James Howard-Higgins: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

james howard-higgins

James Howard-Higgins

James Howard-Higgins is the British man Elon Musk hired to find damaging information on another man whom Musk had accused of being a pedophile.

Buzzfeed News first reported that Howard-Higgins contacted employees of Musk to offer his services as a private investigator. The offer came after Musk had publicly slammed Vernon Unsworth, who had played a major role in the rescue of a boys soccer team from a cave in Thailand in July of 2018, on Twitter. Unsworth later sued Musk for defamation.

Documents filed in California Central District Court show that Howard-Higgins offered to “dig deep” on Unsworth. Musk accepted the offer and paid Howard-Higgins $50,000 for his services. But the Tesla CEO did not look into Howard-Higgins’ background. Howard-Higgins was previously convicted for fraud and served time in prison in his native England.

Here’s what you need to know about James Howard-Higgins.


1. James Howard-Higgins Pleaded Guilty to Stealing Money From His Own Company

James Howard-Higgins

James Howard-Higgins

James Howard-Higgins worked as a businessman in England before getting involved with Elon Musk. According to the United Kingdom’s official public sector information website, Howard-Higgins has been barred from serving as the director of any company until at least 2026.

The court order was issued on October 31, 2016 in Southampton Crown Court. The page states that the disqualification was due to “conduct while acting for Orchid Maritime Limited” and that he had been convicted.

The page is referring to Howard-Higgins’ conviction for stealing from his own company, Orchid Maritime Limited. Local news outlets reported that Howard-Higgins stole more than £400,000, which is equivalent to about $525,000.

According to the Dorset Eye, Howard-Higgins first admitted to stealing from the company in 2013, but his business partner forgave him and the company absorbed the stolen funds.

The following year, Howard-Higgins was found to have opened a company credit card under a fraudulent name. He was demoted from Director and forced to downgrade his shares in the company, according to the Daily Echo, but he was again forgiven.

But in 2015, Howard-Higgins was caught for a third offense. He admitted that he had again deposited company funds into his personal account. He was arrested and charged. Howard-Higgins was sentenced to three years in prison but was released early.


2. James Howard-Higgins Claimed to Be the President of a Private Investigation Firm

james howard higgins

James Howard-Higgins

James Howard-Higgins reportedly reached out to Elon Musk shortly after Musk called Vernon Unsworth a “pedo guy” on Twitter. Buzzfeed News reported that Howard wrote in an email, “You may want to dig deep into Mr. Unsworth’s past to prepare for his defamation claim… No smoke without fire!” The message eventually made its way to Musk’s chief of staff, Sam Teller, and Musk was made aware of the email.

According to documents filed in California Central District Court, the person who ended up being the main point of contact with Howard-Higgins was Jared Birchall, the president of Musk’s home office. Elon Musk never spoke with Howard-Higgins personally.

The court document explains that “on or around August 15, 2018, Jared Birchall… retained James Howard, a private investigator and president of the investigation firm Jupiter Military & Tactical Systems, to conduct an investigation of Mr. Unsworth in the United Kingdom and Thailand on Mr. Musk’s behalf.”

A website for “Jupiter Military & Tactical Systems” is no longer active. According to an archived version of the site, “Jupiter” was advertised as an organization that offered “military training solutions.” But it does not appear to have ever been a real company. A search of registered businesses on Gov.uk does not bring up Jupiter Military & Tactical Systems.


3. Elon Musk’s Team Alleges In Court Documents That They Were Under the Impression That James Howard-Higgins Had a Military Background In the United Kingdom

james howard-higgins

Central District of California

James Howard-Higgins claimed to have a military background when he reached out to Elon Musk. According to court documents, Howard told Jared Birchall that he had “served in the United Kingdom Special Forces for eleven years and the United Kingdom Security Service (commonly known as MI5) for two years.”

Howard-Higgins’ former business partner, Mark Wood, told Buzzfeed News that this was inaccurate. He told the website that Howard-Higgin had “categorically never served in the police, military or any intelligence services.”


4. Elon Musk Accused Vernon Unsworth of Having a Child Bride Based On Information Supplied to Him By James Howard-Higgins

james howard higgins

Buzzfeed News has been asked to testify as part of the defamation case between of emails Elon Musk sent to a Buzzfeed reporter about Vernon Unsworth. Musk reportedly passed along information that could support his earlier claim that Unsworth was a “pedo guy.”

The unverified information Musk referenced had come from James Howard-Higgins. The court document states that Howard-Higgins told Jared Birchall that he had found a Thai news article that suggested that Unsworth had married a girl in Thailand when she was 11 or 12 years old. That claim has not been verified.

In September of 2018, Musk emailed Buzzfeed reporter Ryan Mac about this allegation and Buzzfeed published the contents of the email. Musk reportedly wrote in part, “I suggest that you call people you know in Thailand, find out what’s actually going on and stop defending child rapists, you f*cking asshole.”

Unsworth’s attorneys have stated that the allegations are false.


5. James Howard-Higgins Worked On Multiple Business Ventures, Only One of Which Is Still Active

James Howard-Higgins

EndoleJames Howard-Higgins

James Howard-Higgins was involved in multiple business ventures over a period of about six years, according to the business information database Endole.

The site lists five enterprises for which Howard-Higgins held roles: Orchid Maritime Ltd; Orchid Office Limited; Orenda Supercars Limited; Cornelius Properties Ltd; and Orchid Risk Management Limited.

Only one of the companies has an “active” status, and that is Orchid Risk Management. The other four have all been dissolved.

Orchid Maritime and Orchid Office also both list an employee named “Mrs. Rosalyn Elizabeth Howard-Higgins.”

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