadi in early 80s.  William Blank (obviously pseudonym) investor in Manhatten buildings.  'point man' .  Fahali brothers.

p74.  Sandra Zaple - always the point of contact in IKFF.
But he never met her in person.  
[This is strange, given that he seemed to spend so much time in Geneva training.  How is it that you don't meet the person you are in so much contact with - or go out of your way to try and say hi when you can, given the crucial relationship you have with them?   The author used to work with South Africans in the last 1980s / early 1990s, and I would always make a point of chatting to the telephone receptionists when I was in the factory near Durban - because that's what you do.]

Also amazing:  with 7 days to go before flying to Saudi, why use the mail to get a photo to the US.  Surely such a high powered organisation would fax a photo, or use a courier company?   You wouldn't rely on the postal service!

p77 Le Meridien Riyadh
p75 refuelling for private jet in UK and Bahrain - to Riyadh!
p90 Amin Fahed, Saudi ambassador to UK, Italy and Cyprus.
(p89/90 "firsthand man" to him)

p94 'for next 3 years' Aiya
p95 basic Swedish (also Arabic);  not legal to use marshall arts in Sweden
p96 Aiya killed.  Tony takes news in Naples.  (ie ambassador has already left London, and is now posted in Italy)

p97 diplomatic secure status
p102 new base in Lefkosia

p103 loses it in bar in Cyprus; glass in face of soldier    (amazing for someone who was meant to have had so much previous control over life from young age.  But anger and sadness can change us)

p104 Tony accompanies Amin to gambling table  (a non Muslim with an ambassador from one of the most strict countries in the world )  ;  he gets someone away from Amin in the casino   (what was the casino doing letting someone Amin didn't like in?  would such a high roller really go to a casino where he doubted their ability to vet guests?)

p105 notorious arms dealer.  Staff have left for night!!  (now Tony is a bounty hunter)
he returns to house
(still no guards!!! even after Tony had been and threatened him)
Tony does what asked of him - beats him up, and takes money

p106 Amin owed large amount of money by African - so it is Tony who beats him up and takes his money  (that of course he has just lying around!).

p107 needs £30k operation for dad, in Switzerland
p108 flies parents to Cyprus to collect money, stayed in his apartment

p111 diplomatic immunity counts for nothing. Tony only contacts British embassy (why not Saudi?).
p113 incredible police beating   ('I knew exactly where the bullet was')

p115 escape from custody;  goes back to flat  (!!)

p116 parents abandon him   (there is absolutely no reason why this has happened, no further explanation as to what happened - this is a complete mystery)

p119 admitted to robberies and more. 
p121 Christmas Eve 1989 off to prison.

p126 Andy from Halifax squaddie 2 yrs for bouncing cheque
p129 Ian Davidson PLO South Shields arrested 1985   [external reference, assuming this is the same guy:]

p132 Nikos Samson - terrorist COKA
p133 writing calligraphy 
p137 meets Michael Wright in prison
p139 Richard Knox missionary

p170 Triads to come after him, hired by family
p171 aroma of Christ = integrity
p173 2.5 yrs of 3 yr sentence = summer 1992

p179 John & Carolyn Nunn, New Malden Baptist
with Anna (2) and Joshua

p181 11 Nov 1992 release
p182 false passports in Geneva  (probably still now!)

p191 Alan and Irene Kirkham
p192 Joe McDonald
Mike Livingstone
'Oak Room' gospel hall in Clapham Junction

p196 almost hit Sarah's dad when he came in early for cup of tea
p235 Mars Bars to fellow prisoners before he leaves
p238 broken for Jesus