FBI Now Investigating 2015 Deaths of James Bethel and Gerrit Strydom After New Allegations Surface

James Bethel and Gerrit Strydom died in a motel in Springfield, Missouri. Reports at the time claimed they had died suddenly of cerebral malaria.

James Bethel, 44, and Gerrit Strydom, 45, were both originally believed to have died suddenly of cerebral malaria, which experts say is nearly impossible.

The mysterious deaths of James Bethel and Gerrit Strydom, two potential witnesses in a corruption probe into a company operated by three of the richest men in Kazakhstan, is now being investigated by FBI. The pair were originally believed to have died suddenly of cerebral malaria when their bodies turned up at a motel in Springfield, Missouri, midway through a road trip on rented Harley-Davidsons.

Bethel, 44, and Styrdom, 45, of South Africa, had quit their jobs at Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. (ENRC) shortly before their deaths in May 2015. The mining company, which was set up by three oligarchs after the collapse of the Soviet Union, is currently in the middle of a years-long criminal corruption investigation by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) for bribery allegations related to the acquisitions of mines in Congo and Zimbabwe.

The pair had left Johannesburg for Chicago via Amsterdam on vacation when they began to feel ill, according to the Financial Times. They were found dead shortly after in a La Quinta Inn along Route 66, and blood and tissue samples had reportedly detected malaria, originally believed to have been contracted by both men at the same time while on a fishing trip they had taken together in Zambia.  

While the case behind their deaths was never officially closed, allegations that “the likelihood of two separate people developing the disease at the exact same time and dying the same night is almost certainly nil” malaria expert Sam Wassmer in a new book, which has led FBI to take over the investigation.

“In the West, we tend to forget how connected we are in the global economy to the parts of the world where making money can be a deadly business, places like Congo, Kazakhstan and many points in between, where lives are taken in pursuit of fortunes, to protect secrets or to hurt rivals,” Tom Burgis, who authored “Kleptopia: How Dirty Money is Conquering the World” told The Daily Beast. “These are exactly the kinds of places where Bethel and Strydom operated.”

The ENRC, which launched a counter-suit against the SFO in 2019, denies any wrongdoing and accuses ENRC of cooking up a scandal, according to the Financial Times.