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The Evil Story of Larry Hillblom, the H from DHL

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

Everyone knows DHL, a lot of us will have used them from time to time. The business was set up in 1969 by three guys called Adrian Dalsey, Larry Hillblom and Robert Lynn and now has upwards of 380,000 employees and turned the three owners into extremely wealthy men.

Today we're not looking at the D or the L in DHL but we're taking a look at the H, Larry Hillblom.

Born in Kingsburg, California in 1943, Hillblom went into law in Frisco but saw a new business opportunity via one of his clients to set up a small courier firm. In December 1969, Matson Navigation Co. introduced new container ships into its Hawaii cargo service. They were considerably faster than the older ships they replaced, and they saved several days off the crossing time from the US west coast to Hawaii. But with these faster vessels, the shipping documents could not be delivered by U.S. Postal Service to their Hawaii customers before the arrival of the goods. Hillblom approached Matson and told them that he could get their documents delivered in time. He did so by purchasing tickets for airline passengers who could take 350 pounds of accompanied baggage, and sending the Matson shipping documents with them. Other Hawaii companies with time-sensitive documents learned about and started to use the service (now named DHL). The company was later transformed into a general air courier and experienced huge growth throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

In the 1980s Hillblom moved to Saipan in the Tax haven of the Northern Mariana Islands, found in the western Pacific, where he started several businesses and development projects in Hawaii, Vietnam, and the Philippines and generally spent the majority of his time in and around SE Asia.

Hillblom was a keen aircraft enthusiast and owned a number of vintage planes. His seaplane crashed on May 21, 1995, on a flight from Pagan Island to Saipan. The bodies of the pilot, Robert Long, and a business partner were found, but Hillblom's body was never recovered.

This is the part if the story where things take a much darker tone.....

Hillblom's will stated that the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) would receive his estate, and he didn't specify any children in the 1982 will. After his death, Hillblom's estate was the subject of lawsuits from children fathered across the Pacific. Under Saipan law, illegitimate children born after a will has been drawn up are entitled to make a claim on the estate.

Many women from several East Asian and Oceanian countries claimed he had fathered children with them. (Women who were under the age of consent at the time also claimed statutory rape.) Kaylani Kinney was the first to come forward, claiming to have given birth to a son named Junior Larry Hillblom. Before his death, Hillblom had resided in Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands, whose probate law recognises the right of all children to a share of their father's estate, notwithstanding any will to the contrary. But because Hillblom's body was not recovered in the crash, no DNA test could be performed to prove paternity.

Mysteriously, his house in Saipan was discovered to have been wiped clean of any traces of his DNA. The sinks had been scrubbed with muriatic acid, and toothbrushes, combs, hairbrushes and clothes were found buried in the backyard, making them useless for DNA testing

Investigators discovered he had had a facial mole removed at UCSF Medical Center, and it was still there; UCSF agreed to relinquish the mole (although its release could deprive UCSF of the estate if it could be used to prove Hillblom had sired children). It was later discovered, however, that the mole was not from Hillblom but oddly enough from someone unknown.

Hillblom's mother, brother, and half-brother initially refused to submit their DNA, which could also have been used to determine the paternity of the children. A team of investigators were dispatched to compare the DNA of all the children suing for a claim on Hillblom's estate. The investigators surmised that since the girls were located in different countries, if the children shared certain DNA markers, the only logical conclusion would be that they would almost certainly have the same father. In the end, a judge ordered Hillblom's brother and mother to submit to genetic testing. The tests confirmed that four of the eight claimants were Hillblom's children.

It was ultimately determined that a Vietnamese child, Lory Nguyen; Jellian Cuartero, 5, and Mercedita Feliciano, 4, of the Philippines; and Junior Larry Hillblom, of Palau were fathered by Hillblom. In the final settlement, each of the four children received a gross payment of US$90 million, reduced to about US$50 million after taxes and fees, while the remaining US$240 million went to the Hillblom Foundation, which followed Hillblom's wishes and donated funds to the University of California, San Francisco for medical research.

As a footnote to this story, it's worth thinking about the fact Hillblom 'dies' in a plane crash around the time he would've known about these inevitable legal claims due to his abhorrent behaviour would eventually come to light. His body is never recovered and his mansion is scrubbed clean of all DNA remnants.

You know what the 'perfect crime' is? The one that works, because you never find out about it.

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