The BCCI Affair: A Report to the Committee on Foreign Relati

The BCCI Affair: A Report to the Committee on Foreign Relati

Postby admin » Thu Apr 28, 2016 8:21 pm

The BCCI Affair: A Report to the Committee on Foreign Relations
by Senator John Kerry and Senator Hank Brown
United States Senate
102d Congress 2d Session Senate Print 102-140
December 1992



Table of Contents:

1. Executive Summary
2. Introduction and Summary of Investigation
3. The Origin and Early Years of BCCI
4. BCCI's Criminality
5. BCCI's Relationship with Foreign Governments, Central Banks, and International Organizations
6. BCCI in the United States - Initial Entry and FGB and NBG Takeovers
7. BCCI in the United States - Part Two: Acquisition, Consolidation, and Consequences
8. BCCI and Law Enforcement - The Justice Deparment and the US Customs Service
9. BCCI and Law Enforcement - District Attorney of New York
10. BCCI and Its Accountants
11. BCCI, The CIA and Foreign Intelligence
12. The Regulators
13. Clark Clifford and Robert Altman
14. Abu Dhabi: BCCI's Founding and Majority Stockholders
15. Mohammed Hammoud: BCCI's Flexible Frontman
16. BCCI And Georgia Politicians
17. BCCI's Lawyers and Lobbyists
18. Hill and Knowlton and BCCI's PR Campaign
19. Ed Rogers and Kamal Adham
20. BCCI and Kissinger Associates
21. Capcom: A Case Study of Money Laundering
22. Legislative and Policy Recommendations
23. Appendix - Matters For Further Investigation, Witnesses and Writs
Site Admin
Posts: 33486
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The BCCI Affair: A Report to the Committee on Foreign Re

Postby admin » Thu Apr 28, 2016 8:23 pm



BCCI's unique criminal structure -- an elaborate corporate spider-web with BCCI's founder, Agha Hasan Abedi and his assistant, Swaleh Naqvi, in the middle -- was an essential component of its spectacular growth, and a guarantee of its eventual collapse. The structure was conceived by Abedi and managed by Naqvi for the specific purpose of evading regulation or control by governments. It functioned to frustrate the full understanding of BCCI's operations by anyone.

Unlike any ordinary bank, BCCI was from its earliest days made up of multiplying layers of entities, related to one another through an impenetrable series of holding companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, banks-within-banks, insider dealings and nominee relationships. By fracturing corporate structure, record keeping, regulatory review, and audits, the complex BCCI family of entities created by Abedi was able to evade ordinary legal restrictions on the movement of capital and goods as a matter of daily practice and routine. In creating BCCI as a vehicle fundamentally free of government control, Abedi developed in BCCI an ideal mechanism for facilitating illicit activity by others, including such activity by officials of many of the governments whose laws BCCI was breaking.

BCCI's criminality included fraud by BCCI and BCCI customers involving billions of dollars; money laundering in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas; BCCI's bribery of officials in most of those locations; support of terrorism, arms trafficking, and the sale of nuclear technologies; management of prostitution; the commission and facilitation of income tax evasion, smuggling, and illegal immigration; illicit purchases of banks and real estate; and a panoply of financial crimes limited only by the imagination of its officers and customers.

Among BCCI's principal mechanisms for committing crimes were its use of shell corporations and bank confidentiality and secrecy havens; layering of its corporate structure; its use of front-men and nominees, guarantees and buy-back arrangements; back-to-back financial documentation among BCCI controlled entities, kick-backs and bribes, the intimidation of witnesses, and the retention of well-placed insiders to discourage governmental action.


BCCI systematically relied on relationships with, and as necessary, payments to, prominent political figures in most of the 73 countries in which BCCI operated. BCCI records and testimony from former BCCI officials together document BCCI's systematic securing of Central Bank deposits of Third World countries; its provision of favors to political figures; and its reliance on those figures to provide BCCI itself with favors in times of need.

These relationships were systematically turned to BCCI's use to generate cash needed to prop up its books. BCCI would obtain an important figure's agreement to give BCCI deposits from a country's Central Bank, exclusive handling of a country's use of U.S. commodity credits, preferential treatment on the processing of money coming in and out of the country where monetary controls were in place, the right to own a bank, secretly if necessary, in countries where foreign banks were not legal, or other questionable means of securing assets or profits. In return, BCCI would pay bribes to the figure, or otherwise give him other things he wanted in a simple quid-pro-quo.

The result was that BCCI had relationships that ranged from the questionable, to the improper, to the fully corrupt with officials from countries all over the world, including Argentina, Bangladesh, Botswana, Brazil, Cameroon, China, Colombia, the Congo, Ghana, Guatemala, the Ivory Coast, India, Jamaica, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.


In 1977, BCCI developed a plan to infiltrate the U.S. market through secretly purchasing U.S. banks while opening branch offices of BCCI throughout the U.S., and eventually merging the institutions. BCCI had significant difficulties implementing this strategy due to regulatory barriers in the United States designed to insure accountability. Despite these barriers, which delayed BCCI's entry, BCCI was ultimately successful in acquiring four banks, operating in seven states and the District of Colombia, with no jurisdiction successfully preventing BCCI from infiltrating it.

The techniques used by BCCI in the United States had been previously perfected by BCCI, and were used in BCCI's acquisitions of banks in a number of Third World countries and in Europe. These included purchasing banks through nominees, and arranging to have its activities shielded by prestigious lawyers, accountants, and public relations firms on the one hand, and politically-well connected agents on the other. These techniques were essential to BCCI's success in the United States, because without them, BCCI would have been stopped by regulators from gaining an interest in any U.S. bank. As it was, regulatory suspicion towards BCCI required the bank to deceive regulators in collusion with nominees including the heads of state of several foreign emirates, key political and intelligence figures from the Middle East, and entities controlled by the most important bank and banker in the Middle East.

Equally important to BCCI's successful secret acquisitions of U.S. banks in the face of regulatory suspicion was its aggressive use of a series of prominent Americans, beginning with Bert Lance, and continuing with former Defense Secretary Clark Clifford, former U.S. Senator Stuart Symington, well-connected former federal bank regulators, and former and current local, state and federal legislators. Wittingly or not, these individuals provided essential assistance to BCCI through lending their names and their reputations to BCCI at critical moments. Thus, it was not merely BCCI's deceptions that permitted it to infiltrate the United States and its banking system. Also essential were BCCI's use of political influence peddling and the revolving door in Washington.


Federal prosecutors in Tampa handling the 1988 drug money laundering indictment of BCCI failed to recognize the importance of information they received concerning BCCI's other crimes, including its apparent secret ownership of First American. As a result, they failed adequately to investigate these allegations themselves, or to refer this portion of the case to the FBI and other agencies at the Justice Department who could have properly investigated the additional information.

The Justice Department, along with the U.S. Customs Service and Treasury Departments, failed to provide adequate support and assistance to investigators and prosecutors working on the case against BCCI in 1988 and 1989, contributing to conditions that ultimately caused the chief undercover agent who handled the sting against BCCI to quit Customs entirely.

The January 1990 plea agreement between BCCI and the U.S. Attorney in Tampa kept BCCI alive, and had the effect of discouraging BCCI's officials from telling the U.S. what they knew about BCCI's larger criminality, including its ownership of First American and other U.S. banks.

The Justice Department essentially stopped investigating BCCI following the plea agreement, until press accounts, Federal Reserve action, and the New York District Attorney's investigation in New York forced them into action in mid-1991.

Justice Department personnel in Washington lobbied state regulators to keep BCCI open after the January 1990 plea agreement, following lobbying of them by former Justice Department personnel now representing BCCI.

Relations between main Justice in Washington and the U.S. Attorney for Miami, Dexter Lehtinen, broke down on BCCI-related prosecutions, and key actions on BCCI-related cases in Miami were, as a result, delayed for months during 1991.

Justice Department personnel in Washington, Miami, and Tampa actively obstructed and impeded Congressional attempts to investigate BCCI in 1990, and this practice continued to some extent until William P. Barr became Attorney General in late October, 1991.

Justice Department personnel in Washington, Miami and Tampa obstructed and impeded attempts by New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau to obtain critical information concerning BCCI in 1989, 1990, and 1991, and in one case, a federal prosecutor lied to Morgenthau's office concerning the existence of such material. Important failures of cooperation continued to take place until William P. Barr became Attorney General in late October, 1991.

Cooperation by the Justice Department with the Federal Reserve was very limited until after BCCI's global closure on July 5, 1991.

Some public statements by the Justice Department concerning its handling of matters pertaining to BCCI were more cleverly crafted than true.


Acting on information provided him by the Subcommittee, New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau began an investigation in 1989 of BCCI which materially contributed to the chain of events that resulted in BCCI's closure.

Questions asked by the District Attorney intensified the review of BCCI's activities by its auditors, Price Waterhouse, in England, and gave life to a moribund Federal Reserve investigation of BCCI's secret ownership of First American.

The District Attorney's criminal investigation was critical to stopping an intended reorganization of BCCI worked out through an agreement among the Bank of England, the government of Abu Dhabi, BCCI's auditors, Price Waterhouse, and BCCI itself, in which the nature and extent of BCCI's criminality would be suppressed, while Abu Dhabi would commit its financial resources to keep the bank going during a restructuring. By the late spring of 1991, the key obstacle to a successful restructuring of BCCI bankrolled up Abu Dhabi was the possibility that the District Attorney of New York would indict. Such an indictment would have inevitably caused a swift and thoroughly justified international run on BCCI by depositors all over the world. Instead, it was a substantial factor in the decision of the Bank of England to take the information it had received from Price Waterhouse and rely on it to close BCCI.


BCCI's decision to divide its operations between two auditors, neither of whom had the right to audit all BCCI operations, was a significant mechanism by which BCCI was able to hide its frauds during its early years. For more than a decade, neither of BCCI's auditors objected to this practice.

BCCI provided loans and financial benefits to some of its auditors, whose acceptance of these benefits creates an appearance of impropriety, based on the possibility that such benefits could in theory affect the independent judgment of the auditors involved. These benefits included loans to two Price Waterhouse partnerships in the Caribbean. In addition, there are serious questions concerning the acceptance of payments and possibly housing from BCCI or its affiliates by Price Waterhouse partners in the Grand Caymans, and possible acceptance of sexual favors provided by BCCI officials to certain persons affiliated with the firm.

Regardless of BCCI's attempts to hide its frauds from its outside auditors, there were numerous warning bells visible to the auditors from the early years of the bank's activities, and BCCI's auditors could have and should have done more to respond to them.

By the end of 1987, given Price Waterhouse (UK)'s knowledge about the inadequacies of BCCI's records, it had ample reason to recognize that there could be no adequate basis for certifying that it had examined BCCI's books and records and that its picture of those records were indeed a "true and fair view" of BCCI's financial state of affairs.

The certifications by BCCI's auditors that its picture of BCCI's books were "true and fair" from December 31, 1987 forward, had the consequence of assisting BCCI in misleading depositors, regulators, investigators, and other financial institutions as to BCCI's true financial condition.

Prior to 1990, Price Waterhouse (UK) knew of gross irregularities in BCCI's handling of loans to CCAH/First American and was told of violations of U.S. banking laws by BCCI and its borrowers in connection with CCAH/First American, and failed to advise the partners of its U.S. affiliate or any U.S. regulator.

There is no evidence that Price Waterhouse (UK) has to this day notified Price Waterhouse (US) of the extent of the problems it found at BCCI, or of BCCI's secret ownership of CCAH/First American. Given the lack of information provided Price Waterhouse (US) by its United Kingdom affiliate, the U.S. firm performed its auditing of BCCI's U.S. branches in a manner that was professional and diligent, albeit unilluminating concerning BCCI's true activities in the United States.

Price Waterhouse's certification of BCCI's books and records in April, 1990 was explicitly conditioned by Price Waterhouse (UK) on the proposition that Abu Dhabi would bail BCCI out of its financial losses, and that the Bank of England, Abu Dhabi and BCCI would work with the auditors to restructure the bank and avoid its collapse. Price Waterhouse would not have made the certification but for the assurances it received from the Bank of England that its continued certification of BCCI's books was appropriate, and indeed, necessary for the bank's survival.

The April 1990 agreement among Price Waterhouse (UK), Abu Dhabi, BCCI, and the Bank of England described above, resulted in Price Waterhouse (UK) certifying the financial picture presented in its audit of BCCI as "true and fair," with a single footnote material to the huge losses still to be dealt with, failed adequately to describe their serious nature. As a consequence, the certification was materially misleading to anyone who relied on it ignorant of the facts then mutually known to BCCI, Abu Dhabi, Price Waterhouse and the Bank of England.

The decision by Abu Dhabi, Price Waterhouse (UK), BCCI and the Bank of England to reorganize BCCI over the duration of 1990 and 1991, rather than to advise the public of what they knew, caused substantial injury to innocent depositors and customers of BCCI who continued to do business with an institution which each of the above parties knew had engaged in fraud.

From at least April, 1990 through November, 1990, the Government of Abu Dhabi had knowledge of BCCI's criminality and frauds which it apparently withheld from BCCI's outside auditors, contributing to the delay in the ultimate closure of the bank, and causing further injury to the bank's innocent depositors and customers.



By early 1985, the CIA knew more about BCCI's goals and intentions concerning the U.S. banking system than anyone else in government, and provided that information to the U.S. Treasury and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, neither of whom had the responsibility for regulating the First American Bank that BCCI had taken over. The CIA failed to provide the critical information it had gathered to the correct users of the information -- the Federal Reserve and the Justice Department.

After the CIA knew that BCCI was as an institution a fundamentally corrupt criminal enterprise, it continued to use both BCCI and First American, BCCI's secretly held U.S. subsidiary, for CIA operations.

While the reporting concerning BCCI by the CIA was in some respects impressive -- especially in its assembling of the essentials of BCCI's criminality, its secret purchase of First American by 1985, and its extensive involvement in money laundering -- there were also remarkable gaps in the CIA's reported knowledge about BCCI.

Former CIA officials, including former CIA director Richard Helms and the late William Casey; former and current foreign intelligence officials, including Kamal Adham and Abdul Raouf Khalil; and principal foreign agents of the U.S., such as Adnan Khashoggi and Manucher Ghorbanifar, float in and out of BCCI at critical times in its history, and participate simultaneously in the making of key episodes in U.S. foreign policy, ranging from the Camp David peace talks to the arming of Iran as part of the Iran/Contra affair. Yet the CIA has continued to maintain that it has no information regarding any involvement of these people, raising questions about the quality of intelligence the CIA is receiving generally, or its candor with the Subcommittee. The CIA's professions of total ignorance about their respective roles in BCCI are out of character with the Agency's early knowledge of many critical aspects of the bank's operations, structure, personnel, and history.

The errors made by the CIA in connection with its handling of BCCI were complicated by its handling of this Congressional investigation. Initial information that was provided by the CIA was untrue; later information that was provided was incomplete; and the Agency resisted providing a "full" account about its knowledge of BCCI until almost a year after the initial requests for the information. These experiences suggest caution in concluding that the information provided to date is full and complete. The relationships among former CIA personnel and BCCI front men and nominees, including Kamal Adham, Abdul Khalil, and Mohammed Irvani, requires further investigation.


When the Federal Reserve approved the take over of Financial General Bankshares by CCAH in 1981, it had substantial circumstantial evidence before it to suggest that BCCI was behind the bank's purchase. The Federal Reserve chose not to act on that evidence because of the specific representations that were made to it by CCAH's shareholders and lawyers, that BCCI was neither financing nor directing the take over. These representations were untrue and the Federal Reserve would not have approved the CCAH application but for the false statements made to it.

In approving the CCAH application, the Federal Reserve relied upon representations from the Central Intelligence Agency, State Department, and other U.S. agencies that they had no objections to or concerns about the Middle Eastern shareholders who were purporting to purchase shares in the bank. The Federal Reserve also relied upon the reputation for integrity of BCCI's lawyers, especially that of former Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford and former Federal Reserve counsel Baldwin Tuttle. Assurances provided the Federal Reserve by the CIA and State Department, and by both attorneys, had a material impact on the Federal Reserve's willingness to approve the CCAH application despite its concerns about BCCI's possible involvement.

In 1981, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency had additional information, from reports concerning BCCI's role in the Bank of America and the National Bank of Georgia, concerning BCCI's possible use of nominee arrangements and alter egos to purchase banks on its behalf in the United States, which it failed to pass on to the Federal Reserve. This failure was inadvertent, not intentional.

In approving the CCAH application, the Federal Reserve permitted BCCI and its attorneys to carve out a seeming loophole in the commitment that BCCI not be involved in financing or controlling CCAH's activities. This loophole permitted BCCI to act as an investment advisor and information conduit to CCAH's shareholders. The Federal Reserve's decision to accept this arrangement allowed BCCI and its attorneys and agents to use these permitted activities as a cover for the true nature of BCCI's ownership of CCAH and the First American Banks.

After approving the CCAH application in 1981, the Federal Reserve received few indicators about BCCI's possible improper involvement in CCAH/First American. However, at several critical junctures, especially the purchase by First American of the National Bank of Georgia from Ghaith Pharaon in 1986, there were obvious warnings signs that could have been investigated and which were not, until late 1990.

As a foreign bank whose branches were chartered by state banking authorities, BCCI largely escaped the Federal Reserve's scrutiny regarding its criminal activities in the United States unrelated to its interest in CCAH/First American. This gap in regulatory oversight has since been closed by the passage of the Foreign Bank Supervision Enhancement Act of 1991.

The U.S. Treasury Department failed to provide the Federal Reserve with information it received concerning BCCI's ownership of First American in 1985 and 1986 from the CIA. However, IRS agents did provide important information to the Federal Reserve on this issue in early 1989, which the Federal Reserve failed adequately to investigate at the time.

The FDIC approved Ghaith Pharaon's purchase of the Independence Bank in 1985 knowing him to be a shareholder of BCCI and knowing that he was placing a senior BCCI officer in charge of the bank, and failed to confer with the Federal Reserve or the OCC regarding their previous experiences with Pharaon and BCCI.

Once the Federal Reserve commenced a formal investigation of BCCI and First American on January 3, 1991, its investigation of BCCI and First American was aggressive and diligent. Its decisions to force BCCI out of the United States and to divest itself of First American were prompt. The charges it brought against the parties involved with BCCI in violating federal banking standards were fully justified by the record. Its investigations have over the past year contributed substantially to public understanding to date of what took place.

Even after the Federal Reserve understood the nature and scope of BCCI's frauds, it did not seek to have BCCI closed globally. This position was in some measure the consequence of the Federal Reserve's need to secure the cooperation of BCCI's majority shareholders, the government and royal family of Abu Dhabi, in providing some $190 million to prop up First American Bank and prevent an embarrassing collapse. However, Federal Reserve investigators did actively work in the spring of 1991 to have BCCI's top management removed.

In investigating BCCI, the Federal Reserve's efforts were hampered by examples of lack of cooperation by foreign governments, including most significantly the Serious Fraud Office in the United Kingdom and, since the closure of BCCI on July 5, 1991, the government of Abu Dhabi.

U.S. regulatory handling of the U.S. banks secretly owned by BCCI was hampered by lack of coordination among the regulators, which included the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, and the OCC, highlighting the need for further integration of these separate banking regulatory agencies on supervision and enforcement.


The Bank of England had deep concerns about BCCI from the late 1970s on, and undertook several steps to slow BCCI's expansion in the United Kingdom.

In 1988 and 1989, the Bank of England learned of BCCI's involvement in the financing of terrorism and in drug money laundering, and undertook additional, but limited supervision of BCCI in response to receiving this information.

In the spring of 1990, Price Waterhouse advised the Bank of England that there were substantial loan losses at BCCI, numerous poor banking practices, and evidence of fraud, which together had created a massive hole in BCCI's books. The Bank of England's response to the information was not to close BCCI down, but to find ways to prop up BCCI and prevent its collapse. This meant, among other things, keeping secret the very serious nature of BCCI's problems from its creditors and one million depositors.

In April, 1990, the Bank of England reached an agreement with BCCI, Abu Dhabi, and Price Waterhouse to keep BCCI from collapsing. Under the agreement, Abu Dhabi agreed to guarantee BCCI's losses and Price Waterhouse agreed to certify BCCI's books. As a consequence, innocent depositors and creditors who did business with BCCI following that date were deceived into believing that BCCI's financial problems were not as serious as each of these parties already knew them to be.

From April, 1990, the Bank of England relied on British bank secrecy and confidentiality laws to reduce the risk of BCCI's collapse if word of its improprieties leaked out. As a consequence, innocent depositors and creditors who did business with BCCI following that date were denied vital information, in the possession of the regulators, auditors, officers, and shareholders of BCCI, that could have protected them against their losses.

In order to prevent risk to its restructuring plan for BCCI and a possible run on BCCI, the Bank of England withheld important information from the Federal Reserve in the spring of 1990 about the size and scope of BCCI's lending on CCAH/First American shares, despite the Federal Reserve's requests for such information. This action by the Bank of England delayed the opening of a full investigation by the Federal Reserve for approximately eight months.

Despite its knowledge of some of BCCI's past frauds, and its own understanding that consolidation into a single entity is essential for regulating a bank, in late 1990 and early 1991 the Bank of England tentatively agreed with BCCI and its Abu Dhabi owners to permit BCCI to restructure as three "separate" institutions, based in London, Abu Dhabi and Hong Kong. This tentative decision demonstrated extraordinarily poor judgment on the part of the Bank of England. This decision was reversed abruptly when the Bank of England suddenly decided to close BCCI instead in late June, 1991.

The decision by the Bank of England in April 1990 to permit BCCI to move its headquarters, officers, and records out of British jurisdiction to Abu Dhabi has had profound negative consequences for investigations of BCCI around the world. As a result of this decision, essential records and witnesses regarding what took place were removed from the control of the British government, and placed under the control of the government of Abu Dhabi, which has to date withheld them from criminal investigators in the U.S. and U.K. This decision constituted a costly, and likely irretrievable, error on the part of the Bank of England.


Regardless of whether Clifford and Altman were deceived by BCCI in some respects, both men participated in some BCCI's deceptions in the United States.

Beginning in late 1977, Clifford and Altman assisted BCCI in purchasing a U.S. bank, Financial General Bankshares, with the participation of nominees, and understood BCCI's central involvement in directing and controlling the transaction.

In the years that followed, they made business decisions regarding acquisitions for First American that were motivated by BCCI's goals, rather than by the business needs of First American itself; and represented as their own to regulators decisions that had been made by Abedi and BCCI on fundamental matters concerning First American, including the purchase by First American of the National Bank of Georgia and First American's decision to purchase branches in New York City.

Clifford and Altman concealed their own financing of shares of First American by BCCI from First American's other directors and from U.S. regulators, withheld critical information that they possessed from regulators in an effort to keep the truth about BCCI's ownership of First American secret, and deceived regulators and the Congress concerning their own knowledge of and personal involvement in BCCI's illegalities in the United States.


Members of Abu Dhabi's ruling family appear to have contributed no more than $500,000 to BCCI's capitalization prior to April 1990, despite being the record owner of almost one-quarter of the bank's total shares. An unknown but substantial percentage of the shares acquired by Abu Dhabi overall in BCCI appear to have been acquired on a risk-free basis -- either with guaranteed rates of return, buy-back arrangements, or both.

The interest held in BCCI by the Abu Dhabi ruling family, like the interests held by the rulers of the three other gulf sheikdoms in the United Arab Emirates who owned shares of BCCI, materially aided and abetted Abedi and BCCI in projecting the illusion that BCCI was backed by, and capitalized by, Abu Dhabi's wealth. Investments made in BCCI by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority appear to have been genuine, although possibly guaranteed by BCCI with buy-back or other no-risk arrangements.

Shares in Financial General Bankshares held by members of the Abu Dhabi royal family in late 1977 and early 1978 appear to have been nominee arrangements, adopted by Abu Dhabi as a convenience to BCCI and Abedi, under arrangements in which Abu Dhabi was to be without risk, and BCCI was to guarantee the purchase through a commitment to buy-back the stock at an agreed upon price.

Abu Dhabi's representative to BCCI's board of directors, Ghanim al Mazrui, received unorthodox financial benefits from BCCI in no-risk stock deals which may have compromised his ability to exercise independent judgment concerning BCCI's actions; confirmed at least one fraudulent transaction involving Abu Dhabi; and engaged in other improprieties pertaining to BCCI; but remains today in place at the apex of Abu Dhabi's committee designated to respond to BCCI's collapse.

In April, 1990, Abu Dhabi was told in detail about BCCI's fraud by top BCCI officials, and failed to advise BCCI's external auditors of what it had learned. Between April, 1990 and November, 1990, Abu Dhabi and BCCI together kept some information concerning BCCI's frauds hidden from the auditors.

From April, 1990 through July 5, 1991, Abu Dhabi tried to save BCCI through a massive restructuring. As part of the restructuring process, Abu Dhabi agreed to take responsibility for BCCI's losses, Price Waterhouse agreed to certify BCCI's books for another year, and Abu Dhabi, Price Waterhouse, the Bank of England, and BCCI agreed to keep all information concerning BCCI's frauds and other problems secret from BCCI's one million depositors, as well as from U.S. regulators and law enforcement, to prevent a run on the bank.

After the Federal Reserve was advised by the New York District Attorney of possible nominee arrangements involving BCCI and First American, Abu Dhabi, in an apparent effort to gain the Federal Reserve's acquiescence in BCCI's proposed restructuring, provided limited cooperation to the Federal Reserve, including access to selected documents. The cooperation did not extend to permitting the Federal Reserve open access to all BCCI documents, or substantive communication with key BCCI officials held in Abu Dhabi, such as BCCI's former president, Swaleh Naqvi. That access ended with the closure of BCCI July 5, 1991.

From November, 1990 through the present, Abu Dhabi has failed to provide documents and witnesses to U.S. law enforcement authorities and to the Congress, despite repeated commitments to do so. Instead, it has actively prevented U.S. investigators from having access to vital information necessary to investigate BCCI's global wrongdoing.

The proposed agreement between Abu Dhabi and BCCI's liquidators to settle their claims against one another contains provisions which could have the consequence of permitting Abu Dhabi to cover up any wrongdoing it may have had in connection with BCCI.

There is some evidence that the Sheikh Zayed may have had a political agenda in agreeing to the involvement of members of the Abu Dhabi royal family and its investment authority in purchasing shares of Financial General Bankshares, then of CCAH/First American. This evidence is offset, in part, by testimony that Abu Dhabi share purchases in the U.S. bank were done at Abedi's request and did not represent an actual investment by Abu Dhabi until much later.


BCCI's political connections in Washington had a material impact on its ability to accomplish its goals in the United States. In hiring lawyers, lobbyists and public relations firms in the United States to help it deal with its problems vis a vis the government, BCCI pursued a strategy that it had practiced successfully around the world: the hiring of former government officials.

BCCI's and its shareholders' cadre of professional help in Washington D.C. included, at various times, a former Secretary of Defense (Clark Clifford), former Senators and Congressmen (John Culver, Mike Barnes), former federal prosecutors (Larry Wechsler, Raymond Banoun, and Larry Barcella, a former State Department Official (William Rogers), a former White House aide (Ed Rogers), a current Presidential campaign deputy director (James Lake), and former Federal Reserve Attorneys (Baldwin Tuttle, Jerry Hawke, and Michael Bradfield). In addition, BCCI solicited the help of Henry Kissinger, who chose not to do business with BCCI but made a referral of BCCI to his own lawyers.

At several key points in BCCI's activities in the U.S., the political influence and personal contacts of those it hired had an impact in helping BCCI accomplish its goals, including in connection with the 1981 CCAH acquisition of FGB and the handling and aftermath of BCCI's plea agreement in Tampa in 1990.

The political connections of BCCI's U.S. lawyers and lobbyists were critical to impeding Congressional and law enforcement investigations from 1988 through 1991, through a variety of techniques that included impugning the motives and integrity of investigators and journalists, withholding subpoenaed documents, and lobbying on capital hill to protect BCCI's reputation and discourage efforts to close the bank down in the United States.


When Hill and Knowlton accepted BCCI's account in October, 1988, its partners knew of BCCI's reputation as a "sleazy" bank, but took the account anyway. In 1988 and 1989, Hill and Knowlton assisted BCCI with an aggressive public relations campaign designed to demonstrate that BCCI was not a criminal enterprise, and to put the best face possible on the Tampa drug money laundering indictments. In so doing, it disseminated materials unjustifiably and unfairly discrediting persons and publications who were telling the truth about BCCI's criminality.

Important information provided by Hill and Knowlton to Capitol Hill and provided by First American to regulators concerning the relationship between BCCI and First American in April, 1990 was false. The misleading material represented the position of BCCI, First American, Clifford and Altman concerning the relationship, and was contrary to the truth known by BCCI, Clifford and Altman.

Hill and Knowlton's representation of BCCI was within the norms and standards of the public relations industry, but raises larger questions as to the relationship of those norms and standards to the public interest.


Beginning with Bert Lance in 1977, whose debts BCCI paid off with a $3.5 million loan, BCCI, BCCI nominees, and top officials of BCCI systematically developed friendships and relationships with important U.S political figures. While those which are publicly known include former president Jimmy Carter, Jesse Jackson, and Andrew Young, the Subcommittee has received information suggesting that BCCI's network extended to other U.S. political figures. The payments made by BCCI to Andrew Young while he was a public official were at best unusual, and by all appearances, improper.


BCCI's commodities affiliate, Capcom, based in Chicago, London and Cairo, was principally staffed by former BCCI bankers, capitalized by BCCI and BCCI customers, and owned by BCCI, BCCI shareholders, and front-men. Capcom employed many of the same practices as BCCI, especially the use of nominees and front companies to disguise ownership and the movement of money. Four U.S. citizens -- none of whom had any experience or expertise in the commodities markets -- played important and varied roles as Capcom front men in the United States.

While investigation information concerning Capcom is incomplete, its activities appear to have included misappropriation of BCCI assets; the laundering of billions of dollars from the Middle East to the US and other parts of the world; and the siphoning of assets from BCCI to create a safe haven for them outside of the official BCCI empire.

Capcom's majority shareholders, Kamal Adham and A.R. Khalil, were both former senior Saudi government officials and successively acted as Saudi Arabia's principal liaisons to the Central Intelligence Agency during the 1970's and 1980's.

Its U.S. front men included Robert Magness, the CEO of the largest U.S. cable telecommunications company, TCI; a vice-President of TCI, Larry Romrell; and two other Americans, Kerry Fox and Robert Powell, with long-standing business interests in the Middle East. Magness, Romrell and Fox received loans from BCCI for real estate ventures in the U.S., and Magness and Romrell discussed numerous business ventures between BCCI and TCI, some of which involved the possible purchase of U.S. telecommunications stock and substantial lending by BCCI.

Commodities regulators with the responsibility for investigating Capcom showed little interest in conducting a thorough investigation of its activities, and in 1989 allowed Capcom to avoid such an investigation through agreeing to cease doing business in the United States.

The Subcommittee could not determine whether BCCI, Capcom, or their shareholders or agents actually acquired equity interests in the U.S. cable industry and believes further investigation of matters pertaining to Capcom is essential.


Many of the specific criminal transactions engaged in by BCCI's customers remain hidden from investigation as the result of bank secrecy laws in many jurisdictions, British national security laws, and the holding of key witnesses and documents by the Government of Abu Dhabi. Documents pertaining to BCCI's use to finance terrorism, to assist the builders of a Pakistani nuclear bomb, to finance Iranian arms deals, and related matters have been sealed in the United Kingdom by British intelligence and remain unavailable to U.S. investigators. Many other basic matters pertaining to BCCI's criminality, including any list that may exist of BCCI's political payoffs and bribes, remain sequestered in Abu Dhabi and unavailable to U.S. investigators.

Many investigative leads remain to be explored, but cannot be answered without devoting substantial additional sources that to date no agency of government has been in a position to provide.

Unanswered questions include, but are not limited to, the relationship between BCCI and the Banco Nazionale del Lavoro; the alleged relationship between the late CIA director William Casey and BCCI; the extent of BCCI's involvement in Pakistan's nuclear program; BCCI's manipulation of commodities and securities markets in Europe and Canada; BCCI's activities in India, including its relationship with the business empire of the Hinduja family; BCCI's relationships with convicted Iraqi arms dealer Sarkis Sarkenalian, Syrian drug trafficker, terrorist, and arms trafficker Monzer Al-Kassar, and other major arms dealers; the use of BCCI by central figures in the alleged "October Surprise," BCCI's activities with the Central Bank of Syria and with the Foreign Trade Mission of the Soviet Union in London; its involvement with foreign intelligence agencies; the financial dealings of BCCI directors with Charles Keating and several Keating affiliates and front-companies, including the possibility that BCCI related entities may have laundered funds for Keating to move them outside the United States; BCCI's financing of commodities and other business dealings of international criminal financier Marc Rich; the nature, extent and meaning of the ownership of other major U.S. financial institutions by Middle Eastern political figures; the nature, extent, and meaning of real estate and financial investments in the United States by major shareholders of BCCI; the sale of BCCI affiliate Banque de Commerce et Placement in Geneva, to the Cukorova Group of Turkey, which owned an entity involved in the BNL Iraqi arms sales, among others.

The withholding of documents and witnesses from U.S. investigators by the Government of Abu Dhabi threatens vital U.S. foreign policy, anti-narcotics and money laundering, and law enforcement interests, and should not be tolerated.













Site Admin
Posts: 33486
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The BCCI Affair: A Report to the Committee on Foreign Re

Postby admin » Thu Apr 28, 2016 8:23 pm

Introduction and Summary of Investigation

BCCI cannot be taken as an isolated example of a rogue bank, but a case study of the vulnerability of the world to international crime on a global scope that is beyond the current ability of governments to control. Its multi-billion dollar collapse is merely the latest in a series of international financial scandals that have bedeviled international banking this century. Its techniques and its associations with government officials, intelligence agencies, and arms traffickers, were neither new nor unique.

For example, as far back as the 1920's, the International Match Corp bilked shareholders and lenders out of some $500 million through switching company assets and liabilities among a series of shell entities, creating fictional assets when existing ones were adequate, and through transferring funds from the United States offshore. All the while, its chairman, Ivan Kreuger, maintained friendships with numerous world leaders including then U.S. President Herbert Hoover, in a manner reminiscent of BCCI's founder Agha Hasan Abedi's relationships with President Carter a half a century later.

During the 1960's, the Channel Islands off the coast of England became the host to a series of post-off box banks, including the infamous Bank of Sark, whose facilities including a room over a pub, a desk and a telephone. That headquarters proved adequate to enable the swindlers who established the bank to use it to sell some $100 million in fraudulent checks and letters of credit on the phantom bank before their criminality was discovered.

In the same period, Bernie Cornfeld, chairman of the Investors Overseas Service (IOS), which sold "The Fund of Funds," and fugitive financier Robert Vesco, siphoned off hundreds of millions of dollars from investors in the mutual fund that at its height had $3 billion in assets under its management. In doing so, it moved funds held at Credit Suisse to a small bank which IOS itself owned based in Luxembourg, from which the funds disappeared. Again, this technique anticipated the methods used by BCCI to shift assets from legitimate institutions to its own, and then to engage in wire transfers sufficient to make them impossible to track.

Similar techniques were used by Italian financier Michele Sindona in connection with his management of Banco Ambrosiano in Italy; and by former CIA agent Michael Hand in the drug money laundering Nugan Hand Bank in Australia during the late 1970's and early 1980's. The latter institution had numerous ties to U.S. intelligence and military personnel which have never been explained.

Thus, the rise and fall of BCCI is not an isolated phenomenon, but a recurrent problem that has grown along with the growth in the international financial community itself. Given the extraordinary magnitude of international financial transactions -- which amount to some $4 trillion per day moving through the New York clearance system alone -- the opportunities for fraud are huge, the rewards great, and the systems put in place to protect against them, far from adequate, as this report demonstrates in some detail.

The scope and variety of BCCI's criminality, and the issues raised by that criminality, are immense, and beyond the scope of any single investigation or report. This report, the product of some four years of investigation by the Subcommittee, while extensive, can merely provide a basic guideline to the fundamental facts and issued raised by the BCCI affair.

The Subcommittee investigation of BCCI began in February, 1988, early in the second year of a two-year investigation of the relationship between drug trafficking to U.S. foreign policy and law enforcement that had been authorized by the full Committee. During a hearing on General Noriega's drug trafficking and money laundering, BCCI was identified as facilitating Noriega's criminal activity. In March, 1988, the Foreign Relations Committee authorized the issuance of subpoenas to BCCI and those at the bank involved in handling Noriega's assets, and the accounts of others in Panama and Colombia. Service of those subpoenas was delayed, at the request of the Justice Department and U.S. Customs Service, due to concern that its service could interfere with an ongoing sting operation of BCCI in Tampa, Operation C-Chase. By the time the Subcommittee secured the permission of federal authorities to move forward with service of the subpoena, in late July 1988, the Subcommittee had completed the public hearings in connection with its investigative mandate, and was proceeding to complete its final report, with no further investigative efforts planned.

However, service of the subpoena set into motion a series of contacts during the late summer and early fall involving the Subcommittee, BCCI officials, and BCCI's attorneys, including Clark Clifford and Robert Altman. During those contacts, BCCI officials advised Subcommittee counsel Jack Blum that in their view, BCCI and its attorneys were obstructing the Subcommittee's efforts to investigate the bank. The Subcommittee conducted a deposition of one key BCCI official, Amjad Awan, shortly before his arrest in the Customs' sting, and deposed a second, former BCCI officer following the sting, during the final days of the authorization given the Subcommittee by the Foreign Relations Committee. Thus, as the two-year investigation of the Subcommittee authorized by the Foreign Relations Committee ended, investigating BCCI remained a major piece of unfinished Subcommittee business.

In the spring of 1989, Senator Kerry, chairman of the Subcommittee, authorized Blum as he was leaving the Subcommittee, to provide the information he had developed to the Justice Department. After the Justice Department, in Blum's view, had failed to follow up on the information provided, he took the same information to New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, who shortly commenced his investigation of BCCI, based in substantial part on the leads provided him by Blum and the Subcommittee.

In the meantime, Senator Kerry asked two members of his personal staff to continue the investigation from within his personal office until such time as further authorization might be granted from the Foreign Relations Committee, or another Committee of formal jurisdiction for a committee investigation.

During 1989 and 1990, staff in Senator Kerry's office had numerous contacts with BCCI's attorneys, certain BCCI customers, and, in a truncated fashion, with BCCI officials, in an attempt to determine whether allegations concerning BCCI's secret ownership of First American Bankshares were correct, and as part of an effort to identify the extent and nature of BCCI's support of drug money laundering.

In January, 1990, when the Justice Department entered into a plea agreement with BCCI, Senator Kerry criticized the plea agreement for permitting BCCI to avoid trial, and the $14 million fine as insufficient punishment for an institution which had a corporate policy of laundering drug money. At the same time, the Subcommittee published a report on drug money laundering which focused in part on further questions concerning BCCI, including BCCI's alleged secret ownership of First American.

During the spring and summer of 1990, the Senator Kerry's staff conducted further investigative efforts concerning BCCI, met with BCCI's and First American's attorneys on several occasions attempting to obtain BCCI documents. In July, 1990, Senator Kerry, in his capacity as chairman of the Subcommittee, scheduled hearings on BCCI which were postponed after BCCI's attorneys and the Justice Department advised staff that each of the requested witnesses, including BCCI attorney and First American President Robert Altman, would decline the Subcommittee's request to testify.

After efforts to obtain authorization for the investigation within the Banking Committee failed, Senator Kerry decided in early 1991 to formalize the personal staff investigation within the Subcommittee and to seek formal authorization for an investigation from the Foreign Relations Committee, which was granted on May 23, 1991, without dissent. Together with this authorization, the Foreign Relations Committee authorized the issuance of a subpoena to BCCI for records pertaining to its dealings with foreign officials of a number of countries, arms dealers, and focusing on its secret ownership of U.S. financial institutions. At this time, Senator Kerry was joined in further investigative efforts by his ranking member, Senator Brown.

While the Foreign Relations Committee provided consistent support for the Subcommittee's efforts through 1991 and 1992, staffing resources for the investigation remained limited, amounting to two attorneys, with no budget for travel. The lack of resources particularly hampered efforts to investigate matters pertaining to BCCI's activities outside the United States.

Authority for subpoenas and writs were granted by the Committee to the Subcommittee on May 23, 1991, November 27, 1991, February 29, 1992, June 4, 1992. In all, the Subcommittee conducted thirteen days of public hearings, on August 1, 2, 8, October 18, 22, 23, 24, 25, and November 21, 1991; February 19, March 18, May 14, and July 30, 1992; one day of closed hearings, on October 31, 1991 and staffed an additional day of hearings in the Senate Banking Subcommittee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs on May 23, 1991.

Both by subpoena and by request, documents were received from many institutions, agencies and individuals, including BCCI itself; many of BCCI's attorneys and law firms; many former BCCI officials; representatives of BCCI's creditors and depositors; Price Waterhouse, BCCI's accountants; Clark Clifford and Robert Altman; the First American Bank; the Federal Reserve, Office of Thrift Supervision, Resolution Trust Corporation, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Majority Shareholders of BCCI (Abu Dhabi), the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Customs Service, the State Department; the Department of Agriculture; former federal prosecutors and investigators; and many others.

In addition, the Subcommittee has been vitally assisted by certain BCCI insiders who, while still working at BCCI during the period of its operation, became sufficiently angered and disgusted by what they had observed that they contacted the Subcommittee and agreed to provide the Subcommittee with information on an ongoing basis. These insiders helped the Subcommittee to document improprieties involving BCCI's attorneys, senior officers, and shareholders, as well as, certain failures to act on information by federal law enforcement.

Many matters remain to be investigated, and these are outlined in the Executive Summary and in the final chapter on conclusions and legislative recommendations.

What is absolutely clear is that the United States needs to exercise far more leadership in helping develop a system for monitoring and regulating the movement of funds across international borders to replace the current, inadequate, patchwork system that BCCI, with all of its faults, so aptly took advantage of to defraud over one million depositors and thousands of creditors from countries all over the world.

Equally important is for the United States to give renewed attention to the difficulty of monitoring the actual circumstances and intentions, of foreign investors seeking to acquire U.S. institutions. As the BCCI case demonstrates, such investments pose special difficulties for both investigation and prosecution should something go wrong.

Finally, influence peddling, the revolving door, and the willingness of well-placed and prominent people in Washington to provide services to whoever wants in the door and is willing to pay ones fees is a phenomenon that poses very substantial dangers for our system of government. As the BCCI case suggests, higher standards of conduct by the private sector in Washington that lives alongside of government is an essential part of making it possible for government to work. The lack of those standards was a significant factor in BCCI's success in committing crimes, and the government's failures in doing anything about them.
Site Admin
Posts: 33486
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The BCCI Affair: A Report to the Committee on Foreign Re

Postby admin » Thu Apr 28, 2016 8:27 pm

Part 1 of 2


BCCI's conception, growth, collapse, and criminality are inextricably linked with the personality of its founder, Agha Hasan Abedi, who in turn was a product of the unique conditions of Muslim India in the final period of British rule prior to partition, and the first years after partition.

These were years of fundamental change in the region, involving the creation of an entire new ruling class in both Hindu and Moslem India to replace the departing British foreign service. While the period created special opportunities for a newly-emerging professional class in both countries, Abedi and many of the others who later became prominent in Pakistani banking made up a special class. In India, they had grown up as members of a minority, of ineradicably lower status than similarly educated Hindus, despite their university educations. Following partition, these Indian Moslems migrated northward to the new Muslim state of Pakistan, but remained forever regarded as outsiders by the natives. Accordingly, as they settled in the newly-developing cities, such as Karachi and Lahore, they formed a clannish class of Muslim professionals who kept themselves apart from other Pakistanis.

Abedi himself was especially suited to succeed in the post-colonial environment, given his family's experience in northern Indian in Mahmudabad, where his father had served the Rajah. At the Rajah's court, Abedi was exposed to great wealth, and to the concept that access to it could be had for anyone who managed to make himself indispensable to the person who controlled such wealth. Abedi also learned that the previously immutable laws of the British colonial power could be changed, at whim, by the new Indian and Pakistani rulers that followed, and that as often as not, legal obstacles to any goal could be eliminated if they interfered with the plans of a sufficiently important political figure. These were lessons which Abedi applied throughout his career as a banker, and at the core of BCCI's unique history.

A history of BCCI, prepared in 1982 by Khusro Karamat Elley, a key figure in BCCI's secret management of First American, provides a rosy, public-relations view of Abedi's career to the founding of BCCI a decade earlier.

The story begins in the early forties, when the Habib family of India set up a Bank in Bombay, India. They started hiring young graduates as trainee officers and among the first was a young and warm hearted individual named Agha Hasan Abedi. In 1947, when Pakistan was formed, the Habibs [as Moslems] moved their bank to Pakistan.

The Habibs ran the bank like a family business. All decisions were centralized with family members and working hours were long and hard. Agha Hasan Abedi rose very rapidly but soon found the atmosphere to be too restrictive for the great number of ideas welling up inside him. In 1958 he left Habib Bank and was able to get together Investors to form a new bank to be known as United Bank. The Central Bank in Pakistan gave the license and was quite happy with Mr. Abedi's statements that he wanted to make this the largest bank in Pakistan. They however did find it disturbing when he described to them in great detail how high the salaries of the employees of this bank would be, what would be the quality of the offices and the extent of the mechanization that he would go into. Within ten years, United Bank became the second largest bank in Pakistan and all that Mr. Abedi envisioned, relating to the facilities, the staff, and relating to the high quality of appearance of the offices, and to the modern outlook of the Bank, had been achieved. Additionally, the Bank had opened branches overseas in quite a few countries including the Middle East. The Bank was already poised to become the largest bank in Pakistan but political conditions were making it apparent to Mr. Abedi that Pakistan could probably not form the basis for an operation of the size which he and his team were capable of.(1)

This internal BCCI history focuses on key elements of BCCI's operation already present in the Habib and United Banks: a close knit family structure for management, high salaries and benefits to motivate employees, unusually luxurious offices for the purpose of impressing customers, aggressive expansion, beginning with the Middle East, and Abedi's refusal to live within the constraints of governments.

Press accounts of Abedi's life from the 1970's and 1980's typically note Abedi's wish for his success to be seen as a Pakistani version of a Horatio Alger story: success in the material world as being merely the logical reward for piety, hard work, sobriety, discipline, and loyalty. Internal BCCI documents make clear Abedi's ability to motivate his employees to work exceptionally hard. Yet in this, Abedi's approach was little different from other successful super-salesmen. What distinguished Abedi's method as a banker was his focused attention on cultivating individuals of wealth, deemed "high net worths," at BCCI, and those who controlled wealth, such as Pakistani government officials.(2)

Abedi's Charisma

By all accounts -- ranging from statements made by Bert Lance to Jimmy Carter to the Pakistani bankers who went to work for him at BCCI -- Agha Hasan Abedi was a man of extraordinary personal charisma. That charisma was the glue which held BCCI together. Its absence following Abedi's stroke in early 1989, which led to Carter arranging an emergency heart transplant for him, had a substantial impact on BCCI's ability to survive the drug money laundering indictments in Tampa and the banks subsequent misfortunes.

According to former BCCI chief financial officer Massihur Rahman, who worked alongside Abedi for nearly two decades, Abedi was a man whose personality dominated all those around him, who could simultaneously turn great personal powers to good and to evil.

I remember looking into his eyes and seeing God and the Devil balanced equally in them. He was already an older man when he began BCCI, and he was determined to not to waste time in taking his vision and turning it into something very big.(3)

Abedi asked the total devotion of everyone around him. Should one of his employees decide to abandon an Abedi project, he took it personally, as if it reflected badly on Abedi himself, and would focus every attention in an effort to persuade the employee to change his mind.

For example, when BCCI officer Abdur Sakhia received two offers from other banks and decided to leave BCCI, Abedi refused to accept the situation:

I said I have to leave. They said you can do what you want, but please stay we wont let you go. I said, Mr. Abedi you are making things very difficult. I have two offers, one from Citicorp and one from BOP Canada. He started crying. It was absolutely heartbreaking. We used to sit in 15,000 square feet of open space. Mr. Abedi is at the head of the room and he started crying. We are people from the East, we are not trained to handle things like that. I said Mr. Abedi, my fate is in your hands, you can do with me what you like.(4)

Abedi As Pakistani Political Paymaster

Abedi's earliest successes were largely the result of his having recognized the importance in Pakistan of providing payoffs or other under-the-table services to Pakistani officials, especially the leadership of any current governing party. For example, when the United Bank was formed in 1959, Abedi appointed as chairman of its board I. I. Chundrigar, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, who was a close confidante of Pakistani's then current prime minister, Ayub Khan. Abedi maintained close ties to Khan's government, later hiring General Khan's minister of information to become the "publisher" of a BCCI promotional magazine, "South."(5) When the Pakistani military government was replaced following the debacle that resulted in the severance of East Pakistan into Bangladesh, Abedi became just as cozy with Pakistani "socialist" Ali Bhutto, Khan's ideological opposite. When Bhutto was overthrown in 1978 in a military coup, Abedi swiftly changed allegiances again to Bhutto's successor, Islamic "puritan" General Zia.(6) Zia later executed Bhutto for financial crimes, in which Abedi, among others, was clearly involved, while forming close ties to Abedi, on whose financial skills he increasingly relied.

Abedi's personal involvement in Bhutto's "crimes" was described officially in a White Paper issued by the Government of Pakistan in July, 1978 on "The Conduct of the General Elections in March 1977." In a section analyzing the illegal funding of campaign activities for the PPP, the party of Bhutto, the White Paper describes how "the other large source of funds was the money brought in by Agha Hasan Abdi [sic]" amounting to "two or three crores of rupees." A later reference to Abedi in the White Paper describes his "travels . . . loaded as he used to be with bagfuls of money."(7)

Abedi also sought out key pillars of the Pakistani private sector, securing the Saigol family as a key client of Abedi's in three successive banks -- Habib, United, and then BCCI. The Saigol group was one of the major industrial and trade groups in Pakistan by the mid-1950's, with its initial fortune made in textiles, and as close to "old wealth" as existed at the time within Pakistan's commercial class. Abedi first secured the Saigol account while at Habib, and took the account with him when he left to form United Bank, making the Saigol's United's principal shareholders. At the time, some in Pakistani's commercial community wondered how Abedi had managed to take the important Saigol relationship from the Habib Bank. Thirty years later, Price Waterhouse was to detail the reason -- Abedi's willingness to reschedule millions in loans to the Saigols whenever they found it inconvenient to repay them.(8)

Through these and similar relationships, Abedi built the United Bank into the second largest bank in Pakistan, complete with a protocol department responsible for taking care of the personal needs of VIPs. As founder, president and Chairman of United, Abedi was already a great success in Pakistani terms. But Abedi himself felt this was insufficient to meet his ambitions. And so Abedi increasingly began to focus on "high net worth individuals" outside Pakistan to liberate him from the inherent limitations of being nothing more than a very big fish in a Pakistan which Abedi viewed as too small to accommodate his vision.

Impact of Nationalization

By the early 1970's, there was an ongoing tension between Abedi's ambition to move beyond Pakistan, and that of the Pakistani government to keep Pakistani institutions generally and Abedi's bank specifically under its control. From the time he took power, Pakistani Prime Minister Ali Bhutto, typifying the socialist cast of much of the former colonial world in this period, was threatening to nationalize the banks, as he already had nationalized other sectors. Accordingly, Abedi began moving forward with the initial steps to form BCCI as a Pakistani-managed bank outside of Pakistan. When Bhutto in turn learned about Abedi's attempt to circumvent his new socialist order, he not only went ahead with plans for nationalizing the United Bank, but promptly placed Abedi under house arrest.(9)

While under house arrest, Abedi further developed his scheme for his new institution. Unlike United Bank, it would operate in a manner to defy the ability of the Pakistani government, or any other, to impede any objective it might seek. It would be the first global, international, and indeed, trans-national bank, and something more: a charity, a foundation, a shipping empire, an insurer, a brokerage firm, a commodities exchange, a publishing house, a world-class hospital for the rich, a real estate empire, an employee cooperative, an Islamic investment bank, and a Third World powerhouse.(10)

As a politicized, post-colonial Pakistani, Abedi frequently articulated the goal of achieving equality of status with the financial institutions of the former colonial powers. During the colonial period, millions of Indian and Pakistani expatriates had fanned out across British possessions to become the commercial class in many of them. But they had not yet developed their own financial institutions, and had still to rely on European financial institutions to do business, institutions whose attitude towards them ranged from ignorance to neglect to contempt. A bank of their own would treat them better, be able to do far more to help them, and make itself great at the same time.

As Abedi explained while under house arrest to Massihur Rahman, who later became his chief financial officer at BCCI:

Up to that stage in the early 1970's there were mostly national banks and savings banks. The few banks which are international are indeed the colonial banks from Britain, France, Germany, and lately from America. So they were normally not international, they were really national banks, big national banks of countries which were international in network only. So he felt that if a genuinely global bank would be started bridging all the Third World countries and also bridging the first world, there would be a unique banking structure which could be very, very useful socially and also very profitable.(11)

The nationalization of Pakistani banking which provided the impetus for BCCI also insured that BCCI would retain the Saigol relationship, as a substantial portion of their businesses were also nationalized by Bhutto in 1972. Nationalization also provided other Pakistani businessmen with powerful motivation to find a bank that could not be controlled by the Pakistani government. The most important of these proved to be the Gokal brothers, Pakistanis who became in the 1970's, through BCCI lending, owners of the largest shipping empire in the world, with a business that ultimately included commodity trading, general trading, manufacturing, financial services, and real estate.(12) In addition to freeing them from the threat of Pakistani appropriation, BCCI provided both the Saigols and the Gokals one key service from BCCI that no other bank could provide -- the freedom to defer repayment of past loans and to borrow new money at will. Moreover, both clients received a special privilege similar to that afforded BCCI's own officers: when something went wrong and they lost money, BCCI would help them cover it up. This was a matter not just of loyalty to ones intimate business associates -- it was also a matter of sound business practice, as recognizing losses on the loans would have hurt BCCI's balance sheets.(13)

Critical Elements of BCCI's Creation

Abedi needed five things to create BCCI. First, a bank secrecy and confidentiality haven, which he found first in Luxembourg, and then in Grand Caymans. Second, a source of capital, $2.5 million, which Abedi ultimately obtained from Bank of America, supplemented by another $500,000 from Sheikh Zayed of Abu Dhabi. Third, a source of initial assets, $100 million, of which at least half were provided as deposits by Sheikh Zayed. Fourth, a group of like-minded Pakistanis to operate the bank. These were now widely available as a result of Bhutto's nationalization of their banks. Lastly, credibility in the international community, through a relationship with an established Western financial institution which would provide prestige to BCCI, but not interfere with its unique approach to banking. This too was provided by Bank of America during BCCI's formative years.(14)

The most critical of these five elements was the relationship between BCCI and Abu Dhabi.

Abedi and Sheikh Zayed of Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is the largest and wealthiest member of the United Arab Emirates, an oil-rich federation of sheikhdoms with a combined population of under 1.5 million, bordering on Saudi Arabia and Oman, with one of the world's highest standards of living as a result of oil wealth. Like all of the Gulf sheikdoms, Abu Dhabi is unusual among modern states in that its ruler, and the ruling family, owns all the land and natural resources of the country in fee simple absolute, with no distinctions being made among the wealth of the ruler, his family, and the nation itself. As lawyers for Abu Dhabi have described it:

By tradition and historical background of the Trucial States, the ruler of an Emirate owns all of the land of his State. However, he allots land to his subjects individually for their use. Similarly, all the natural resources of the States are also regarded as the personal property of the ruler and his heirs who enjoy complete authority to utilize them as they consider fit.(15)

As early as 1967 Abedi's high net worth customers included the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, and his family. The illiterate Sheikh, a formerly impoverished desert Bedouin, was the recently installed head of a newly wealthy oil state who owed his power to a British coup against his brother in 1966. The brother had been deposed for having been unwilling to spend Abu Dhabi oil revenues for any purpose, including easing conditions for members of the British foreign service posted there.

After installing Sheikh Zayed, British officialdom had failed to pay attention to his desire to be taken seriously as an important world political leader. By contrast, Abedi viewed Sheikh Zayed to be a potentially important resource. By one account, the relationship began when Abedi made the decision to fly to Abu Dhabi in 1966 to solicit the right of the United Bank to take deposits from the thousands of Pakistani workers assisting in its modernization. Traveling with one assistant and bringing an oriental rug as a gesture of goodwill, Abedi secured Sheikh Zayed's permission for the United Bank to open a branch in Abu Dhabi.(16) By a second account, Abedi beat out the Habib Bank for taking care of arrangements for Sheikh Zayed's first bustard hunting and falconry vacation in Pakistan, personally waiting patiently outside the Pakistani government guest house while the Sheikh napped, and securing the right to handle the Sheikh's logistics when he awoke.(17)

By 1967, what had begun with Abedi handling the Sheikh's falconry and bustard-hunting trips in Pakistan, and the finances of Pakistani workers in Abu Dhabi, wound up with Abedi running the Sheikh's financial life. As far as Pakistani bankers observing the relationship were concerned, Abedi coordinated everything for Sheikh Zayed, from the building of the Sheikh's palaces in Pakistan, the furnishing of his villas in Morocco and Spain, his medical appointments, to the digging of wells for his homes in the desert.(18) As BCCI officer Abdur Sakhia put it,

Digging a well or two was a minor cost of doing business. Abedi's philosophy was to appeal to every sector. If you were religious people he would help you pray.(19)

From the point of view of BCCI, Sheikh Zayed and his family were ill-equipped to handle the demands of the modern world, and in the early days, dependent on Abedi and Abedi's bank for their every need. Even in the late 1970's, Sheikh Zayed, whose personal tastes were quite simple, would on trips abroad routinely write checks for $100,000 or $200,000 at a time for members of his retinue to spend as they liked, written on the back of a matchbook or a piece of toilet paper. This practice continued until BCCI officers provided the Sheikh with a gold checkbook and insisted that drafts be written on it.(20) As Akbar Bilgrami described his experiences with Zayed:

He would pray or listen to the news. He had a court jester-type person who made him laugh and told him poetry. He was a simple man, simple but shrewd. On a trip to Spain which lasted two weeks, his retinue spent $20 million, but he only spent $400 on himself the entire trip for two dogs whose price he negotiated down from $1,000.

He was a simple man who did not spend a lot of money on himself. It is part of Arab culture. The Sheikh is a sort of father figure. It is hard for him to say no to people, especially because he knows that everybody knows that he has the money. He would carry about a briefcase filled with expensive watches, Cartiers, Rolexes.(21)

Among BCCI officers it was believed that the United Arab Emirates itself owed its creation to Abedi, who came up with the idea as a means of reducing instability among the gulf emirates and increasing the stature of Sheikh Zayed.(22) As Sakhia recalled:

Abedi created the UAE. He planted the idea of the UAE as a federation to Sheikh Zayed. These people had no standing anywhere in the world. They were smugglers and tribesmen. When Sheikh Zayed would come for months in Pakistan, not even a policeman would give him any attention. Yet two months after meeting Abedi, Sheikh Zayed finally gets a state visit to Islamabad and meets the President of Pakistan which then became the first country to give him any status. The first embassy of UAE was opened in Pakistan and the second in London, and both were staffed by Abedi's appointments.(23)

In time, Sheikh Zayed would unburden himself to Abedi, and tell Abedi that he felt ignored by westerners, a sentiment he later repeated to Bert Lance, as Lance recalled to Senate investigators, and in testimony on October 24, 1991.

I remember a long conversation I had with Sheikh Zayed at his palace outside of Islamabad. There were three of us there: Bert Lance, Abedi, and Sheikh Zayed. The Sheikh was unhappy that the US hadn't paid any attention to him. The US Ambassador hadn't focused on him. . . He was being treated in a manner that really wasn't befitting the strategic importance or the fiscal importance of the UAE. [Zayed was] concerned about the discrimination as it related to the UAE vis-a-vis other Arab countries . . . receiving more attention and more concern than the UAE was.(24)

It is absolutely clear from BCCI documents that Abedi's relationship with the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi and the Al Nahayan family was the foundation of the establishment of the bank without which BCCI never could have come into existence. Throughout the first critical decade of BCCI's eighteen year existence, as much as 50% of BCCI's overall assets were from Abu Dhabi and the Al Nayhan family, who were earning about $750 million a year in oil revenues in the early 1970's, an amount that rose to nearly $10 billion a year by the end of the decade. Until the formation of a separate affiliate, the Bank of Credit and Commerce Emirates (BCCE), BCCI functioned as the official bank for the Gulf emirates, and handled a substantial portion of Abu Dhabi's oil revenues. And yet from the beginning, there was an oddity about this central relationship: at no time while Abedi was in charge of BCCI did Abu Dhabi hold more than a small share of BCCI's recorded shares. Abu Dhabi appears not to have capitalized BCCI, but instead to have insisted on guaranteed rates of return for the use of its money.

As Akbar Bilgrami, who handled Sheikh Zayed's personal finances in the late 1970's at BCCI, has described it, BCCI provided Zayed with great benefits for what appeared at the time to be very little risk. Zayed deposited substantial funds, amounting to billions of dollars, in BCCI, receiving a guaranteed rate of return on these deposits -- sometimes as high as 1.5 percent over LIBOR, a standard European funds rate. In return for a relationship that was costing him little and indeed, making him profits, Sheikh Zayed received the prestige and benefits of having people all over the world believe it was his bank, without his own funds being at risk.(25) Thus, rather than being a major investor in fact in BCCI, in the early years, Abu Dhabi only agreed to place extremely large sums of money as deposits at the bank, which BCCI used in lieu of capital.

An eyewitness to BCCI's creation described Abedi's elation after Sheikh Zayed agreed to back his new bank in a scene that took place in late 1972, in the late evening, in the living room of a Pakistani banker in Abu Dhabi. Abedi addressed the Pakistanis present in the following terms:

It is truly the grace of God that the prayers of all the U.B.L. [United Bank of Pakistan] employees who had to flee Bangladesh and who had been kept on the U.B.L. payroll by us, have been provided a source of livelihood by God. The Sheikhs have been kind enough to give me their trust and support the new bank that we are creating for these employees.(26)

Abedi used the expression "rizq," or "providence" to describe the deal he had consummated with Sheikh Zayed. But there would have been a number of compelling reasons for Sheikh Zayed to respond to Abedi's offer. Sheikh Zayed was financially unsophisticated and in need of assistance from someone he could trust to handle his finances in a manner that would meet his personal, cultural and political needs. These included the need for secrecy as to the location and size of his wealth, given the political instability within the region; the need to adhere to Islamic law, through structuring transactions so that they could be profitable and safe without the payment of interest in violation of that law. There was, moreover, no one within Abu Dhabi who the Sheikh could trust to provide the adequate secrecy. Indeed, apart from Abedi, Sheikh Zayed may well have known no one inside or outside Abu Dhabi with the apparent sophistication to handle finances of the magnitude that were being generated by the petrodollars. In any case, Abedi had already been attending to all of the Sheikh's personal needs in Pakistan for five years, thereby demonstrating his ability to make the relationship worry-free for the Sheikh.

Abol Helmy, an Iranian BCCI officer, described the relationship as a logical outgrowth of the post-colonial period in the Third World:

The British ruled India, Pakistan, and the Arab countries. Traditionally, the Indians and then the Pakistanis because of the Moslem thread that linked them became the civil servants for the British working in the Gulf. It was a continuation of the policies of the Empire.(27)

As a result of the Abedi-Zayed agreement, Abedi now had essentially unlimited resources to create BCCI. He could now act simultaneously as manager of billions of Sheikh Zayed's personal wealth, as banker to the United Arab Emirates of which Sheikh Zayed was chief of state, and as chairman of a new bank that had guaranteed assets of hundreds of millions of dollars from its inception.(28) Moreover, Sheikh Zayed was accustomed to the use of nominees, as nominee purchases were frequently employed whenever he wished to buy anything to avoid the price increasing if the Sheikh's name had been mentioned as part of the negotiations.(29)

One consequence of this arrangement, however, was that Abedi's success was overly dependent on his relationship with Abu Dhabi and its assets. He was managing the Sheikh's resources, he had use of them, and if he did not meet the Sheikh's needs, he could lose everything. Recognizing this dependence, Abedi made it a practice to insure that BCCI would provide whatever the Sheikh required, whenever the Sheikh or his family wanted it. As BCCI records demonstrate, payments, often characterized as loans, were made to members of the Abu Dhabi royal family on an as-needed basis by BCCI, without any regard as to whether these same resources were also being committed elsewhere. With Abedi relying on the Sheikh's resources to finance his rapid expansion, BCCI's finances quickly became so intermingled with the finances of Abu Dhabi that it was difficult even for BCCI insiders to determine where one left off and the other began.

BCCI's Protocol Department

By all accounts, Abedi flattered Zayed, and to ensure that no detail of his needs would be neglected, established a large protocol department, first at the United Bank and later at BCCI.

The most detailed account of the protocol department's activities provided publicly to date has been that of Nazir Chinoy, who as a branch manager of BCCI in Pakistan had substantial direct contact with the head of BCCI's protocol department, Sani Ahmad, and had first-hand knowledge of the protocol department's finances.

According to Chinoy, upon his arrival at BCCI-Pakistan in 1978, the protocol department employed about 120 people, whose job was "to establish and further the rapport with the sheiks of and ruling families of Dubai and Abu Dhabi." The protocol department was financed by BCCI, and had nothing to do directly with the bank. Instead, it was handled as an adjunct to special activities of Abedi, managed by Ahmad under Abedi's direction, and housed in Karachi in a separate building opposite Mr. Abedi's house.(30) From 1978 through 1982, the period Chinoy was at BCCI-Pakistan, the protocol department principally functioned as the administrative wing of the Abu Dhabi royal family for their foreign travel.

The rulers and their families would come very frequently. Ninety-percent of the time, the guests were from Abu Dhabi and Dubai; occasionally, Oman, and the other emirates. They would come for shooting at the Game Reserves. There was one particular cashier called Ibrahim. Sani would call me and tell me to make Ibrahim available. He would take 5 million in huge notes of rupees. At that time about $400,000. In Pakistan that is a hell of a lot of cash money. It would be carried out in steel trunks. We would be given money from the rulers account in Abu Dhabi in US Dollars.(31)

As of 1978, the expenses of the protocol department were about 300,000 rupees a month -- about $600,000 a year, rising to $2.5 million a year by the early 1980's, and as much as $10 million a year at the height of BCCI's success. The protocol department was not responsible for financing its own operations. Its expenses were instead paid by the Pakistani branch of BCCI each month after it received a statement from BCCI protocol chief Sani Ahmad describing his expenditures. These expenditures were always paid by the BCCI branch, even though often, the bankers were unable to determine the nature of the expenses or the reasons for the expenditures.

According to Chinoy:

Sani would tell me that I need one million rupees today and we would give him the money and the branch would pay the money. What it was paid for we would have no idea. I did not want to get involved in this either and he would report to Mr. Abedi and I would tell Abedi what money had been given to Sani Ahmed. Abedi would never initial or sign [any of the documents], but he looked at and approved everything.(32)

Each hunting trip's expenses would amount to several million dollars, requiring a special exemption from the State Bank of Pakistan to permit the funds to be debited from BCCI's protocol department. This exemption was granted by the State Bank after arguments by Abedi that Pakistan needed to maintain BCCI's relationship with Abu Dhabi as a means of improving its overall balance of payments.(33)

By the late 1970s, BCCI's protocol department handled all affairs for the 18-20 palaces BCCI maintained for the ruler of Abu Dhabi in Pakistan, all under the direct control of Sani Ahmed. In return, money was sent each month from BCCI Abu Dhabi to Pakistan to pay for the gardeners, telephones, and maintenance of houses.

The protocol department also established a special relationship with Pakistani Customs airport authorities so that members of Arab royal families would receive VIP treatment that avoided the usual delays associated with entering Pakistan.

Along with the construction of palaces and vacation homes, BCCI handled private matters for the visiting Al-Nahayans, including the procurement of Pakistani prostitutes for the male members of the family. These were typically teenage girls, known as "singing and dancing girls," and selected, outfitted and trained by a woman named Begim Hashari Rahim, who later was promoted to the official position of Interior Decorator to the Royal Family of Abu Dhabi.(34)

As head of the protocol department before becoming head of BCCI's Washington, D.C. representative office, Sani Ahmad had a unique role at BCCI and special relationship with Abedi. He was treated with deference by other BCCI officers, who did not consider him to be a banker, but a fixer. As Chinoy recalled:

Sani was the trusted man for things no one else was supposed to know. We were the technocrats. Sani Ahmed would handle the things we wouldn't, like get girls. If anyone paid anyone any money [as a bribe], Sani would have been the one to do it.(35)

Bank of America

Ironically, although Abedi now had a large source of assets for BCCI, the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi could not provide him with credibility in the west. Abedi's first choice for a prestigious western partner, American Express, insisted on having a major say in BCCI's management, which Abedi would not tolerate.(36) Abedi's search for a more compliant partner brought him to Bank of America, which in 1972 was one of the most aggressive of U.S. international banks, with a presence in Iran already and in Pakistan. For BCCI, a relationship with Bank of America would provide recognition in the west and access to the Bank of America's global network for correspondent banking. For the Bank of America, BCCI provided a potentially lucrative entry to Arab oil wealth, at a tiny capitalization cost of just $2.5 million.(37) Following what Abedi referred to as "an historic lunch" in San Francisco, Bank of America agreed to provide the money and to be a passive partner in BCCI, permitting Abedi to run the operation as he pleased.(38) As Abedi told a British magazine, Euromoney, in the summer of 1978:

Bank of America agreed to become a shareholder, but we made it a condition that we would establish the management style.(39)

With only $3 million in total capital, Abedi kept BCCI's initial overhead down through promising the central Pakistani recruits to his team that they were members of a family, employed for life, whose future prosperity was being built collectively. He made the founder group shareholders of BCCI and put them to work in a tiny office in Abu Dhabi sharing what Massihur Rahman later described as "mess-type flats."(40) Working conditions in Abu Dhabi, and at BCCI in the early days, were extremely primitive, but more easily accepted by the Pakistani bankers than they would be by western ones.(41)

Simultaneously, Abedi relied upon senior Bank of America officials to sit on BCCI's board of directors, to recruit additional bankers for BCCI, and to approve all major loans by the bank. Among the key figures retained by Abedi as directors from Bank of America were Yves Lamarche, who had previously managed Bank of America operations in the Middle East, J.D. Van Oenen, a European Bank of America official, and P.C. Twitchen, formerly, Vice President of Bank of America. Another prominent Bank of America figure, Roy Carlson, who was based in Iran, later became President of National Bank of Georgia at a time when it became secretly owned by BCCI.

Ownership of BCCI

Although Abu Dhabi had a key interest in BCCI from its creation, in accord with Abu Dhabi's failure to provide the initial funds for capitalization, BCCI's early stock recordations did not show Abu Dhabi as the actual owner of the bank. A snapshot of BCCI shares from Bank of America files as of September 30, 1977 described BCCI's majority owner as ICIC, at 50.1 percent; its most important minority owner as Bank of America, at 30 percent; and its largest Arab owner as Majid Al-Futaim of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates at just 4 percent, with the members of the family of Abu Dhabi owning just 3.4 percent all told.(42)

This list indicated that the Pakistanis actually owned BCCI at a time when to the outside world, the bank was ostensibly owned by oil-rich Middle Eastern Arabs, including the ruling families of Bahrain, Sharjah, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, as well as that of Abu Dhabi.(43)

That picture was complicated still further, however, by the fact that ICIC was not the owner of record of any of its shares of BCCI on the share register of BCCI in Luxembourg. Instead, several of the shareholders on the register were acting as nominees for BCCI, according to the Bank of America records. Moreover, some of the subsidiaries owned by BCCI also relied on nominees, and by the late 1970's, ICIC was the record controller of as much of 70 percent of BCCI all told.(44) Yet even at the time, BCCI officers were told by Abedi that ICIC really owned only about 30 percent of BCCI.(45)

A further difficulty in interpreting the issue of ownership was that ICIC continuously was borrowing very substantial amounts from BCCI with inadequate documentation, with the result that for all practical purposes, BCCI was repeatedly buying itself, and using various nominees along the way to hide this fact.

Looking to BCCI's capitalization was of little help in determining its ownership, either. Apart from the tiny, real capital of $2.5 million placed in BCCI by the Bank of America, and an additional $500,000 acknowledged by Abu Dhabi, there remains no evidence of other substantial cash infusions in the bank in the early years, suggesting that from the beginning, Abedi and Sheikh Zayed had agreed to provide BCCI only the assets of Sheikh Zayed as a depositor, rather than his capital as an investor. This pattern, in which Abedi asked for little in the way of cash on the line from potential "investors," would be repeated in other cases, except that often, a shareholder would contribute merely the prestige of his name and aura of wealth, rather than deposits or any actual financial contribution.
Site Admin
Posts: 33486
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The BCCI Affair: A Report to the Committee on Foreign Re

Postby admin » Thu Apr 28, 2016 8:27 pm

Part 2 of 2

The Early Use of Front-Men

As a privately held company, BCCI was obliged to no one to provide detailed information about shareholders. BCCI made it a practice never to reveal exactly who owned how much of the bank. However, in direct contradiction to BCCI's obsessive secrecy about the actual facts of its ownership, Abedi heavily publicized the fact that most of the most important royal families of the oil-rich states of the Middle East were "shareholders" from the first in BCCI, and therefore were ostensibly backing the bank with their fabulous petrowealth.

What the outside world did not know is that in every case -- with the possible exception of Zayed's and Abu Dhabi's acknowledged holdings in BCCI -- these backers had been provided hold harmless agreements by BCCI, providing them guarantees against loss, and that the interest in BCCI held by these royal families had been essentially provided to them by Abedi as a "gift," accompanied by generous terms on lending and other BCCI services.

Just as BCCI's board of directors would later contemptuously be referred to as "RAF," for "rent-a-face," by BCCI insiders, Abedi had essentially rented the names of many of the Arab world's most prominent oil-rich monarchs. Instead of the public image of their backing BCCI with their money, BCCI was paying them for the illusion that they were behind the bank.

BCCI's glossy promotional materials were characteristically misleading on the issue of its initial capitalization. In describing its history in a mid-1980's Group Profile made available to the public, BCCI wrote:

The BCC Group was originally conceived as an international banking organization backed by Middle Eastern investors to provide commercial banking services world-wide . . . Its initial paid up capital of $2.5 million was subscribed by Bank of America (25% later increased to 30%) and the balance by investors from the Middle East (emphasis added).(46)

The deliberate vagueness of the phrase "the balance" underscores the lack of any substantial additional initial capital in BCCI beyond that provided by Bank of America. The $500,000 investment acknowledged by Abu Dhabi to the Subcommittee for the first time on May 14, 1992 would have been considered surprisingly tiny had it been revealed in 1972.

Some hint of how Abedi approached the capitalization problem is found in Abedi's motivational rhetoric, in which he constantly talked of BCCI as something that could be created out of pure willpower. "Western Banks concentrate on the visible, whereas we stress the invisible," Abedi told a British journalist in 1978.(47) Such a statement could be taken as many did take it, as mystical gobbledygook. But it well described Abedi's technique for building a banking empire -- building something out of nothing by relying on something invisible but powerful: images of wealth. These images, from BCCI's fancy buildings to the photographs of Abedi posing with its fabulously wealthy Middle Eastern "shareholders," provided as much power for Abedi as the real money would have done, so long as everyone believed it was there. It was far easier to ask a Middle Eastern potentate for his name than for his money, and as far as Abedi was concerned, the results were the same.

Although ICIC "owned" 70 percent of BCCI in 1980 upon Bank of America's withdrawal, ICIC mysteriously became a minority owner of BCCI by the end of the decade. As of December 31, 1989, ICIC held less than 11 percent of BCCI, with Abu Dhabi becoming the principal shareholder, holding over 35 percent, including shares owned by various members of the Al-Nahyan family and the Abu Dhabi investment authority.(48)

Yet the actual picture as to BCCI's ownership even then remains clouded. Several of the larger shareholders registered at that date, including Wabel Pharaon with 11.55 percent, Mohammed Hammoud, with 3.44 percent, Abdul Raouf Khalil, the Saudi government's intelligence liaison to the United States and other foreign governments, with 3.08 percent, and Kamal Adham, Khalil's predecessor as Saudi intelligence chief, with 2.94 percent, were acting as BCCI's nominees for ownership of its own shares, through guarantees that prevented them from being at risk. Moreover, Price Waterhouse could at the time find no evidence of the bank's actual contact with Khalil, its supposed "shareholder," for a number of years, although there were numerous transactions in his name undertaken in that period.(49)

A year later, following the disclosure of massive losses at BCCI as a result of Price Waterhouse reports to the Board of Directors, the Abu Dhabi royal family had took full legal title of BCCI, increasing its share to over 78 percent of all BCCI shares, with the new shares obtained entirely from those formerly held by the nominees.(50)

Given the many mysteries about BCCI's shareholding from its creation and the fact that critical records remain missing, it remains difficult to determine retrospectively whether or not Abu Dhabi had the ability at all times to do what it ultimately did in 1990 -- obtain direct and complete formal control of the majority of BCCI shares.

BCCI's Rapid Expansion

Throughout the 1970's, BCCI expanded rapidly, with Abedi adding new corporate members to the BCCI family by the month. Initially, BCCI was incorporated in one location only, Luxembourg. Two years later, a holding company was created, BCCI Holdings, with the bank underneath it BCC S.A., split into two parts, BCCI S.A., with head offices in Luxembourg, and BCCI Overseas, with head offices in Grand Cayman. Luxembourg was used mostly for BCCI's European and Middle East locations, and the Grand Caymans mostly for Third World Countries.(51)

This structure was intentionally further complicated by the establishment of a series of additional entities, used as "parallel banks" by BCCI as needed for financial manipulations. These parallel entities included the Kuwait International Finance Company (KIFCO), in which BCCI ostensibly had only a minority interest; a Swiss bank, Bank de Commerce et Placements SA (BCP), in which BCCI also ostensibly had only a minority interest; the National Bank of Oman, again with BCCI formally holding only a minority interest; a 100% owned finance subsidiary, Credit & Finance Corporation Ltd,; and the series of entities based in the Grand Caymans and collectively known as "ICIC," which became the principal "bank within a bank" at BCCI. In the cases in which BCCI's official interest was minority, its apparent lack of control was the consequence of local regulations prohibiting a foreign bank from owning a majority share. Each time, BCCI found ways to evade the regulations through the use of front-men or nominees, and wound up being able to direct the operations of these institutions as if they were wholly-owned subsidiaries.

BCCI's aggressive drive for expansion was necessitated by a financial strategy that pursued asset growth, rather than profitability, as the key to success. This approach was a necessity because of the underlying lack of working capital and BCCI's high-start up costs. The idea was that through rapid growth, BCCI would eventually fill the holes in its capital through commissions on its frenzy of activity. In the meantime, growth could disguise temporary operating losses through creative bookkeeping. In fact, the growth did not end the losses, but exacerbated the underlying capital problem, because BCCI needed to increase its retained capital in order to show an adequate cushion for its billions in new assets. The solution to this problem, like all others, for Abedi, was relentless growth.

To implement this approach, BCCI officers were directed to focus their attention on individuals and entities who controlled large sums of cash: people like central bank officials, heads of state, "high net worth individuals," and black marketeers, and offer them terms significantly better than the terms offered by competing banks, or services, such as kick-backs and freedom from documentation, that the competition was unwilling to provide. As a marketing document from BCCI in the United States, prepared during the mid-1980's, advises BCCI officers, they should vigilantly look for "client relationships which are considered special for . . . reasons such as confidentiality, high sensitivity, requirement of special attention and service, large size deposit, business or profit, complexity of business, etc.," which would receive specialized attention from BCCI higher-ups.(52)

BCCI's trans-national character continued to be a critical ingredient of its marketing. As BCCI historian K.K. Elley noted in 1982, BCCI because "serves no country of individual. . . No customer need fear that their assets will be frozen because their country is having a difference with the country of BCCI's origin."(53)

Fueled in part by infusions of petrodollar deposits from Gulf State rulers during the hey-day of the OPEC years, BCCI's early growth was exponential, especially in the United Arab Emirates, the Sultanate of Oman, Yemen, and Bahrain, as the following profile of the first five-years of BCCI's performance demonstrates.

Year # / Branches # / Countries / Assets Growth

1973 19 5 $200 m --
1974 27 7 610 m 204%
1975 64 13 1.2 b 98%
1976 108 21 1.6 b 37%
1977 146 43 2.2 b 33%

After consolidating its position in the Middle East, BCCI identified Africa as the next area for growth. A number of African countries possessed many of the traits that BCCI had learned to exploit in the Middle East -- autocratic rulers who controlled much of the wealth of their nations, primitive working conditions for bankers which discouraged westerners, and non-western attitudes towards the payment of gratuities as a cost of doing business.

African expansion began in Egypt, Sudan, Mauritius and Seychelles, and extended by 1979 into Kenya, Swaziland, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Typically, BCCI operated in these countries in a corrupt environment marked by cash bribes, kickbacks to senior central bank officials of the nation involved, and special arrangements with the heads of state.(54) As a consequence of its willingness to do things that most westerns banks were not, BCCI soon became the largest foreign bank operating in Africa.

The third phase of BCCI's growth targeted Asia, and included the acquisition of the Hong Kong Metropolitan bank from the Swiss Bank Corporation. This branch of BCCI later became the vehicle for handling very large transactions by the Chinese government, whose business Abedi secured through a mixture of public charitable activities and private kick-backs.(55) Simultaneously, BCCI decided to expand into the Americas, opening offices in Canada, branches in the United States, and in Venezuela, Columbia, Panama, and Jamaica. By the mid-1980s, BCCI's empire extended to banks or branches in 73 countries, and assets totalling about $22 billion.

BCCI's amazing rate of growth continued in good years and bad, without regard to macro-economic conditions. For example, in Hong Kong during the 1983-1984 period, BCCI prospered while other foreign banks were forced to retrench because of economic downturn. This phenomenon was repeated in the United Arab Emirates during a slump that began around 1983 because of the fall in oil prices; and in Nigeria in the late 1980's -- a time when other foreign banks withdrew from operations there. As BCCI officer Nazir Chinoy later explained, in the case of Nigeria, at least, this result was because BCCI was willing to bribe officials and assist them in handling their payments in a manner that the competition, hemmed in by auditors and lawyers, could not meet.(56)

Abedi's Mysticism As Component of BCCI Strategy

While engaging in corporate legerdemain as a means for hiding what he was doing, Abedi developed a peculiar mystic philosophy for BCCI, which was shared with BCCI's recruits in annual meetings as part of motivating them to give their "all" to BCCI's expansion. Many of BCCI's more senior officials viewed Abedi's philosophical musings as boring and unintelligible material which had to be endured.(57) At annual meetings of BCCI officials, Abedi would often speak about his philosophy for hours at a time. However, Abedi's stature at BCCI was such that no one ever challenged him, and instead, younger officers seeking to rise in the ranks would parrot Abedi's philosophy and describe how it had changed their lives.(58)

Abedi's philosophy was an often obscure mix of Islamic mysticism focusing on the links between the individual, the family, and the universe; and self-help sales motivational pitches. For example, in describing BCCI's decentralized and obscurantist structure in philosophical terms, Abedi wrote:

Our restructuring and reorganization has its own meaning that emerges out of our own needs, our own purpose and our quality and quantity of human resource that we from time to time become. We accept the truth that each one of us is different and like every human being each one of us is inadequate, but unlike others we genuinely accept each other and we have a tremendous urge and desire to constantly move towards adequacy. . . [T]he quality of relationships . . . is the essence of an organization. It is the shining truth. It is the truth that every individual member of the family must unveil in his feelings -- in his psyche. It must spark like a brilliant star in his heart.(59)

Abedi described the key functions of BCCI's support centers to BCCI officers under their jurisdiction as "keep their energy flow," and "becoming an agent of change," including "extricating the Managers and the staff from the malady of containment and psychological lethargy and inertia wherever it has set in."(60)

In an earlier management meeting in New York in 1983, on memo paper featuring a sepia-toned highlight of the hand of God touching the hand of Adam in Michelangelo's Creation from the Sistine Chapel, Abedi explained that BCCI's spiritual aspect was much more important to its success than its material aspects.

We must learn to "feel" that BCCI is this Power and not merely a group of branches, a set of facts and figures. Since, BCC is a power, a spirit, a Desire - it is all encompassing and enfolding - it relates itself to cosmic power and wisdom, which is the will of God. . . . OUR MAJOR FUNCTION: To have a desire, Improve its volume and quality, Make others have such a Desire, Merge this in the pool of corporate Desire, Make the purpose of this Desire our major purpose, Make it BCC identity.(61)

Abedi then asked the key pertinent question: "IS BCC A DESIRE, OR IS BCC A BANK?"(62)

While on one level these philosophic discussions appear far removed from the practical elements of banking, in fact there was an important link between the philosophy and BCCI's strategy of asset growth. The philosophy, obscure as it was, described the importance of relentless, ceaseless activity as a means of growth, and of the need to remove "obstacles" to the growth, regardless of the source. Junior officers were encouraged to keep things moving and not to worry much about rules. Senior managers were advised to encourage junior officers to experiment, and to help them circumvent even the rather relaxed procedures that applied to doing business at BCCI. As Abedi told forty-five of his managers in 1985:

If our colleagues who represent young energy and young hope do not live up to our standards in the task they perform, how do we deal with them? Our response could either encourage them to flow and in time enable them to come closer to the desired standards or may stifle and discourage them early on in their careers, thereby diminishing any chance of them improving and performance towards excellence. Do not nip the flower in the bud. . . give them room to breathe. (63)

Under Abedi's guidance, BCCI officers learned that they would be rewarded for any technique that allowed them to acquire customers and assets, and would not be punished by the bank even for engaging in unorthodox or illegal banking practices. In the words of BCCI official Akbar Bilgrami:

Abedi had a saying to younger employees, that if a banker cannot make money for himself, he cannot make money for the bank. It was an invitation to enrich yourself, that I never felt comfortable with.(64)

When a BCCI banker was caught by local regulations, he would not be punished, but simply transferred from the location or from BCCI to another entity controlled by the bank, often with a bonus payment.(65) By contrast, if an officer refused to facilitate an obviously illegal transaction, BCCI's senior officials would simply go around him, and his career would suffer accordingly.(66)

Abedi made use of mysticism as a motivational technique even on the most mundane of banking matters. When BCCI developed Travelers Cheques in 1986 as a new product, Abedi convened a conference of BCCI employees to announce that these cheques were "a profitful instrument of relationship." Abedi announced that "travelers cheques add a new dimension to my personality. They are a means of making a profit and at the same time a means of fulfilling my aspirations. There is great happiness in selling the largest possible volume of travelers cheques."(67)


As a technique for insuring security and control, Abedi adopted a strategy taken from intelligence operations. He compartmentalized information about BCCI. Compartmentalization insured that even within the bank, officers in one operation would have little to no information about the nature of the activities of an officer in another area. Not only was information about BCCI's activities closely held, but even senior officials were discouraged by Abedi from asking questions. As Massihur Rahman testified:

I was very uncomfortable because in [previous bank jobs], I could go across the board and go to any division and see any of the operation. But here I could see these Chinese walls were getting very, very watertight and we were always taught about humility and ego and anything that was slightly out of context was considered just an ego trip.(68)

Instead of having vice presidencies, the bank had 50 senior executives and 198 managers, with only two people considered to be higher up than all others: Abedi and his chief assistant, Swaleh Naqvi. As Rahman described it:

There was Mr. Abedi at the very top, there was Mr. Naqvi who was like a chief operating officer, who converted . . . Mr. Abedi's ideas and things into practical shapes. And then there was a big gap between these two and the other executives who were all called general managers. All of us were called general managers. . . You couldn't be senior to anybody else, you're all the same pay, the same benefits.(69)

Consequence of BCCI Structure and Philosophy on Audits

Abedi's unique approach to banking had the effect of removing most checks and balances on BCCI. Other senior officers did not have a complete picture of BCCI's operations. The board of directors learned little beyond what Abedi and Naqvi told them. And outsiders, including BCCI's auditors, could be easily manipulated.

This manipulation was facilitated by Abedi's decision to divide its annual audits between two of the then "Big Eight" accounting firms -- Ernst & Whinney and Price Waterhouse, with Ernst & Whinney taking responsibility over only the holding company and BCCI Luxembourg, and Price Waterhouse taking responsibility over only BCCI Overseas in the Grand Cayman, a state of affairs which ended with Ernst & Whinney's withdrawal in 1986, and Price Waterhouse gaining responsibility for a consolidated audit of all BCCI activities in 1987. Even then, however, Price Waterhouse was not in the position to review BCCI's overall picture due to the exclusion from its audit work of a number of BCCI affiliates, some secretly owned, including ICIC, KIFCO, and BCP. Moreover, as late as 1990, key documents involving guarantees against loss by BCCI to principal shareholders, held in the Grand Caymans and in Abu Dhabi, do not appear to have been made available to auditors.

Obstacles In the United Kingdom

Some of the same factors that made BCCI's growth possible also inhibited it from further expansion. Its rapid expansion had prompted intense speculation in the United Kingdom, which was interfering with BCCI's ability to obtain a full banking license from the Bank of England, as Abedi implicitly acknowledged in a 1978 interview.

The Bank of England probably hasn't given permission because of the atmosphere surrounding the BCCI and the propaganda that has been spread about us. . . It is not only the Bank of England that is against us, but the Club.(70)

The hostility to BCCI in the United Kingdom, which was the headquarters for BCCI's operations, was all too reminiscent to Abedi of the conditions that had lead to the demise of the United Bank in Pakistan. Abedi needed to move outside the reach of the United Kingdom. An obvious solution was to find a new home for BCCI in the United States.

Unfortunately, the relationship with Bank of America had become an obstacle to such a move for BCCI. Rather than see BCCI expand into its home base, Bank of America was increasingly uncomfortable with its partner. Despite its initial agreement to let BCCI be BCCI, Abedi's original U.S. partner, Bank of America, had found itself bewildered by many BCCI practices from the beginning. An internal "family history" of BCCI, written as a case study by one of BCCI's key officers in the United States, Khusro Karamat Elley on October 27, 1982, provides a sanitized version, from BCCI's point of view, of what went wrong between BCCI and Bank of America:

The Bank of America found on their hands an affiliate which had already become one of their largest and in which they had no management control. They were also being required to contribute every year to the increase of capital in order to maintain their portion of the shareholding. Perhaps most importantly they had also arrived at the conclusion that the Middle East had become far too important not to have a direct presence.(71)

In fact, by 1976, Bank of America had already stopped contributing to new infusions of capital for BCCI, reducing its share from 30 percent to 24 percent. By the spring of 1976, extensive discussions within Bank of America about BCCI's unusual practices had resulted in a series of memos being created and circulated among senior officials at the bank. Two of these memoranda, introduced as exhibits in the 1978 litigation over the FGB takeover, make explicit the profound disquiet at Bank of America over BCCI's handling of its Arab clients and its management style.

The first memo, written May 10, 1976 from Bank of America Executive Vice President Alvin C. Rice to Scudden Hersman, Jr., a senior vice president, noted the concerns that some in Bank of America had expressed about BCCI's unusual attention to meeting the personal needs of leading political figures, especially in the Middle East, but stated that no bookkeeping entries demonstrating abuses had been found. Rice warned, however, that the overall relationship between Bank of America and BCCI was a difficult one:

We are just not operating on the basis of mutual trust and cooperation that make the whole effort and exercise worthwhile. Substantial profits usually have a way of curing problems but this case is an exception. If we can't make some major breakthroughs in the near future, we will have to consider alternatives such as divestiture.(72)

In the second memo, written following a meeting between Rice and Abedi, Rice described how he and Abedi had discussed the problem of BCCI officials withholding information from Bank of America officials. Abedi attributed this to cultural differences:

According to Abedi, frank criticism "American style" is something Pakistanis are not accustomed to. Criticism is taken as a personal affront and for this reason, sometimes BCCI officers have not wanted to disclose fully operating procedures that they knew would not meet BofA's quality standards.(73)

Later, Rice would tell journalists that the fundamental problem he encountered with BCCI was that BCCI thought nothing of bribery, and believed that even obstacles with regulators could be fixed through "baksheesh."(74)

These concerns simmered for another year at Bank of America. But by the fall of 1977, disapproving questions from an auditor from the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency in London responsible for reviewing Bank of America's overseas holdings, intensified Bank of America's concerns. These concerns had already been acknowledged privately in other Bank of America internal memoranda about BCCI: its overly-cozy relationship with its shareholders, its practice of providing shareholders with unusual banking services, Bank of America's inability to penetrate BCCI's banking practices, and BCCI's hostility to Bank of America inquiries about those practices.

By February, 1978 the OCC auditor had concluded that Bank of America was substantially at risk from BCCI.(75) But by then, divestiture of BCCI by Bank of America was in the interests of both banks. BCCI needed to sever its relationship with Bank of America to provide itself with additional options in connection with its ongoing attempt to buy Financial General Bankshares. Bank of America needed to reduce what might soon become an actual liability on its books. Accordingly, Bank of America had begun to implement a rapid divestment agreement with BCCI through the purchase of the Bank of America shares by BCCI's bank-within-a-bank, ICIC, described by the Bank of America in a January 30, 1978 press release merely as "one of the other major BCCI shareholders." In announcing the sale of its stake in BCCI, Bank of America emphasized that "the close co-operation that has developed between the two banks will be maintained."(76) Over the following decade, Bank of America would in fact maintain correspondent banking relationships with BCCI, continually seek additional business from BCCI, collude in at least one of BCCI's purchases of foreign banks through nominees in South America, and earn a great deal of money from the relationship until BCCI's closure.(77)



1. "Growth of International Banking: Case Study of Bank of Credit and Commerce Intl, Khruso Karamat Elley, October 27, 1982, Senate Document 385.

2. See e.g. "The Mysteries Behind Abedi's Bank," Euromoney July 1978; S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 3, pp. 305-310; "The man who adds a touch of mysticism to banking," Financial Times, May 17, 1978; S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 3, pp. 303-304.

3. Staff interview, Rahman, August 7, 1991.

4. Staff interview, Sakhia, October 7, 1991.

5. Testimony of Rahman, S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 1, p. 540.

6. Former BCCI Pakistan branch chief Nazir Chinoy provided detailed information about the Zia-Abedi relationship in a series of interviews with Senate staff from March 9-16, 1992; see also check to General Zia from BCCI-UAE, May 25, 1985, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 2 p. 511.

7. White Paper on the General Elections, Government of Pakistan, July 1978, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 3, pp. 314-317.

8. See Price Waterhouse reports to BCCI on "Problem Loans," February 14, 1990, in S. Hrg. 103-350, Pt. 1, pp. 359-360 and BCCI Task Force Report on Saigols, id, pp. 437-438.

9. Massihur Rahman, S. Hrg. 102-350, Part One, p. 489.

10. Id.

11. Id. at 490-491.

12. BCCI Task Force Report on Selected International Loans, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 1 p. 417, testimony of Rahman, Id. pp. 532-533.

13. Id at 455-456.

14. See testimony of Rahman, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 1, pp. 489-491; Financial Times, May 17, 1978, "The man who adds mysticism to banking," S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 3, pp. 303-304; "The mysteries behind Abedi's bank, Euromoney, July 1978.

15. Letter from Baldwin Tuttle to Lloyd W. Nostian, Jr., Federal Reserve Richmond, November 5, 1980.

16. "BCCI Founder: These Things Happen," Najam Sethi, Wall Street Journal, July 29, 1991.

17. See e.g. Bankrupt, The BCCI Fraud, Kochan & Whittington, p. 23.

18. Staff interviews with Massihur Rahman, August 7, 1991; Abdur Sakhia, October 9, 1991; Nazir Chinoy, March 9-16, 1991.

19. Id.

20. Akbar Bilgrami, Staff interview, July 13, 1992.

21. Staff interview, Bilgrami, July 13, 1992.

22. Id.

23. Staff interview, Abdur Sakhia, October 7, 1991.

24. Staff interview, Lance, October, 1991; testimony of Lance, S. Hrg. 102-350 pp 20-21.

25. Bilgrami, staff interviews, July 13-14, 1992.

26. Transcribed verbatim statement of BCCI insider, April 8, 1991.

27. Staff interview, Abol Helmy, January 13, 1991.

28. Id.

29. Staff interview, Akbar Bilgrami, July 13, 1992.

30. Staff interviews, Chinoy, March 9-16, 1992.

31. Id.

32. Staff interviews, Chinoy, March 9-16, 1992.

33. Id.

34. Testimony, Nazir Chinoy, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Operations, March 18, 1992, p. 26.

35. Id.

36. Euromoney July 1978, S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 3, pp. 305-310.

37. Growth of International Banking, Case Study of Bank of Credit and Commerce Intl, Khruso Karamat Elley, October 27, 1982; BCCI internal document, Senate investigation.

38. Id.

39. The Mysteries Behind Abedi's Bank, Euromoney, July 1978; S. Hrg. 103-350, Pt. 3, pp. 305-310.

40. Testimony of Rahman, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 1, p. 491.

41. Growth of International Banking, Case Study of Bank of Credit and Commerce Intl, Khruso Karamat Elley, October 27, 1982; BCCI internal document, Senate investigation.

42. Exhibit I, OCC Report of Joseph Vaez to Robert Bench, February 15, 1978.

43. See e.g. Euromoney July 1978 chart, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 3, p. 306.

44. Exhibit II, OCC Report of Joseph Vaez to Robert Bench, February 15, 1978.

45. Staff interview, Sakhia, October 7, 1991.

46. BCC Group Profile, undated, 1985.

47. Financial Times, May 17, 1978, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 3, p. 303.

48. BCC Holdings (Luxembourg) S.A., List of Shareholders as On 15.10.1990, Senate Document 300.

49. BCCI documents from Abu Dhabi, Grand Caymans, Panama, showing Khalil transactions; Price Waterhouse, Report to Board of Directors of BCCI, February 18, 1989, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 1, pp. ___.

50. BCCI Holdings (Luxembourg) S.A>, List of Shareholders as on 31.12.89, Senate Document 298.

51. Testimony of Rahman, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 1 p. 491.

52. "Client Contact and Relationship Programme," BCCI internal document from Agha Hasan Abedi to U.S. employees, October 9, 1985, Senate document.

53. "Growth of International Banking: Case Study of Bank of Credit and Commerce Intl, Khruso Karamat Elley, October 27, 1982, Senate Document 385.

54. Staff interviews, Nazir Chinoy, March 9-16, 1992.

55. Confidential source, Senate investigation, March, 1991.

56. Staff interview, Chinoy, March 9-16, 1992.

57. Interview, Nazir Chinoy, March 9-16, 1992.

58. Staff interviews, various BCCI officers; various Senate BCCI documents.

59. "Context and Rationale," Statement of Agha Hasan Abedi to BCCI officials, undated, Senate BCCI Document 1269.

60. Id.

61. BCCI document, Summary of the Management Meeting, New York, 12.2.83 p. 7.

62. Id.

63. Note of Meeting with the President on 17.1.85 at 5pm, Senate BCCI document.

64. Bilgrami, staff interview, July 13, 1992.

65. Testimony of Rahman, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 1, p. 513.

66. Staff interview, Chinoy, March 9-16, 1992; staff interview. Sakhia, October 7, 1991.

67. Abedi, BCCI International, internal publication of BCCI, May 1986, Number 35, p. 12.

68. Id. at 495.

69. Id. at 497.

70. Abedi, quoted in Euromoney, July 1978, in S. Hrg. 1 03-350 Pt. 3, p. 308.

71. Growth of International Banking, Case Study of Bank of Credit and Commerce Intl, Khruso Karamat Elley, October 27, 1982; BCCI internal document, Senate investigation.

72. Bank of America Memo, Rice to Mersman, May 10, 1976, Lamarche Dep Exhibit No 6, August 11, 1978, FGB litigation.

73. Bank of America Memorandum for the Files, May 26, 1976, Lamarche Deposition Exhibit 7, August 14, 1978, FGB Litigation.

74. London Telegraph Magazine, November 10, 1991, No Questions Asked, p. 12.

75. Office of Comptroller of the Currency Report of Joseph Vaez, February 15, 1978, memo to Robert R. Bench from J.E. Vaez, National Bank Examiner London regarding BCCI Holdings (Luxembourg).

76. Id.

77. Staff interviews, Sakhia, October 7, 1991; Chinoy, March 9-16, 1992.
Site Admin
Posts: 33486
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The BCCI Affair: A Report to the Committee on Foreign Re

Postby admin » Thu Apr 28, 2016 8:30 pm

Part 1 of 2


BCCI's unique criminal structure -- an elaborate corporate spider-web with BCCI's founder, Agha Hasan Abedi and his assistant, Swaleh Naqvi, in the middle -- was an essential component of its spectacular growth, and a guarantee of its eventual collapse. The structure was conceived by Abedi and managed by Naqvi for the specific purpose of evading regulation or control by governments. It functioned to frustrate the full understanding of BCCI's operations by anyone.

Unlike any ordinary bank, BCCI was from its earliest days made up of multiplying layers of entities, related to one another through an impenetrable series of holding companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, banks-within-banks, insider dealings and nominee relationships. By fracturing corporate structure, record keeping, regulatory review, and audits, the complex BCCI family of entities created by Abedi was able to evade ordinary legal restrictions on the movement of capital and goods as a matter of daily practice and routine. In creating BCCI as a vehicle fundamentally free of government control, Abedi developed in BCCI an ideal mechanism for facilitating illicit activity by others, including such activity by officials of many of the governments whose laws BCCI was breaking.

As one BCCI officer later recalled, Abedi had a saying that expressed his view about law:

The only laws that are permanent are the laws of nature. Everything else is flexible. We can always work in and around the laws. The laws change.(1)

BCCI would not change to accommodate human laws. On the occasions that such laws actually interfered with BCCI's business, BCCI would, as necessary, change the laws to accommodate BCCI -- or ignore them entirely.

Significantly, at the same time that BCCI created its elaborate corporate structure for the purpose of deceiving and defrauding those outside BCCI, within BCCI, BCCI's various entities were largely disregarded, and treated interchangably. As BCCI's liquidators concluded one year after the bank's closure in a report to the bank's creditors committee, "in a number of respects, the BCCI Group appears to have conducted its affairs as a single entity, witout clearly identifying which company or entity within the BCCI Group was responsible for any particular transaction."(2)

As a result, the records of BCCI's criminal activity constitute an accounting and legal nightmare, and a full record of what actually took place is unlikely to be reconstructed. BCCI's multiplicity of locations, layered corporate structure, front-companies, front-men, its willingness from the top down to falsify information, and its pervasive disregard for the national laws of each country it operated in, combined to create a culture of criminality within the bank so massive as to defy investigation.

BCCI records in the United States are fragmentary and incomplete. To the extent that they are organized at all, that organization is in chronological order document by document, rather than according to any subject matter, customer account, or transaction. Though fragmentary, these records are also voluminous, amounting to at least 9,000 boxes in New York and Miami alone, and several million pages. Foreign BCCI document repositories of BCCI, especially in the United Kingdom, the Grand Caymans, and Abu Dhabi, are even larger, with access for U.S. investigators limited by foreign bank confidentiality, privacy laws, and the willingness of the foreign jurisdictions to cooperate.

One year following the closure of BCCI, federal investigators in the U.S. were still in the process of microfilming BCCI documents from Miami, and liquidators for BCCI in the United Kingdon had indexed 1600 boxes containing approximately 2.4 million separate BCCI documents -- approximately 2.5 percent of the total of BCCI's documents in the United Kingdom.(3)

Adding to the inherent problem of investigating the largest case of organized crime in history, spanning over some 72 nations, has been the destruction of documents at BCCI and its affiliates by shredding and arson; document backdating and falsification; the removal of most key documents from London to Abu Dhabi in 1990; the refusal of authorities in the United Kingdom and in the Grand Caymans to share information with Congress and other U.S. investigators as a consequence of their interpretation of local bank confidentiality and privacy laws; the inability to question Abedi due to his stroke, the inability to question BCCI's other key officials due to their incarceration and segregation in Abu Dhabi by Abu Dhabi officialdom since July 5, 1991, and BCCI's haphazard method of record-keeping.

Regardless of what might be shown in the missing material, the remainder is more than adequate to document BCCI's criminality, including fraud by BCCI and BCCI customers involving billions of dollars; money laundering in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the America; BCCI's bribery of officials in most of those locations; its support of terrorism, arms trafficking, and the sale of nuclear technologies; its management of prostitution; its commission and facilitation of income tax evasion, smuggling, and illegal immigration; its illicit purchases of banks and real estate; and a panoply of financial crimes limited only by the imagination of its officers and customers.

Among BCCI's principal mechanisms for committing crimes were shell corporations, bank confidentiality and secrecy havens, layering of corporate structure, front-men and nominees, back-to-back financial documentation among BCCI controlled entities, kick-backs and bribes, intimidation of witnesses, and retention of well-placed insiders to discourage governmental action.

As Robert Mueller III, the Assistant Attorney General at the Justice Department now in charge of the BCCI investigation, testified in October, 1991:

BCCI was not an ordinary bank. It was set up deliberately to avoid centralized regulatory review, and operated extensively in bank secrecy jurisdictions. Its affairs are extraordinarily complex. Its offers were sophisticated international bankers whose apparent objective was to keep their affairs secret, to commit fraud on a massive scale, and to avoid detection.(4)

In the words of former Senate investigator Jack Blum:

The problem that we are all having in dealing with this bank is that . . . it had 3,000 criminal customers and every one of those 3,000 criminal customers is a page 1 story. So if you pick up an one of [BCCI's] accounts you could find financing from nuclear weapons, gun running, narcotics dealing, and you will find all manner and means of crime around the world in the records of this bank.(5)

However daunting the task of explicating the full extent of BCCI's criminality, it is essential to recognize that at core, BCCI was not a bank which made an adequate return on investment through lending out depositors funds like other banks, but a "Ponzi scheme," which used new depositors funds to pay current expenses and to repay earlier depositors, creating a pyramid of mounting obligations that ultimately and inevitably would bring about BCCI's collapse.

As Blum testified:

"The people I talked to at the bank would say, this was a bank that was very strange, because it needed deposits all the time, and if you're running a Ponzi scheme you need more and more cash in to support the whole system of fraud that you've generated. What it meant was that BCCI people would go out and bribe central bank officials and high government officials to get them to deposit their country's foreign exchange at BCCI, and in exchange for whatever amount of money, suddenly the foreign exchange reserves of a country would be put there and put to use."(6)

From the beginning, BCCI President Abedi conceived of BCCI as a machine with two driving mechanisms -- asset growth and faith. The latter was essential to prevent a day of reckoning when depositors and creditors alike would cause a run on the bank. The former was necessary to sustain the latter through bad times. Together, they worked to sustain the illusion that BCCI was solvent, when in fact, it is unlikely BCCI was ever solvent.

On December 18, 1991, in an agreement with the Justice Department and New York District Attorney, BCCI's liquidators pled guilty to having engaged in a criminal conspiracy through financial fraud, and thereby constituting a Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO), whose entire assets, legitimate and illegitimate, were subject to confiscation by the government. Specific crimes admitted to by BCCI's liquidators in the agreement included:

** Seeking deposits of drug proceeds and laundering drug money
** Seeking deposits from persons attempt to evade U.S. income taxes
** Using "straws" and nominees to acquire control of U.S. financial institutions
** Lying to regulators and falsifying regulatory documents
** Creating false bank records and engaging in sham transactions to deceive regulators.(7)

Thus, the criminality at BCCI was not, as has sometimes been suggested, a side-effect of the bank's enormous growth during the 1970's, an unintended consequence of overly rapid expansion, but inherent in the bank's philosophy of asset expansion from the beginning, and pervasive to its closure.

While U.S. law enforcement was not able to legally establish BCCI as organized crime until December, 1991, the scope of BCCI's criminality had been clear to both prosecutors and BCCI's defense team at least a year earlier. As BCCI's own private investigators, hired by the bank after its indictment in Tampa for money laundering in October, 1988, told BCCI officials in 1990:

It is [the government's] view that BCC is a full service bank in the worse sense of the phrase. [Prosecutors] believe that it is official bank policy to actively seek out and market high net-worth individuals, and to gain from them large and frequent deposits, preferably in cash. They see such marketing efforts as being done at best without regard for the source of the customer's cash, ant at worst with tacit acceptance or even actual knowledge that in many cases the customer's money is derived from illegal enterprises, most notably narcotics. . . In the eyes of some prosecutors and investigators, the Bank's "services" are not limited merely to accepting the proceeds of illegal activities. They believe that BCC[I] officers and employees, with express upper management approval, also actively assist and even advise their customers on the most effective methods of hiding their money and evading taxes. Money, for example, is seen to be hidden or "laundered" by the constant, carefully controlled transfer of funds from one account to another within BCC and its world-wide branches or between BCC and other banks related to BCC, thus making the money almost impossible for U.S. law enforcement to trace. (8)

As an officer of BCCI Canada wrote to law enforcement just three days after the closure of BCCI worldwide, even those inside BCCI were often appalled by its practices.

We have read with a sense of relief that finally somebody had the guts to investigate into the affairs in the Bank . . . BCCI s.a., BCCI Overseas and BCC Canada have been for years conducting false accounting practices, concealment of losses (more so to avoid displeasing the Arab Owners) and making irregular loans.(9)

The letter went on to describe the knowledge of principal officers of BCCI, including its chief executive officer in the Americas, knowledge of money laundering, drug trafficking, loans created in "bogus" names, and advances of funds to non-existent companies in London, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Malta, the Channel Islands, and other locations. The writer begged investigators prosecute "the big crooks in London and Abu Dhabi."(10)

BCCI Paris branch manager Nazir Chinoy would later admit to investigators that essentially all of BCCI's activity in France was the result of the customer or the bank or both violating somebody's laws.

All the money we got [at BCCI-France] in some way we were breaking the law. If you taking it with a kickback, you are breaking foreign exchange, all Africans who brought their money got commissions which meant kick-backs. Back to back LCs to misrepresent financial deals, taking out less money in a third world country and keeping a share, kickbacks, exchanges, laundering, in some way you are breaking the law in each case. The law breaking was pretty systematic.(11)

Scope, Types and Techniques of Fraud

BCCI's financial empire was built on the fiction that it was heavily capitalized by oil-rich Arab leaders, when the reality was that most of them -- and according to some credible information, all of them -- were acting as nominees, providing either their names to BCCI, or their names plus their funds in the form of deposits to BCCI to get a guaranteed no-risk return, rather than as actual investors at risk.

As a result, BCCI never had a substantial capital base, and was forced from the beginning to use deposits to meet operating expenses rather than to properly invest them in legitimate loans or other financing. Not having the actual capital base, BCCI simply pretended it was there, and enlisted the reputations of its shareholders to assist it in so pretending, in order to lure others to deposit their funds with BCCI. As BCCI officers have told the Subcommittee, BCCI in effect had to create retained capital out of operating profits through juggling its books because of the lack of real capitalization. Because of the lack of real profits as well, the supposed profits had to in turn be manufactured through juggling the books pertaining to deposits. These deposits, in turn, could only receive a good return on investment through taking the funds from new deposits, requiring BCCI to grow at a frenzied pace in order to avoid collapse.

As Manhattan prosecutor Robert Morgenthau described in his indictment against BCCI of July 29, 1991, to whose first six counts BCCI's liquidators plead guilty as part of the December, 1991 plea agreement,

[BCCI's] scheme was premised on the fact that banks rely on credit. The essence of the scheme was to convince depositors and other banking and financial institutions, by means of false pretenses, representations, and promises that the BCC Group was a safe financial repository and institution for funds, and thereby defendants acted to persuade depositors and banking and other financial institutions to provide the BCC Group banks with deposits and credit.(12)

The New York District Attorney found that among the major actions taken by BCCI to carry out its fraud were:

** Employing the ruling families of a number of Middle Eastern states as nominees for BCCI, who pretended to be at risk in BCCI but who were in fact guaranteed to be held harmless by BCCI for any actual losses.

** Using bank secrecy havens including Luxembourg and the Cayman Islands to avoid regulation on a consolidated basis by any single regulator of BCCI, and thereby to permit BCCI to transfer assets and liabilities from bank to bank as needed to conceal BCCI's true economic status.

** Paying bribes and kickbacks to agents of other banking and financial institutions, thereby avoiding the scrutiny of regulators. (13)

The Sandstorm Report

An insider's account of BCCI's fraud created by BCCI's own auditors, Price Waterhouse, and provided to the Bank of England dated June 22, 1991, the "Sandstorm Report," was the final evidence that lead to the shutdown of BCCI globally on July 5, 1991. That draft report, based on a review of banking records from several countries and interviews carried out through the spring of 1991, found evidence of "widespread fraud and manipulation," at BCCI, reflecting "the general scale and complexity of the deceptions which have undoubtedly taken place over many years."(14) This information was developed when Price Waterhouse investigated some $600 million of BCCI deposits not recorded in BCCI's books. Other major losses related to BCCI accounts in related entities, including ICIC in the Grand Caymans, sometimes know as BCCI's "bank-within-a-bank," the Bank de Commerce et Placements, a BCCI subsidiary in Switzerland, the Kuwaiti Investment Finance Company (KIFCO), a secret BCCI subsidiary ostensibly owned by a BCCI nominee.

The Sandstorm report has been provided to the Subcommittee solely in a heavily censured form by the Federal Reserve at the insistence of the Bank of England, which forbid the Federal Reserve from providing a clean copy of the report to the Congress on the ostensible ground that to do so would violate British bank secrecy and confidentiality laws. However, even with the hundreds of items and almost every identifiable name in the report censured, it is clear that the Sandstorm report outlines criminality on a vast scale.

Among the specific types of BCCI fraud described by Price Waterhouse in Sandstorm were account manipulation of non-performing loans, fictitious profits and concealed losses, fictitious loans set up in connection with repurchases of shares, misappropriation of deposits, fictitious transactions and charges, unrecorded deposit liabilities, nominee arrangements to create false capitalization, unorthodox and apparently illegal repurchasing arrangements for shareholders, the "parking" of loans to avoid recognition of losses, shoddy lending, bad investments, off-book transactions, false confirmations of transactions, misrepresentations with respect to beneficial ownership of shares, fictitious customer loans, falsified audit confirmations, and the drafting of fraudulent agreements.(15)

The Sandstorm report -- prepared by Price Waterhouse for the benefit of BCCI's final group of managers, brought in for the purpose of finding a way to help BCCI survive as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Abu Dhabi -- describes BCCI's fraud, rather kindly, as originating in BCCI's sense of vulnerability in case of any losses because of its lack of any lender of last resort and the hostile attitude of the international banking community. According to Price Waterhouse, to compensate for this weakness, BCCI's management, including Abedi and Naqvi, believed it was essential to declare profitability every year regardless of the true financial condition of BCCI. Accordingly, Abedi and Naqvi provided guaranteed rates of return to principal Middle Eastern shareholders of BCCI, and then falsified and manipulated accounts and records as necessary in order to pay those returns, while still showing profits. (16)

When BCCI actually lost money due to poor lending practices, rather than accept provisions for the losses, it simply disguised them, through what Price Waterhouse described as "a very complicated series of manipulations of loan and deposit accounts, treasury activities and purchases of its own shares." (17)

Price Waterhouse found significant account manipulation at BCCI beginning as early as 1976.(18) These account manipulations were, according to BCCI officials interviewed by the Subcommittee, carried out in order to make BCCI appear to be a far more profitable institution than it really was, and thus provide a sufficient capital base to justify its level of lending and provide "security" for its deposits.

As BCCI's losses grew, so did its manipulation of accounts and its frauds, as well as its use of affiliated and related entities such as ICIC in the Grand Caymans, the Banque de Commerce et Placements in Geneva, the National Bank of Oman, and the Kuwaiti Investment Finance Corporation (KIFCO).

The bank has a history of poor lending where it now appears that a significant amount of account manipulation has gone on. This has included the utilization of funds routed through Fork [ICIC], including funds managed by Fork Investments [ICIC Investments]; the use of fictitious lionize drawn down in the names of third parties; and the use of unrecorded deposits, in an attempt to avoid the need to make provisions. This routing of funds has been carried out on a very significant scale, involving a number of related companies, including the Fork Holdings Group [ICIC Holdings Group], LOANS, NBO, and KIFCO, and third party banks such that it is now difficult for anyone to ascertain the true nature of external exposures recorded in the names of certain major customers.

It now appears that over the period from 1977 to 1985, the Treasury operations of Sandstorm made significant losses. These losses were concealed and at the same time significant profits were manufactured. The precise amount of such loans/fictitious profits cannot now be established but may well have been of the order of $600-$700 million before funding costs, or approaching $1 billion if funding costs are added.

These losses were originally funded through unorthodox means at the behest of Abedi. . .(19)

The underlying situation at BCCI, already bad, worsened dramatically in 1985 as a result of $500 million in losses "incurred" by BCCI in commodity trading undertaken through Capcom, BCCI's commodity trading affiliate, managed for BCCI by S.M. Akbar. According to Massihur Rahman, who was BCCI's chief financial officer at the time, this was equivalent to BCCI's entire capital, and threatened to wipe out the bank.(20)

Price Waterhouse concluded:

In 1986 . . . it was discovered that significant losses had been incurred in option trading. When Akbar resigned, he left a record of his activities with [redacted by Bank of England] who brought under his own control the amounts which had been financed by unorthodox means. [Redacted by Bank of England] set up a small central team under [redacted by Bank of England] to review the record left by [redacted by Bank of England] to verify the representations made by Akbar and maintain contact with the customers. We understand that whilst [redacted by Bank of England] attempted to establish some control by [illegible] customers deposits, largely by using funds from Fork [ICIC], he could not bring himself to make full disclosure, which would almost certainly have brought the bank down.

Instead as a result of continued pressure for profits and loan servicing he continued to use unrecorded deposits, certain external funds (with Fork Holdings [ICIC Holdings] and companies controlled but not legally owned, by it) and funds were drawndown on bogus loan accounts in the name of prominent Middle East investors. These funds were applied to adjust other balances in order to avoid making provision for bad loans and to conceal the past Treasury losses, in an enormous and complex web of fictitious transactions in what is probably one of the most complex deceptions in banking history.

These losses now form a major part of the current deficit in the bank which has been rectified by the financial support arrangements providing by the Government of Abu Dhabi.(21)

Manager's Ledgers and Numbered Accounts

Among BCCI's unusual practices was the use of "managers ledgers" in addition to numbered accounts to manipulate accounts through back-to-back transactions that were essentially untraceable.

BCCI insiders advised the Subcommittee in early 1991 that these accounts often were designated solely as "ML" with a number following it, and often no one other than the BCCI officer responsible for the account would have any idea who, if anyone, owned it. In some cases, even the BCCI officer in charge of the account would be unable to identify its owner.

Price Waterhouse described this practice in BCCI Grand Caymans as early as April 1986, stating that "we have no particular objection to [using numbered accounts]," but "we found that in most instances none of the officers of the Grand Cayman office were able to correctly identify either the name of the borrower or the credit officer responsible for monitoring the account at other locations."(22) At the time, Price Waterhouse suggested that BCCI should improve its management of such accounts to prevent such occurrences, but when the bank failed to do so, Price Waterhouse took no additional action other than adding an asterisk (*) to this notation in later audit reports, indicating that the recommendation had been made to BCCI more than once.

Later, Price Waterhouse noted how financial transactions from BCCI to its secretly held Swiss subsidiary, LOANS, were marked "PAY WITHOUT MENTIONING OUR NAME," with the result that the recipients of the funds from LOANS were unable to determine from whom or where the money had come.(23)

Price Waterhouse's findings were later affirmed by its successor accountants, Touche Ross, who handled the liquidation of BCCI. A year after becoming liquidator, Touche Ross noted that the true picture of BCCI's activities was distorted by such practices as "loan parking," "artificial fund transfers," the provision of multiple loans to a customer, each secured by the same property, and many similar improper practices.(24)

BCCI Concealment of Treasury Losses

In 1985, after rumors of BCCI's losses in options trading reached bank regulators, Luxembourg bank regulators asked BCCI to provide an audited review of its central treasury activities. BCCI selected Price Waterhouse Cayman to perform the work, which determined in early 1986 that significant losses had been incurred and not recorded. According to Price Waterhouse, it concluded then that the losses and lack of record keeping were due to "incompetence."(25) However, in the 1991 Sandstorm Report, Price Waterhouse found that "with the benefit of hindsight, it appears more sinister in that it now seems to have been a deliberate way to fictitiously inflate income."(26)

BCCI officials have confirmed that the account provided Price Waterhouse in 1986 was designed to conceal the long-term nature of BCCI's inflation of its books.(27)

Ziauddin Akbar, the Treasury official held responsible for the massive losses in 1986 and fired by BCCI at the time following their discovery, told two BCCI officials in the U.S. in 1988 that Akbar had been a "scapegoat," used by BCCI's management to deceive the auditors when the auditors had accidently caught on to long-term manipulations by BCCI of its financial condition.

Ziauddin Akbarr told these officials that BCCI had been inflating its assets from the mid-1970's in order to make the make look profitable when it was not. When Price Waterhouse discovered this activity in 1986, BCCI's top officials worked out a scheme with Akbar under which he would accept responsibility, and pretend that the losses had just happened in the previous year due to unwise commodity speculations by BCCI. In that way, the losses would be viewed by outsiders as an unforunate one-time occurence, and with the sacrifice of Akbar, BCCI could continue.(28)

In its 1991 review, Price Waterhouse found that among the specific techniques used by BCCI to hide its losses were:

** misappropriation of deposits without depositors knowledge to provide funds to adjust non-performing and bogus loan accounts, and Treasury losses.

** misappropriation of external funds deposited under trust with Sandstorm [BCCI] and Fork [ICIC] to be managed on behalf of a few prominent people who are also shareholders of [BCCI] Holdings.

** the creation of loans with no commercial substance in the names of people without their knowledge.

** selling certificates of deposit placed with the Central Treasury without informing the depositors, and using the proceeds to fund adjustments.

** routing funds through [ICIC], LOANS, KIFCO, SDCC and other affiliates and third parties to make adjustments prior to accounting reference dates and audit confirmation dates, which were often reversed at a later date.(29)

ICIC -- The Bank Within A Bank

From the early days of BCCI, the various legal entities known collectively as ICIC, functioned officially as a BCCI pension fund for BCCI officers, and unofficially as BCCI's principal "bank within a bank."

The flexibility of ICIC to carry out many different schemes for Abedi is indicated by the number of different entities Abedi created using the identical ICIC abbreviation, including International Credit and Investment Company Overseas, Ltd.; International Credit and Investment Co., Ltd.; International Credit and Commerce (Overseas) Ltd.; ICIC Holdings of Grand Cayman; ICIC Apex Holdings; ICIC Overseas, Cayman; ICIC Foundation; the ICIC Staff Benefit Fund; the ICIC Staff Benefit Trust; ICIC Business Promotions; ICIC Business and Promotions; and others.

As BCCI liquidators in the Grand Caymans found, ICIC was not really a bank at all, but a post-office box location to "book" transactions that were initiated, organized, and approved in other parts of BCCI. In essence, ICIC was a "conduit" or mechanism for BCCI's fraud.(30)

Some of the bewildering number of purposes and uses of the different ICICs included:

ICIC Apex Holding Limited. Incorporated on October 2, 1987 as the ultimate holding company for the ICIC Group, equivalent to a charitable trust, with the beneficiaries designated as "mankind at large."

ICIC Holdings. Incorporated on April 6, 1976 as the holding company for the ICIC Group, created as the holding company for ICIC Overseas. ICIC Holdings "invested" in ICIC (Overseas) and loaned money to ICIC Foundation and the ICIC Staff Benefit Fund.

ICIC (Overseas) Limited. Incorporated on April 6, 1976 as an offshore bank to facilitate the purchase and sale of BCCI shares and to provide private banking services for BCCI shareholders and customers. (ICIC Overseas also advanced funds to nominees to allow them to purchase interests in the three other BCCI affiliates -- Attock Oil, Credit and Commerce Insurance, and the Saudi Development Company.)

ICIC Foundation Cayman. A charitable foundation wholly owned by the ICIC Foundation in the United Kingdom, established by a gift of BCCI shares owned by ICIC Holdings. The assets of the Foundation were shares in BCCI, and the assets of the UK Foundation were one-third of the shares of LOANS, the secretly-owned Swiss affiliate of BCCI.

ICIC Staff Benefit Fund. A Cayman entity wholly owned by the ICIC Staff Benefit Trust for the benefit of BCCI Employees, established by a gift of BCCI shares from ICIC Holdings. This entity held another one-third of the shares of LOANS.(31)

Usually, correspondence and transactions involving any of these ICIC entities would refer merely to ICIC, leaving it to top BCCI management to determine which of the entities, if any, would get "credit" or be "debited" for the particular transaction.

No one within BCCI other than Abedi, Naqvi, and small circle of younger assistants, had an overall picture of ICIC. To early Pakistani recruits to BCCI, such as Massihur Rahman, ICIC was described as a "parallel organization" to BCCI which would "hold shares of the bank for the founder group," in essence, a holding company controlling the stock of the BCCI holding companies.(32) ICIC was also, from the beginning, a mechanism to disguise and misrepresent the ownership of BCCI. As needed, ICIC took on additional characteristics: bank, foundation, and finance company. But its most usual purpose was to act as a vehicle for BCCI's inflation of assets and concealment of losses, acting as a mechanism for at least $1 billion of circular transactions to inflate BCCI's books.

The first detailed audit of ICIC conducted by Price Waterhouse took place in 1991, with its draft conclusions provided to BCCI's board of directors on June 17, 1991, in a report classified by Price Waterhouse as "strictly private and confidential." The Price Waterhouse report provides cautions that its findings were based on records which were missing, falsified, or incomplete. But the picture drawn in the report again details fraud on a massive scale.

The Price Waterhouse audit found that BCCI effectively controlled ICIC, and that most ICIC transactions were initiated at the instructions of senior BCCI management: Swaleh Naqvi, the number two man at BCCI, and two of his assistants, Mr. Hafeez and Mr. Imam. ICIC's uses included:

** Financing BCCI shares and capitalization, through the use of nominees, buy-back arrangements, and guaranteed minimum returns on investments.

** Routing funds in a manner to disguise their true nature and effect on BCCI.

** Providing guarantees, through commitments signed by BCCI management on ICIC letterhead, for various nominee arrangements for shareholders of companies secretly controlled by BCCI, such as First American through its holding company, CCAH.

** Lending to BCCI shareholders and customers.

** Paying BCCI expenses.

** Handling the management of customer funds controlled by BCCI chairman Abedi through powers of attorney.

** BCCI buying its own shares through nominees through ICIC.

** Processing financial transactions that were "unrecorded" at BCCI and which therefore remain untraceable.(33)

In all, ICIC made $290 million in loans, of which all but perhaps $25 million is apparently lost. About $93.5 million of those loans were used to purchase shares of BCCI itself; another $100 million in loans went to nominees for BCCI, or for "routing" transactions aimed at disguising BCCI's financial status; another $20 million went to an ICIC subsidiary, ICAC, and effectively disappeared in ICAC's insolvency. Another $62 million in lending went to "secure" interests in other entities by BCCI "shareholders," including people who were clearly serving as nominees.

ICIC lending included millions to major front-men for BCCI including Ghaith and Wabel Pharoan, Faisal al Fulaij, Prince Turki, and Mohammed Hammoud. The role at BCCI of Hammoud, who purchased the shares of Clark Clifford and Robert Altman in First American in 1988 with funds lent him by BCCI, is illustrated by the fact than when his BCCI loans become delinquent, they were simply transferred from BCCI to ICIC.(34)

Examples of ICIC being used by BCCI to handle nominee relations include:

** Wabel Pharoan writing ICIC on December 4, 1984 to confirm that all transactions in BCCI shares in his name were undertaken as a nominee.

** Faisal al Fulaij writing ICIC on February 16, 1985 to confirm that ICIC was entitled to all profits, and was required to bear all losses, on the CCAH (First American Bank) shares in his name which were being managed by ICIC.

** BCCI officer H.M. Kazmi writing Saudi Sheikh Kamal Adham on August 2, 1987 to confirm that Adham was not liable for any loans recorded in his name on the books of ICIC, including Adham's loans secured by his shares of CCAH for the First American Bank and Attock Oil.(35)

ICIC also offered unorthodox services, including guarantees against loss, to prominent Middle Eastern political figures, including the rulers of several Gulf states. For example, BCCI #2, Swaleh Naqvi, sent confirmation letters in February 1990 from ICIC Holdings to the Rulers of Ajman and Fujairah advising them that loans to them from BCCI would be paid off through proceeds from the disposal of their shares in CCAH, owner of the First American bank. In the event that their shares did not cover losses, Naqvi confirmed that these Rulers would not be required by ICIC or BCCI to pay them. It is notable that at the time Naqvi made this commitment, CCAH and the First American Banks had not been offered for sale to anyone.(36)

Money Laundering

From the time of BCCI's indictment on drug money laundering charges in Tampa, Florida in October, 1988, there was little doubt to anyone looking at the facts that BCCI had been used to launder drug money.

The Customs agents working on the "C-Chase" case against BCCI, moved millions of dollars in U.S. currency, representing the proceeds of cocaine sales through BCCI Panama, BCCI Luxembourg, and LOANS Switzerland as a result of the knowing participation of several BCCI officials.(37)

As Robert Mazur, the Customs agent in Tampa who selected BCCI as the target of the Customs money laundering sting testified, BCCI bank executives volunteered methods to enhance and improve his techniques for money laundering, and shortly before the sting ended the operation, offered to introduce Mazur to other potential "cash" customers for money laundering services from Bogota, Colombia.(38)

Attorneys for BCCI and the bank itself contended that the Tampa case represented an accident involving a small number of bank officers. Indeed, when BCCI itself pled guilty to money laundering in January, 1990, the bank continued to take the position that this guilty plea only constituted an admission that a few of its employees had engaged in the activity, and that its guilty plea was based solely on a theory of corporate responsibility, "respondeat superior." As BCCI's attorneys argued to federal prosecutors and Senate staff prior to the bank's January 1990 plea agreement, it was inevitable that a bank operating in so many countries would be used by drug traffickers. This was partially true, as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics Matters acknowledged:

Setting aside those instances where BCCI managers knowingly promoted money laundering, BCCI seemed attracted to traffickers for the same reasons that other banks have been found attractive. First, traffickers seek international banks that are sophisticated in wire transfers, that have branches in those parts of the world where they operate, and which permit quick retrieval of funds. Second, traffickers seek banks in those countries where national banking laws afford maximum secrecy to depositors, permit nominee accounts, and do not provide for close monitoring of cross border transactions of currency movements.(39)

Given BCCI's size and dispersion, money laundering at BCCI would have been inevitable under any circumstances. Given BCCI's never ending quest for assets and its management's attitude towards laws, it was ubiquitous. As Akbar Bilgrami explained, Abedi was constantly telling BCCI employees that the only thing that mattered was the generation of assets. When Bilgrami was in Colombia in the mid-1980's, a period when Colombia had already developed the reputation as the center for cocaine smuggling and drug money, Abedi told him that he needed to increase BCCI's activity in Colombia to $1 billion in local currency in deposits, and $1 billion in U.S. denominated deposits -- funds which obviously could only be generated, directly or indirectly, from the drug trade.(40)

BCCI's December, 1991 plea agreement with U.S. law enforcement outlines the systematic nature of the money laundering as follows:

40. The BCCI Defendants and their affiliates . . . would and did formulate and implement a corporate strategy for increasing BCCI's deposits by encouraging placements of funds from the proceeds of drug sales, in conscious disregard of the currency regulations, tax laws, and anti-drug laws of the United States, and of other nations;

41. In furtherance of the BCCI Group's corporate strategy to pursue deposits in disregard of United States and foreign law, the BCCI Defendants . . . would knowingly offer a full range of services to drug importers, suppliers and money launderers;

42. Co-conspirators would and did conduct . . . financial transactions with narcotics drug proceeds including the wire transfer of said proceeds from places in the United States to and through other places outside the United States, with the intent to conceal and disguise the nature, location, source and ownership of these drug proceeds.(41)

The criminal information entered into by the liquidators outlined how BCCI laundered money, detailing its use of certificates of deposits held at foreign branches to offset cash deposits made in the U.S.; its technique of crediting "counter-balancing loan proceeds" to foreign corporate bank accounts designated by drug traffickers; and BCCI's use of false names, codes, and counter-surveillance techniques against law enforcement, among other money-laundering techniques.

Knowledge of the bank's money laundering activity was not limited to a few high-level officials at the bank, as former BCCI chief financial officer Massihur Rahman contended.(42) As Abdur Sakhia, formerly BCCI's chief officer in the United States testified, it been obvious within BCCI as of 1983 that the bank had adopted a conscious policy of soliciting drug funds when it decided to purchase a bank in Colombia. It was obvious to Sakhia and other BCCI officers then that BCCI's motivation for obtaining the Colombia bank was its recognition that enormous amounts of U.S. currency were being generated as a result of narcotics trafficking, and that Colombia could become an extremely profitable operation for BCCI.

According to Sakhia,

We knew that the money that we would be getting in Colombia would be drug money. We knew that all the dollar deposits we would be getting would be drug money.(43)

Sakhia contended that his own attempts to discourage BCCI's entry into the Colombian market resulted in his being denied the position of becoming regional manager for BCCI throughout the Americas, in retaliation for his unwillingness to go along with BCCI's plan:

If I had agreed to the purchase of the Colombia bank I would have been head of the Latin American region total but I opposed the purchase of the Colombian bank. I opposed it for two reasons. I didn't want that size of acquisition. We wouldn't know who the 500 people of staff we were taking over well enough. We were getting branches in lawless areas like Cartegena, Cali and Medellin. There were armed guards every time I went from Bogota to the hotel in Colombia. I made an effort to get controls on our accounts in Miami because of concerns about drug money. I was opposed by London and by Amir and Saleem Saddiqi, who was also head of audit and compliance and simultaneously head of growth and profit.(44)

While Sakhia provided key information to U.S. investigators about wrong-doing at BCCI, other BCCI officers remaining at the institution scoffed at his professions of innocence in the banks criminality.(45) Similarly, Massihur Rahman, who likewise provided vital information to this and other investigations, professed to have been excluded from all wrongdoing at the bank. But other BCCI insiders contended that Rahman assisted BCCI's inner circle in deception, if inadvertently, through noting deficiencies in BCCI's books and warning other officials of the risks if they were not corrected. As one BCCI official told investigators in the spring of 1992:

Massihur Rahman was head of finance and he was a member of the Central Management Committee. He was never part of the inner clique of the top four or five and yet he had a very significant position because all of the balance sheets were reviewed by him. He packaged the balance sheets. He is a very intelligent man. If there were any shortcomings here or there, he came up with the ideas of how to make it look good. As a professional, he dressed them up when he saw deficiencies. He was a technocrat, he understood what the international world wants, whereas a lot of the others did not meet outsiders at all. From their point of view what was good enough for Pakistan or India was good enough. Massihur Rahman had a higher standard. He told them what they had to come up with and Naqvi produced the proper figures in response.(46)

The degree of BCCI-U.S.'s reliance on money laundering as a principal business was demonstrated by what happened when BCCI put into place a "compliance program" as part of its January 1990 plea agreement resolving the Tampa money laundering case: business dropped noticeably, especially referrals from other BCCI locations, because neither BCCI nor its customers wanted to provide details about the customers' businesses.(47)

BCCI's clients for money laundering included Panamanian General Manuel Noriega, for whom it managed some $23 million of criminal proceeds out of its London branches; Pablo Escobar, of the Medellin cartel; Rodriguez Gacha, of the Medellin cartel; and several members of the Ochoa family.(48)
Site Admin
Posts: 33486
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The BCCI Affair: A Report to the Committee on Foreign Re

Postby admin » Thu Apr 28, 2016 8:30 pm

Part 2 of 2


Bribery was a key component of BCCI's strategy for asset growth worldwide, from the earliest days of the bank. In some case, the recipients of funding from BCCI may not have considered the payments to be "bribes," but simply a mechanism by which BCCI obtained what it wanted from an official, and in return the official helped BCCI, such as BCCI's payments to two of the Gulf emirs in return for the use of their names as nominees for the purchase of First American. In other cases, the bribes were naked and direct quid pro quos, such as BCCI's payments to Central Bank officials in return for Central Bank deposits in countries like Peru. In other cases, BCCI made campaign contributions to politicians, such as it did with General Zia in Pakistan and Carlos Andres Perez in Venezuela. In still other cases, BCCI's payments came in the guise of charitable contributions, and provided BCCI with an entree to generate deposits from others, as in the case of President Jimmy Carter. Among the Americans who BCCI provided with financial assistance in addition to Carter, were U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young, Bert Lance, and Jesse Jackson. Abroad, important figures with extensive contact with BCCI included former British Prime Minister James Callahan, then United Nations Secretary General Javier Perez de Cueller, Jamaican prime minister Edward Seaga, Antiguan prime minister Lester Byrd; a large number of African heads of state; and many Third World central bank officials.

The courting of important governmental and political figures was a task ordinarily undertaken directly by Abedi, usually with considerable secrecy. Typically, a local BCCI official would make contact with a key national political figure, who would then be passed on to Abedi. Abedi would then assess that official's needs and try to put together a transaction suitable to the official's status and needs. (49)

In some cases, Abedi would not make a "bribe" per say, but would instead use BCCI's resources to build goodwill, which he in turn would then make use of to generate assets elsewhere. This was Abedi's approach, for example, with President Jimmy Carter, who received millions of dollars in BCCI funding for charitable activities, and then travelled with Abedi to developing nations, providing Abedi with entry to their leaders and, often, the assets of their central banks.(50)

Abedi used a similar approach with Jesse Jackson and Andrew Young, both of whom had business expenses paid for by BCCI, and either solicited business for BCCI in return, or offered to do so. (51)

When it came to General Noriega, bribes were unnecessary, as BCCI provided the far more important service of laundering $23 million of his money and keeping it safe from other governments and his eventual successors in Panama by insuring its disappearance following his indictments. But to demonstrate BCCI's hospitality, the bank still made sure that it provided Noriega with an expensive gift -- a $25,000 persian carpet, hand delivered with Abedi's regards to Noriega by Alauddin Sheikh.(52)

In other cases, however, BCCI would make direct payments to key officials, sometimes in suitcases filled with cash. As BCCI officer Abdur Sakhia stated in interviews with Subcommittee staff:

Abedi's philosophy was to appeal to every sector. President Carter's main thing was charity, so he gave Carter charity. [Pakistani President] Zia's brother in law needed a job, he got a job. [Bangldeshi President] Ashraf's mistress needed a job, she got a job. Admission of your son to a top college, he would arrange it somehow.(53)

According to Sakhia,

There was a world wide list of people who were in the payoff of BCCI. It was my understanding this included the family of Indira Ghandi, Ashad of Bangladesh, and General Zia. In Africa, most of the leaders of Africa in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mugabe, and others, were all understood to have received money.(54)

According to both Sakhia and BCCI's Paris manager, Nazir Chinoy, BCCI official Alauddin Sheikh would sometimes take cash to people at Abedi's request.(55) Both officials stated that they understood that Nigerian central bankers were paid off in cash by Mr. Sheikh at a World Bank meeting in Seoul, Korea.(56)

Chinoy said that such payments were typically made in great secrecy, but that it was obvious to him and others at BCCI what was going on. He described one such apparent payment by Abedi to President Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

I accompanied Mr. Abedi and Mr. Sheikh to the opening of a joint venture with Zimbabwe. I believe that to get permission to open that venture, money was paid to President Mugabe and to Nkomo. The basis I am making this statement was that when I went there with Mr. Sheikh, I was acting as Mr. Abedi's personal assistant or secretary. Mr. Sheikh went off on his own to see Nkomo who was the chief opposition at that time, and then he went off to see President Mugabe, and when they talked they wanted me out of the room. A number of us were there for the opening. But only Sheikh and Abedi left in the room with these two political figures. Otherwise I was accompanying him and acting with him. Sheikh carried a bag with him. At the time I had a suspicion that you don't get permission as a foreign bank so easily without a payment. Without favors, it wouldn't be so easy to get a bank that fast, especially given the opposition of the British banks who were already established there. And I can think of no other reason for the exclusion of everyone but Sheikh and Abedi.(57)

The New York District Attorney's indictment of BCCI alleged that in 1986 and 1987, BCCI president Abedi and number two official, Swaleh Naqvi, opened a bank account in a Swiss bank in Panama to "transmit bribes and kickbacks in the amount of a percentage of the deposits maintained by the Central Reserve Bank of Peru to the two senior officers of that bank," in a total amount of $3 million, in return for Peru maintaining large central bank deposits in BCCI.(58) These bribes were paid following a meeting involving BCCI officials and Peruvian president Alan Garcia. According to BCCI official Akbar Bilgrami, the purpose of the meeting was to make sure that President Garcia would not undercut the decision by the Central Bank and that if the payments were made to the Central Bankers, BCCI would indeed receive the Peruvian deposits in return. Upon returning from Peru, Shafi told Bilgrami that Garcia had given his blessing to the transaction.(59)

Chinoy contended that BCCI was simply efficiently exploiting the prevailing business practices in many of the countries in which it operated, suggesting that in Nigeria and many other African countries it was not possible to do business without buying presents, giving kickbacks, or making bribes to officials.

Commission means kick-back. The government approves a $300 million contract. A multinational corporation agrees with the government which has helped him, 10 percent gets kicked back. A company is established abroad or they nominate a cousin or someone who is paid 3 percent. It is known as a commission but it is actually a kickback. It is the only way to do business.(60)

Support of Terrorism and Arms Trafficking

BCCI's support of terrorism and arms trafficking developed out of several factors. First, as a principal financial institution for a number of Gulf sheikhdoms, with branches all over the world, it was a logical choice for terrorist organizations, who received payment at BCCI-London and other branches directly from Gulf-state patrons, and then transferred those funds wherever they wished without apparent scrutiny. Secondly, BCCI's flexibility regarding the falsification of documentation was helpful for such activities. Finally, to the extent that pragmatic considerations were not sufficient of themselves to recommend BCCI, the bank's pan-third world and pro-Islam ideology would have recommended it to Arab terrorist groups.

Arms trafficking involving BCCI included the financing of Pakistan's procurement of nuclear weapons through BCCI Canada, as documented in the Parvez case, involving a Pakistani who attempted to procure nuclear related materials financed by BCCI through the United States. (61)

In a November 22, 1991 letter to the Subcommittee, the CIA stated that "the Agency did have some reporting [as of 1987] on BCCI being used by third world regimes to acquire weapons and transfer technology," but was unwilling to elaborate on the nature of this activity in public.(62)

In early August, 1991, the Committee was provided with documents from the Latin American and Caribbean Region Office (LACRO) of BCCI, describing the offer for sale by the Argentine air force of 22 Mirage aircraft for $110 million. (63) The planned sale was to have been made to Iraq, as part of Saddam Hussein's massive military buildup prior to the Gulf war. BCCI was acting as the broker for the transaction, which was to take place in August or September of 1989, but not completed as a result of a dispute within the Argentine military itself.(64) Arms sales involving BCCI from Latin America to the Middle East remain, as of April 1992, under active investigation by U.S. law enforcement.(65)

Abu Nidal

In the United Kingdom, a key window on BCCI's support of terrorism was an informant named Ghassan Qassem, the former manager of the Sloan Street branch of BCCI in London. Qassem had been given the accounts of Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal at BCCI, and then proceeded, while at BCCI, to provide detailed information on the accounts to British and American intelligence, apparently as a paid informant, according to press accounts based on interviews with Qassem.(66)

As of 1986, the information obtained about Abu Nidal's use of BCCI was sufficiently detailed as to justify dissemination within the U.S. intelligence community.(67)

In July, 1987, as a result of the information provided by Qassem, a State Department report concerning Abu Nidal and Qassem, declassified in 1991 at the request of the Subcommittee, describes Abu Nidal's use of BCCI.

The ANO commercial network comprises several businesses created over the past seven years with the long-term goal of establishing legitimate trading enterprises in various countries, gaining experience in commercial trade, and making a profit for the group. . . The general manager of the commercial network and the principal agent in gray-arms transactions is Samir Hasan Najm al-Din (Samir Najmeddin). He has directed many of ANO's commercial activities, both licit and illicit, from his offices in the INTRACO building in Warsaw, Poland.. . . He has maintained a general account at a major West European Bank [BCCI in London] from which he transfers money to individual company accounts at local banks. He maintains joint control of each company's ban accounts, along with the company manager, and he is responsible for forwarding all major contracts to Sabri al-Banna for final approval.(68)

Following dissemination of this material by the U.S., the U.S. coordinated efforts to shut down the financing of the activities exposed in its targeting of Abu Nidal through BCCI-London, with some success.(69)

Other terrorist groups continued to make use of BCCI, including one "state sponsor of terrorism," and the Qassar brothers, Manzur and Ghassan, who have been associated with terrorism, arms trafficking, and narcotics trafficking in connection with the Government of Syria, and with the provision of East Bloc arms to the Nicaraguan contras in a transaction with the North/Secord enterprise paid for with funds from the secret U.S. arms sales to Iran.(70)

Training of Cartel Death Squads

In April 1989, a network of Israeli arms traffickers, operating out of Miami, made a shipment of 500 Israeli manufactured machine guns through the Caribbean island of Antigua for the use of members of the Medellin cartel. Later, one of these weapons was used in the assassination of Colombian presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan, and several other of the weapons were found in the possession of cartel kingpin Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha after his death in a gunfight with Colombian drug agents.

The principals in the arms trafficking included Yair Klein, who had previously been identified in Colombian drug enforcement documents as involved in training paramilitary squads for the cocaine cartel in Medellin; Pinchas Shahar, an Israeli intelligence operative, and Maurice Sarfati, an Israeli "businessman" operating out of Miami and Paris.

The scandal broke after a broadcast by NBC News on August 21, 1989 about Klein's activities, and a Colombian judge charged Klein with having engaged in criminal conspiracy in training the private armies for the cartel. In the months that followed, the scandal extended to Antigua as well, an island with no substantial military force and no need for the 500 machine guns its foreign minister ordered from Israeli military industries.

Subsequent investigations of the affair, including one by the Government of Antigua conducted by a Washington attorney, Lawrence Barcella, left many questions unanswered. However, it became clear that the Antigua project had been outgrowth of the establishment of a "melon farm" by Sarfati in Antigua in 1983, financed by the United States government through a $2 million loan from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), in part on the basis of financial references for the principals provided OPIC by BCCI.

Before providing the $2 million to Mr. Sarfati for his melon farm, OPIC requested financial references. Sarfati provided references from his principal bank, BCCI Miami. In a letter from its Miami office, BCCI advised OPIC on June 14, 1983 that Sarfati, "who is one of our valued customers" had a number of major accounts with BCCI.(71)

Ultimately, OPIC lost its entire investment in the melon farm and concluded that it had been defrauded by Sarfati. After filing suit against Sarfati, OPIC sold its remaining interest in the melon farm, at a loss of 50 cent on the dollar, to an Israeli businessman, Bruce Rappaport, and an entity owned by him called the Swiss American Bank. Rappaport, a confidante of former CIA director William Casey, was in this period also in frequent contact with BCCI's original U.S. contact, Bert Lance. Coincidentally, one of BCCI's principal board members, Alfred Hartmann, who was also chairman of BCCI's secretly-owned Swiss affiliate BCP, also sat on the board of another of Rappaport's banks.(72)

In 1990, when the Subcommittee sought records pertaining to Mr. Sarfati from BCCI, it was advised by lawyers for BCCI that the Sarfati accounts at BCCI were "missing." Additional investigative work later located most of the accounts pertaining to one of Sarfati's partners in the Antigua venture, Haim Polani, but the accounts of Sarfati and his businesses remained lost. BCCI Latin American and Caribbean Region (LACRO) documents now maintained at the Federal Reserve in Miami document millions in BCCI loans to various Sarfati businesses.


BCCI was also involved with the Banco Nationale del Lavoro (BNL), Italy's biggest bank, whose Atlanta office was involved in a scheme to provide as much as $4 billion in fraudulent loans to facilitate illegal arms sales for the government of Iraq. In March 1991, three officials from BNL were indicted.

Although much about the relationship between the two banks remains unclear, BCCI documents in the United States show that BCCI loaned short-term -- often overnight -- its substantial U.S. surpluses to BNL in Atlanta, with transactions amounting to billions a year. While such lending from a bank with a surplus to another bank that could use the assets would be normal, what was not normal about the transaction was BCCI taking funds from its overseas branches for overnight use by BNL.

BCCI and BNL shared a key figure in common, Alfred Hartmann, who was on the board of directors of both banks and the head of BCCI's secretly controlled Swiss affiliate, Banque de Commerce et Placements (BCP).

Ironically, when BCCI was closed, its Swiss affiliate was almost immediately sold to a Turkish banking group, Cukorova, whose subsidiary, EndTrade, was BNL's partner in the illegal arms sales from the U.S. to Iraq, and part of the federal investigation into BNL.


BCCI's involvement in prostitution arose out of its creation of its special protocol department in Pakistan to service the personal requirements of the Al-Nahyan family of Abu Dhabi, and on an as-needed basis, other BCCI VIPs, including the families of other Middle Eastern rulers.

Several BCCI officers described the protocol department's handling of prostitution to Senate investigators in private, and two -- Abdur Sakhia and Nazir Chinoy -- confirmed their general knowledge of the practice in testimony.

The prostitution handled by BCCI was carried over from practices originally instituted by Abedi at the United Bank, when working with a woman, Begum Asghari Rahim, he cemented his relationship with the Al-Nahyan family through providing them with Pakistani prostitutes.

Among BCCI bank officials in Pakistan, Begum Rahim was reputed to have in United Bank first won the favors or attention of the royal family by arranging to get virgin women from the villages from the ages of 16 to 20. Rahim would make payments to their families, take the teenaged girls into the cities, and there taught them how to dress and how to act, including the correct mannerisms. The women would be then brought to the Abu Dhabi princes. For years, Rahim would take 50-60 of these girls at a time to large department stores in Lahore and Karachi to get them outfitted for clothes. Given the size of Rahim's retinue and her spending habits -- $100,000 at a time was not unusual when she was engaged in outfitting her charges -- her activities became notorious in the Pakistani community generally, and there was substantial competition among clothiers and jewelers for her business.(73)

According to one U.S. investigator with substantial knowledge of BCCI's activities, some BCCI officials have acknowledged that some of the females provided some members of the Al-Nahyan family were young girls who had not yet reached puberty, and in certain cases, were physically injured by the experience. The official said that former BCCI officials had told him that BCCI also provided males to homosexual VIPs.(74)

Intimidation of Witnesses

After his experience with the nationalization of the United Bank in Pakistan, Abedi never forgot the ability of governments to destroy his creations. Bribery and prostitution were two techniques to discourage government inquiry. Intimidation of potential witnesses and whistle blowers was another.

Throughout investigations of BCCI, would-be BCCI whistle blowers have expressed fears for their lives, including Noriega's BCCI banker, Amjad Awan, who told Senate investigator Jack Blum that he would be killed if the details of the limited information he gave the Senate about BCCI were revealed; a second former BCCI official who was a source of Blum; and the two BCCI officials who ultimately testified before the Senate in 1991: Massihur Rahman and Abdur Sakhia.

Both Rahman and Sakhia left BCCI in 1990, together with a few others from the bank in the period when Abu Dhabi was taking active control of BCCI and forcing out those of the original Pakistani group who lacked close ties to the Al-Nahyan family.

These departures came at an especially vulnerable time for BCCI, and the threats to them should they break the code of silence left nothing to the imagination.

In the testimony of Abdur Sakhia, formerly the BCCI official in charge of Latin America and the Caribbean,

When I left the bank in April 1990, we left as a group, about 12 of us, Each one was told you go quietly, if you make any noise, they are going to fix you. I got the word from Naqvi's secretary that if I made any noise, Altman's firm will get me involved in a drug case.(75)

In the account of Massihur Rahman,

I left. Since then, my family and I have been hounded. All sorts of direct and indirect threats have been used, to the extent that Scotland Yard got to know about it and the Guildford police got to know about it . . . and they had special security put around our house and special equipment put in the house for direct access to the police station, and my wife and children were suffering greatly . . . they were being terrorized by these situations and my wife was having to put the children under the bed every night for fear of some physical violence or some gunshots.(76)

It had long been part of BCCI internal lore that erring Pakistani officers in Pakistan could wind up having an accident if they talked about BCCI when they left. In the United Kingdom, another senior BCCI executive, John Hilbery, had told Rahman that there had been a gunshot through his window shortly after he left the bank. As a result, Hilbery decided he would not go to court against BCCI to assert any claims against his former employer, but would simply quietly withdraw.(77)

During the Tampa money laundering case against BCCI, information was received through government sources about potential plans to try to affect the government's case by kidnapping witnesses.(78)

Moreover, in that same case, BCCI retained private investigators to investigate the Customs agents who had brought the case against BCCI, with the investigators ultimately destroying the business of a key informant who assisted in the prosecution of the case. As chief undercover Customs agent Robert Mazur testified:

BCCI, had in fact, retained another investigative firm for the sole purpose of investigating me, and the IRS agent who is the affined to the BCCI searches. That was something that not only happened to me, but also happened to many other people who tried to work on behalf of the Government, and in particular, a citizen who showed tremendous courage to allow the Government to use his business in part as their cover, who later became a victim of malicious statements that were made by the investigators that led later to his financial ruin, and its a shame that that type of thing occurred, but it did.(79)

Black Network?

None of the BCCI officers interviewed by the Senate claimed to have knowledge of a "black network" of intelligence operatives, arms dealers, drug traffickers, burglars, or assassins employed by BCCI, as described in a Time magazine cover-story on BCCI on August 15, 1991. They declared, to a person, that they did not believe such a network existed at the bank. However, several suggested that if the black network were recharacterized as a team of officials carrying out Abedi's most secret missions, then it could exist on a somewhat smaller scale than that characterized by Time, operating out of either BCCI's Pakistani protocol department or its Pakistani BCCI Foundation.



1. Staff interview, Abdur Sakhia, October 7, 1991.

2. Touche Ross, Bank of Credit and Commerce International (SA) in Liquidation, Report on the Activities Undertaken in Luxembourg and the UK Covering the Liquidation Period Up to April 15, 1992.

3. Touche Ross, Report on the Activities Undertaken in Luxembourg and the UK Covering the Liquidation Period Up to April 15, 1992.

4. S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 3 pp. 790-791.

5. Blum, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 1, p. 61.

6. Blum, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 1, p. 37

7. Superseding Information, U.S. v. BCCI, Crim. No. 91-0655, U.S. District Court for the District of Colombia, December 19, 1991.

8. Report of Internal Investigation to BCCI, Philip Manuel Resources Group, November 1990, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 2, pp. 387-388.

9. Letter to Whom It May Concern, July 8, 1991 on BCC Canada letterhead.

10. Id.

11. Staff interview, Chinoy, March 9-16, 1992.

12. People v. BCCI, Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York, July 29, 1991.

13. Id.

14. Price Waterhouse, Draft Report on Sandstorm SA Under S. 41 of the Savings Act of 1987.

15. Price Waterhouse, Draft Report on Sandstorm SA Under S. 41 of the Savings Act of 1987.

16. Id at 1.

17. Id at 1.

18. Id at 1.

19. Id at 2

20. Testimony of Rahman, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 1, p. 502.

21. Id at 2.

22. Price Waterhouse report to BCCI, Internal Control Report, April 28, 1986, p. 3.

23. Price Waterhouse, Draft Report on Sandstorm SA Under S. 41 of the Savings Act of 1987, p. l3.

24. Touche Ross, Report on the Activities Undertaken in Luxembourg and the UK Covering the Liquidation Period Up to 15 April 1992.

25. Id at 17.

26. Id.

27. Staff interviews, Akbar Bilgrami and Amjad Awan, July, 1992.

28. Staff interviews, Akbar Bilgrami, July 13-14, 1992; Amjad Awan, July 20-21, 1992.

29. Id.

30. Report of Grand Caymans Liquidators to Grand Caymans Court, August 30, 1991, Deloitte Ross Tohmatsu, International Credit and I nvestment Company (Overseas) Ltd.

31. Price Waterhouse, Report to the Director on ICIC Group, June 17, 1991, Sec. 1.

32. Testimony of Rahman, S. Hr. 102-350, Pt. 1, p. 517.

33. Price Waterhouse, Report to the Director on ICIC Group, June 17, 1991, Sec. 1.

34. Id.

35. Id.

36. Id.

37. S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 3, p. 737.

38. Testimony of Robert Mazur, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 3, p. 682.

39. Testimony of Grant Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 3, p. 579.

40. Staff interviews, Akbar Bilgrami, July 13-14, 1992.

41. Superseding Information, U.S. v. BCCI, Crim. No. 91-0655, U.S. District Court for the District of Colombia, December 19, 1991.

42. Testimony of Rahman, S.Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 1, p. __.

43. Interview, Abdur Sakhia, October 7, 1991

44. Sakhia, id.

45. Staff interviews with various BCCI officers, October 1991 and July 1992, including Akbar Bilgrami, who worked with Sakhia in Miami in the mid-1980's.

46. Staff interview, BCCI officer, March, 1992. In defense of Sakhia and Rahman, it is notable that neither is the subject of investigation by law enforcement in connection with BCCI's activities, and neither have sought immunity from prosecution, demonstrating substantial limits on their culpability. Both voluntarily provided critically important information about BCCI to U.S. investigators, including the Senate.

47. Price Waterhouse, Interim Report on Results and Operations to BCCI Holdings, September 30, 1989, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 1, p. 279.

48. BCCI Records and customer lists, LACRO, Federal Reserve, Miami.

49. Staff interviews with Abdur Sakhia, October 7, 1991; Nazir Chinoy, March 9-16, 1991; Confidential BCCI informant, March, 1990.

50. See e.g. AP, July 15, 1991.

51. Staff interview, Nazir Chinoy, March 9-16, 1991; BCCI documents, Andrew Young trip to Nicaragua.

52. Chinoy, id.

53. Staff interview, Abdur Sakhia, October 7, 1991.

54. Staff interview, Abdur Sakhia, October 7, 1991.

55. Staff interviews with Sakhia, id., and with Chinoy, March 9-16, 1991.

56. Id.

57. Staff interview, Chinoy, March 9-16, 1992.

58. People v. BCCI, Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York, July 29, 1991.

59. Staff interview, Akbar Bilgrami, July 13-14, 1992.

60. Staff interview, Chinoy, id.

61. Testimony of Alan Kreczo, Deputy Legal Adviser, Department of State, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 3, p. 599.

62. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 3 p. 601.

63. BCCI LACRO documents in S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 1 pp. 126-162.

64. Interview with Argentine, Mick Anderson, staff, Senator Alan Cranston, August 6, 1991, S. Hrg. 102-350, p. 253.

65. Internal Customs source, April, 1992.

66. See e.g. Financial Times, November 13, 1991, p. 6.

67. Testimony of Laurence Pope, Associate Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism, Department of State, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 3, p 580.

68. Abu Nidal's Terror Network, U.S. Department of State, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 3, pp. 640-641.

69. Testimony of Pope, id, at 581.

70. See Testimony of Pope, id., at 581; staff interviews.

71. Loan Application to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, submitted by Roydan (Antigua) Limited.

72. OPIC Documents provided to Subcommittee, July, 1990; Testimony of Bert Lance, S.Hrg. 102-350, Pt.3 pp. 44-46.

73. Staff interview, Nazir Chinoy, March 9-16, 1991; see also account of Sakhia, October 7, 1991; practice described by other anonymous BCCI officers to Senate staff.

74. Staff interviews, U.S. investigator, February, 1992.

75. Sakhia interview, October 13, 1991

76. Testimony of Rahman, S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 1 p. 256.

77. Id.

78. Testimony of Robert Mazur, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 3, p 692.

79. Id at 692.
Site Admin
Posts: 33486
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The BCCI Affair: A Report to the Committee on Foreign Re

Postby admin » Thu Apr 28, 2016 8:37 pm

Part 1 of 3



On July 5, 1991, when BCCI was closed, some one million small depositors in BCCI around the world lost their deposits.

In addition to these small depositors, there were other, larger depositors. Among those depositors were central banks, governmental organizations, government investment funds, and government officials, involving most of the countries in the world.

There is no way of knowing even now precisely who were among all those who lost money. BCCI made frequent use of "managers' ledgers" or numbered accounts for its most sensitive depositors, whose identities were typically kept secret from everyone other than their personal banker at BCCI. Given the anonymity, the secrecy, and the source of the income behind many of these deposits, some depositors, including governmental officials or agencies, have not necessarily been in a position to assert claims to the money they have lost.

However, some sense of the impact on governmental entities and global officialdom is provided by an account appearing in the French wire service Agence France Presse a few days after BCCI's global shut-down, concerning BCCI losses at its tiny branch in Korea, entitled "Angry Diplomats Urge Government To Release Their BCCI Assets":

A major row is erupting between the South Korean government and foreign diplomats whose deposits have been frozen by the suspension of the Seoul branch of the scandal-hit Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). Incensed diplomats from 33 countries met last Thursday at a European embassy here to coordinate strategy after a protest they filed with the central bank of Korea went unheeded, diplomats said. The diplomats said that 120 of their colleagues from 33 embassies have had part or all of their deposits frozen. In addition, the accounts of several embassies have been frozen, forcing some to cut back operations. . . The local branch of BCCI had strongly lobbied diplomats here to use the bank, offering interest rates slightly above average and putting a wide international network at their disposal, officials said. . . . The envoys said that among those countries [in Korea alone] whose embassies were in partial or deep trouble were [a number of] Latin American countries, Bangladesh, Belgium, Iran, Italy, Hungary, Liberia, Libya, Pakistan, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Yugoslavia . . . Peru and Argentina have suspended consular operations [entirely] because of lack of funds.(1)

BCCI's offices in Korea were among the bank's smallest, containing just $92 million out of BCCI's total of $23 billion in assets. Yet small as the branch was, the impact of its closure on the foreign diplomatic corps in Seoul was devastating. This tiny branch of BCCI had, somehow, developed relationships with these embassies that neither domestic banks in Korea, nor any of the other foreign banks doing business in Korea had obtained.

The fact so many officials from so many countries banked at a single, obscure BCCI office provides an insight into the success of BCCI's overall strategy of targeting government officials everywhere to use its array of banking services.

In his July 29, 1992 indictment of BCCI's former heads, Agha Hasan Abedi and Swaleh Naqvi, and two of BCCI's front-men, Ghaith Pharaon and Faisal Saud Al Fulaij, New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau alleged, in some detail, how BCCI systematically engaged in criminal activity with officials and prominent political figures from many countries to generate assets for BCCI's Ponzi scheme, both from the governments involved, and from innocent, legitimate depositors.

As the indictment alleges:

. . . members of the BCC Group, acting to further the conduct and affairs of the criminal enterprise, assisted various nations, including Pakistan, Senegal, Zambia and Nigeria, to evade fiscal restraints placed on them by such world institutions as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. . . . The BCC Group agreed to bribe employees, agents and fiduciaries entrusted with Third World money to place it at risk in the BCC Group, which was insolvent.

Members of the enterprise sought to secure a preferential position for the BCC Group in various countries through the use of corrupt payments of monies and other benefits to powerful individuals and to make and cause to be made deposits of money with the BCC Group. Specifically, defendants Abedi and Naqvi plotted to deliver cash and other benefits to countries' finance ministers, head of countries' central banks and senior executives of international and regional organizations to obtain deposits. . .

Among the countries in which members of the BCC group made such corrupt payments for deposits and favorable treatment were the Congo, Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia, the Ivory Coast, Argentina and Peru. Among the institutions defrauded were the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the African Development Bank and the Economic Cooperation of West African States.(2)

Similarly, over the past four years, the Subcommittee has developed extensive documentary and testimonial evidence of BCCI's systematic reliance on relationships with, and as necessary, payments to, prominent political figures in most of the 73 countries in which BCCI operated. BCCI records and testimony from former BCCI officials together document BCCI's systematic securing of Central Bank deposits of Third World countries; its provision of favors to political figures; and its reliance on those figures to provide BCCI itself with favors in times of need.

As BCCI's former senior official for the Caribbean, Abdur Sakhia, testified:

BCCI's strategy globally had been to be very well-known, to make an impact in the marketplace, to have contacts or relationships . . . with all the people who matter. . . You name it, we would develop relationships with everyone of consequence . . . In the Caribbean, every major country I knew the heads of state, I knew the finance ministers, I knew the governors of the central bank. I knew heads of all the major banks in the area, the heads of foreign banks. I knew the people in various official agencies, like the Caribbean Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Organization of American States. Everyone of consequence in this region I knew. . . .(3)

These relationships were systematically turned to BCCI's use to generate cash needed to prop up its books. BCCI would obtain an important figure's agreement to give BCCI deposits from a country's Central Bank, exclusive handling of a country's use of U.S. commodity credits, preferential treatment on the processing of money coming in and out of the country where monetary controls were in place, the right to own a bank, secretly if necessary, in countries where foreign banks were not legal, or other questionable means of securing assets or profits. In return, BCCI would pay bribes to the figure, or otherwise give him other things he wanted in a simple quid-pro-quo. For example, BCCI would help an official move flight capital out of his country to a safe haven elsewhere, to launder funds skimmed by the official from an official bank account or official commercial transaction, create a foundation for a head of state to provide charitable services for his home village or province, take him on a shopping spree at a fancy London department store, or secure him sexual favors.

The result was that BCCI had relationships that ranged from the questionable, to the improper, to the fully corrupt with officials from countries all over the world, including but certainly not limited to Argentina, Bangladesh, Botswana, Brazil, Cameroon, China, Colombia, the Congo, Ghana, Guatemala, the Ivory Coast, India, Jamaica, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Typically, these relationships were handled personally and in secrecy by BCCI's top two officials -- Abedi and Naqvi -- with the occasional assistance of trusted lieutenants. Accordingly, a full accounting of these relationships may not be possible. Sakhia told the Subcommittee that he believed there was a list of BCCI's payments to political figures somewhere at BCCI's headquarters in London, held closely by Abedi and Naqvi, that contained all the names. When BCCI's headquarters were moved to Abu Dhabi in the spring of 1990, the list, if it still existed, was likely moved there with BCCI's other records:

There was a world wide list of people who were in the payoff of BCCI. The family of Indira Gandhi. President [Ershad] of Bangladesh. General Zia of Pakistan. Many of the leaders of Africa. I went to a World Bank meeting in Seoul, Korea and [BCCI official] Alauddin Shaikh was handing out cash in the hall to the staff of the Central Bank of Nigeria . . . Abedi's philosophy was to appeal to every sector. If you were religious people he would help you pray. President Carter's main thing was charity, so he gave Carter charity. [Pakistani] President Zia's brother-in-law needed a job, he got a job. [Bangladeshi] President [Ershad]'s mistress needed a job, she got a job. You needed the admission of your son to a top college? Abedi would arrange it somehow.(4)

According to Sakhia, the form of the payoff varied with the needs of the customers, but the purpose was always the same -- "to buy influence."(5)

In addition to cash payments, which were kept secret, BCCI routinely gave presents to government officials around the world, a fact disclosed to auditors. As BCCI officer Nazir Chinoy explained:

The auditors will not object if the manager certifies that $50,000 was spent on entertainment on a particular day. They will accept it without bills. It is understood that Christmas presents, giving and taking are common. We tell them we are looking after our people, I have 50 people I want 50 shirts from Harrads for Christmas for my staff, or a Senator from some country telling you I want my people to be looked after. Then he says, when I come to power you take a favor from me. It is an accepted form of operation.(6)

According to Chinoy, these presents would routinely involve gifts worth $5,000 or more if the official was sufficiently important. In the case of Manuel Noriega, for example, the antique oriental rug selected by BCCI and provided to him one year in his honor was worth substantially more.

In other cases, BCCI would make a form of payments to high ranking officials through one of its Foundations, which would create an annual "prize," and bestow it upon a person either whom BCCI wished to influence, or whose receipt the prize would provide BCCI needed legitimacy. For example, from 1980 to 1988, a BCCI foundation called The Third World Foundation bestowed an annial Third World Prize of $100,000 as follows:

1980. Dr. Paul Prebish, international development economist from Argentina. At the time, BCCI was seeking to enter Argentina through nominees.

1981. Dr. Julius Nyerere, President of Tanzania. The Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, presented the prize. At the time, BCCI had alleged financial relationships with various persons associated with Gandhi and was seeking to expand in Tanzania.

1982. Zhao Ziyang, the Chinese premier. Again, BCCI was looking to, and soon thereafter was able to, become one of the first foreign banks to open offices in China.

1983. Professor Arvid Pardo, a UN diplomatic from Malta, whose prize was presented by Belisario Betancur, President of Colombia. In 1983, BCCI purchased a bank in Colombia through nominees.

1984. Willy Brandt, former German chancellor, with UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar giving his approval.

1985. Nelson and Winnie Mandela.

1986. Musician Bob Geldorf, for his work in raising funds for the hungry in Ethiopia.

1987. The International Planned Parenthood Federation of India, presented by Jose Sarney, President of Brazil. In this very period, BCCI was seeking to strengthen its ties to President Sarney, and had just purchased a bank in Brazil through nominees which included close associates of Sarney.

1988. Gro Harlem Brundtland, the Norweigian Prime Minister, presented by Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister of Zimbabwe. Mugabe had according to many BCCI officials received cash payments from BCCI in previous years.(7)

The Subcommittee has not obtained internal BCCI documents describing its global strategy for bribery, or any list of payments made to officials. However, the Subcommittee does have a collection of documents and testimony which outline individual cases of bribery, payoffs, or financial benefits provided by BCCI to officials in particular countries. Thus, the case histories set forth below are illustrative, rather than comprehensive, and do not necessarily represent the worst examples of the practice, but merely the ones the Subcommittee has been best able to document.

Deposits From Foreign Governments

A baseline for assessing BCCI's principal relationships with foreign governments is to review the deposits it received from Central Banks. At one level, the choice of BCCI as a depository for a Central Bank of a Third World country might seem logical. BCCI had marketed itself as the Third World bank, devoted to providing the best possible services to the Third World. However, every central banker also knew that BCCI, as a bank not based in any one country, had no lender of last resort, and no consolidated audit.

Thus, deposits in BCCI were potentially a very substantial risk for any Central Bank. If BCCI failed, the Central Bank funds would not be protected, but would be treated like the funds of any other depositor. Despite these obvious risks to placing funds with BCCI, dozens of countries placed their reserves with the bank, in some cases, at very substantial, and imprudent, levels.

BCCI document repositories in the United States, unfortunately only contain records pertaining to such deposits in BCCI-Miami, and thus, these represent only a fraction of the total. For example, a number the countries that had deposits at BCCI in the United States would also maintain deposits -- usually larger ones -- at BCCI in Panama, where they would be more protected from creditors.

Typical deposits at BCCI-Miami by central banks and governmental organizations, usually in certificates of deposit, are listed below:

Organization / Amount / Date

Andean Reserve Fund $15,884,000 July 31, 1988

Central Bank of Aruba 6,000,000 July 31, 1988

Central Bank of Barbados 5,000,000 May 31, 1985

Central Bank of Belize 12,000,000 July 31, 1988

Central Bank of Bolivia 14,414,000 July 31, 1988

Banco de la Rep de Colombia 3,050,346 Aug 4, 1986

Central Bank of Curacao 25,000,000 July 31, 1988

Eastern Caribbean Bank 2,000,000 March 28, 1985

Caribbean Development Bank 3,025,786 June 28, 1985

Bank of China 15,000,000 Dec 31, 1985

Fed. Cafeterios Colombia 10,000,000 July 31, 1985

Banco de Guatemala 3,000,000 July 31, 1988

Bank of Jamaica 13,700,000 July 31, 1986

Jamaica Petroleum/PETROJAM 7,137,437 Jan 31, 1986

Banco Nacional de Panama UNKNOWN Dec 31, 1984

Central Bank of Paraguay 5,000,000 Oct 10, 1989

Central Bank of Suriname UNKNOWN Nov 3, 1986

Central Bank St. Kitt 8,500,000 July 31, 1988

Central Bank Trinidad 5,000,000 Oct 31, 1984

Venezuela Investment Fund 24,000,000 July 31, 1988

Additional central banks had developed relationships with BCCI, but had their accounts shifted by BCCI from its offices in Miami to the National Bank of Georgia in Atlanta. These included Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Honduras, whose "territory" was given by BCCI to its secretly-held subsidiary in Georgia.(8)

It is not possible from BCCI's records in the U.S. to determine even the neighborhood of the degree to which the other Central Banks were depositing funds in BCCI as a whole. For example, the Central Bank of Peru, which did not deposit any funds in BCCI-Miami and therefore is absent from the above extensive list, placed Central Bank deposits at BCCI-Panama that rose to a level of $270 million dollars in June, 1987 -- nearly 30 percent of the total cash reserves of the Government of Peru.

Thus, what is significant, simply, is the large number of central banks and government organizations -- twenty in all -- who were willing to place what was substantial uninsured deposits with BCCI's Miami branch alone, at a time when BCCI was known to have no lender of last resort behind it, and no one to insure a country's repayment should BCCI default.

An appendix to a September 30, 1988 Price Waterhouse Report to BCCI's Audit Committee shows a substantial number of additional governmental entities from other countries making deposits at BCCI as of that date, as follows:

Organization / Location / Amount

China Civil Eng &
Construction Corporation UAE $11,414,000
Hong Kong 34,400,000

International Fund for
Agricultural Development Luxembourg 17,200,000

OPEC United Kingdom 60,000,000

Central Bank of Sri Lanka United Kingdom 15,070,000

Bangladesh Bank United Kingdom 25,340,000

Bank Foreign Trade
USSR United Kingdom 10,135,000

State Bank Pakistan United Kingdom 48,960,000

National Bank Hungary United Kingdom 15,000,000

Arab Bank for Natl
Development in Africa United Kingdom 42,569,000

Central Bank Syria United Kingdom 21,855,000

Bank of Zambia France 10,920,000

Bank Milli Afghan United Kingdom 20,000,000

Perhaps especially worthy of note from the above list are the Soviet Union's foreign trade account at BCCI, the account for the State Bank of Hungary, and the account for the Central Bank of Syria. In each case, the Subcommittee knows essentially nothing about the underlying nature of the relationship between BCCI and these governments, other than the fact that British sources have contended that BCCI in the United Kingdom was used by numerous intelligence agencies, including most of the major intelligence agencies of the world.(9)

Loans to Foreign Governments and Government Banks

As a consequence of BCCI's collapse, determining what governments were credited by BCCI as receiving loans is a far easier matter than determining who, in the past, placed funds with BCCI. A consolidated loan report for BCCI dating from March 31, 1991, shows numerous governmental organizations credited as receiving very substantial lending from BCCI as follows:

Abu Dhabi Finance Department $35,704,000

Abu Dhabi National Food Stuff Co 21,749,000

Banca Nazional del Lavaro 13,737,000

Botswana Railways 9,400,000

Botswana Telecommunications 2,600,000

Cameroon Ministry of Finance 29,172,000

China International Water & Elec 42,268,000

China National Complete Plant Exp 32,606,000

China Road & Bridge Eng. Co. 20,641,000

China State Construction Group 32,450,000

State of Gabon 7,771,000

Bank of Jamaica 33,895,000

Central Bank of Nigeria 226,060,000

Sultanate of Oman 14,444,000

Petrojam (Jamaica Petroleum) 45,420,000

Government of Seychelles 22,957,000

Bank of Sudan 53,987,000

Republic of Zimbabwe 17,063,000(10)

Price Waterhouse reports 18 months earlier had listed BCCI's exposure on lending to governments and Central Banks as follows:

Country/ Nature of Loans / Exposure 9/30/89 (in millions)

Nigeria Government 216.9

Philippines Central Bank 30

Zambia Central Bank 24.6

Sudan Central Bank 19.9

Iraq Unspecified 11.8

Mexico Unspecified 7.3

Cuba Unspecified 2.3

Sierra Leone Unspecified 3.3

Ivory Coast Unspecified .8

Panama Unspecified .6(11)

Many normal banks have such exposures, and apart from the situation involving Nigeria and to some extent Sudan, the exposure faced by BCCI on its lending to governments was within reasonable commercial norms. However, beneath the veneer of normal practice, the underlying manner by which BCCI developed these relationships was anything but normal. As the case histories below demonstrate, in country after country, BCCI's relationships with officials were fundamentally corrupt.

Use of Nominees and Fronts Generally

In the early 1980's, as part of BCCI's program of expansion in Latin America, BCCI decided that it was essential to expand banking operations in the Americas. Accordingly, a team of BCCI's acquisition experts, including Amir Lodhi and Abol Helmy, began meeting with Central Bankers and government officials in such places as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela to find suitable banks to purchase. In most of these countries, there were at the time restrictions on the ability of foreign banks to purchase local banks. Accordingly, Lodhi and Helmy were directed to identify prominent figures in each country who would agree to act as BCCI nominees in purchasing local institutions, under agreements where the nominees would not be at risk, while BCCI would secretly finance their purchases -- precisely as it had done in its purchase of First American Bankshares and the National Bank of Georgia in the United States.

While the financial details of each proposed transaction differed, the model for the transactions had been drawn up by BCCI years previously, and had been relied upon by BCCI in its secret purchase of First American. Helmy was provided with draft structures of these previous transactions, which he used as a guide in preparing fresh proposals for these Latin American countries. Ultimately, using this mechanism, BCCI was able to purchase banks in Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia; however, Helmy contended that in the case of Argentina, the laws changed prior to the purchase of the bank, and so the nominee arrangements that had been agreed upon were not needed.(12)

As BCCI's former head of its Latin American and Caribbean operations, Akbar Bilgrami explained:

Using a nominee was a typical way of going about things. Argentina, Brazil, Ghana, Colombia, Venezuela, Nigeria. All these places started out as nominee relationships. Some were cleaned up. But it was always preferable that there not be a nominee relationship. When we bought a bank or set up a subsidiary, we would often use the nominee relationship because the laws of the country wouldn't allow BCC to have majority control. For example, we used it briefly in Colombia until we received permission to have majority control for BCCI from the government.(13)
In each case, various forms of payments for the individuals who facilitated the purchases of the banks were made by BCCI, including bribes to officials in many of the countries.

Money Laundering, Commodities Frauds and Skimming

According to BCCI officers interviewed by the Subcommittee, there were consistent themes in BCCI's activities in the Third World, in terms of the kinds of services that government officials would be looking for from BCCI. First, to the extent the official controlled a source of government funds, the official typically wanted to be compensated in connection with his decision on where to place the funds. The solution to this problem was simple enough -- BCCI would pay a "commission" to the official involved. Second, to the extent the official controlled transactions involving government funds, the official might well want to be compensated on a fee basis, transaction by transaction. BCCI developed a number of techniques in response to this requirement, which typically involved one form or another of skimming the government funds that moved through the transaction, again with the revenues deposited in a safe place outside the official's country. Third, to the extent the official was in a position to generate substantial resources of his own through non-BCCI corruption, he often would want a safe and confidential place to hide his money. Again, BCCI would comply.

In each of these cases, BCCI would make use of applicable techniques for hiding and laundering cash: manager's ledgers or numbered accounts; phony loans to hide (and legitimize) real, but unclean deposits; circuitous routing of funds through bank secrecy havens like the Grand Caymans and Panama, and so on.

Pay-Offs to Avoid Prosecution

Inevitably, BCCI's criminal practices as a bank would set off alarm bells in one or another of the nations in which it was operating. Because of BCCI's underlying financial fragility, any such problem could potentially mushroom. Accordingly, the bank made it a high priority to fix such cases through payoffs. Usually, this could be accomplished with existing relationships.

For example, in Nigeria, on the several occasions when BCCI's activities had been discovered by officials who had not been compromised, investigations were quelled by a top Nigerian religious and governmental official, Al Haji Ibrahim Dasuki, who was also president of BCCI's Nigerian bank.(14) This pattern was repeated all over the world. As Sakhia testified:

BCCI officers were indicted and jailed in other countries, like Sudan, Kenya, India, and in each case there was a terror in the bank that, you know, this has happened, that has happened. And somehow then some deal would be struck. People would be freed, BCCI would start doing business all over again.(15)

This practice did not only take place in Third World countries. Notes taken by BCCI's lawyers in the United States at Patton, Boggs & Blow in Washington, D.C. refer to possible payments to French officials by BCCI in 1989 to solve a criminal legal matter that had developed for BCCI there. According to the U.S. lawyers involved, each of them was disturbed about the proposed bribe, and were trying to prevent it from happening.(16)

Thus, BCCI's system of payoffs was not by any means an occasional practice, but one that pervaded the institution from its creation, and continued through to its collapse.



In Argentina, BCCI targeted and ultimately successfully purchased, the Finamerica Bank, a small Argentina financial institution that was at the time owned by FIAT and by the Banco de Italia. In December, 1984, through a local middle-man, Ricardo Gotelli, Fiat authorized the sale to BCCI.(17) Internal BCCI memoranda show that in the original structuring of the transaction, BCCI was intending to lend money to the current shareholders of the bank and have them pledge their shares back to BCCI in order to avoid having to notify the Central Bank, and receive its authorization for the purchase. Ultimately, however, this plan was found not to be necessary as a result of BCCI securing the Central Bank's permission for the transaction.(18)

The New York indictment of Abedi, Naqvi, Faisal al Fulaij and Ghaith Pharaon on July 29, 1992 succinctly sets forth why BCCI was able to abandon the nominee structure and directly, publicly purchase the Argentine bank:

The BCCI Group made corrupt payments to the President of the Central Bank of Argentina and a member of its Board of Directors. In or about 1983 and 1984, the BCC Group made and caused to be made a five hundred thousand dollar "political" contribution to the President and a member of the Board of Directors of the Central Bank of Argentina upon an agreement and understanding that it would influence the conduct of said President and Director in relation to the establishment of a bank of the BCC group in Argentina and in relation to the business of the BCC Group.(19)

At the same time BCCI decided to move into Argentina, so did its front-man, Ghaith Pharaon. According to published reports, Pharaon came to Argentina by way of Paraguay, where he had established a personal friendship with military strongman Alfredo Stroessner. Argentine press accounts quote Pharaon as stating he had visited Paraguay to assist in developing BCCI's relationships there, which culminated in the Central Bank of Paraguay placing some of its central bank deposits with BCCI.

The new BCCI bank quickly made one enormous set of loans to Pharaon -- for the construction of a luxury five-star hotel in downtown Buenos Aires -- the first such hotel in the city, including an 18-story tower, convention center, and shopping gallery, built on the grounds of a historic mansion.

According to a letter submitted to Argentine economic authorities by the Hotel Corporation of Argentina, most of the financing for Pharaon's hotel project -- $26.3 million in all -- was to come through selling Argentina Debt under the government's debt equity conversion program. In the letter, Pharaon was described as "a prominent international businessman who has investments in banks, insurance companies, real state [sic] development projects, and numerous other businesses worldwide."(20) During an application for Argentinean citizenship Pharaon made on June 16, 1988, he listed BCCI, CenTrust Bank in Florida, and Independence Bank in California as among his principal investments, and declared he had helped arrange BCCI's acquisition of FinAmerica -- renamed BCCI Argentina.(21)

BCCI's direct involvement in the debt-for-equity project was suspected by some Argentinean press at the time, given the lavishness of the project and questions about whether a hotel could possibly be profitable. However, BCCI's actual involvement was not proven until after BCCI's global closure on July 5, 1991. A week later, investigators in Buenos Aires reported that BCCI Argentina had been heavily involved in the construction of the Pharaon hotel, but that all accounts at the bank had been "cleared out a week before the central bank's move to revoke the license," leaving no depositors in the bank and no deposits. BCCI had financed the Buenos Aires hotel through buying Argentinean foreign debt at a huge discount and cashing it with the central bank, with the result that the Argentine central bank, in essence, financed the bulk of the hotel.(22)

In addition, the hotel project required legislative and regulatory action by various Argentine political figures. In mid-1989, Pharaon reached out to new-elected Argentine President Carlos Menem himself, through ties Pharaon had developed to Menem's former chief of staff, Alberto Kohan. A few months later, Pharaon was introduced to President Menem, and following a meeting with Pharaon, President Menem personally telephoned local officials in Buenos Aires to eliminate the red tape that had been delaying the construction of the BCCI-Pharaon hotel. The delays ended the following day.(23)

The intimate nature of the relationship between top Argentine officials, BCCI, and Pharaon was further demonstrated when Pharaon hired Argentine economist Gonzalez Fraga. On Pharoan's behalf, Fraga arranged the debt-equity swap to help finance the hotel, and then became the new president of the Central Bank under Menem. Fraga told journalists, "it's a pretty story that President Menem made me head of the Central Bank as a favor to Pharaon. But it wasn't that way."(24)

In practice, BCCI's Buenos Aires bank never developed much of the business anticipated for it. Ultimately, its principal activities were mainly to manage the financing of Pharaon's hotel venture and a jojoba planation also financed through an Argentine debt-equity swap involving BCCI.

In the meantime, Pharaon had unwittingly brought about official action against BCCI Argentina in April, 1991 as a result of testifying in a court case, unrelated to BCCI, that:

As much as BCCI, the First National Bank of Boston, the Credit Suisse and the National Bank of Greece -- all are equally lawbreakers.(25)

In response to this suggestion that all banks were laundering money, Argentina ordered BCCI to begin winding up its affairs in Argentina as of the end of 1991, and began a formal investigation of BCCI in Argentina. Little further happened until BCCI's global closure on July 5, 1991, which soon resulted in BCCI Argentina's closure as well. Argentine Federal Judge Maria Servini then combined the investigation into BCCI with another ongoing case implicating the former appointment's secretary of Argentine President Carlos Menem, and his sister-in-law, Amira Yoma, in an alleged international drug and money laundering network. However, little has been made public about the investigation since that time, and many of the key questions about BCCI's and Pharaon's relationships in Argentina remain unanswered.

BCCI and Argentine Arms Deals

In response to the Foreign Relations Committee subpoena to BCCI, BCCI's liquidators produced documents concerning two proposed arms sales involving Argentina that had been maintained at BCCI's offices in Miami.

The first set of documents held at BCCI-Miami referred to the sale by the Argentine Air Force of what handwritten notes described as "22 units of Aircraft plus adequate space parts, including 6 spare engines at a price of $110,000,000.00," consisting of Mirage IIIC/B jets manufactured in France and "modified to Argentine Air Force requirements following years of combat experience."(26)

The prospectus included technical drawings of the Mirage jets and basic military specifications, with a commitment that the "AAF," or Argentine Air Force, would provide all technical documentation in support of the planes, ground support equipment, and, if the "customer country" wished, a full program of flight training in Argentina for customer country pilots. (27)

This proposal had never gone through the legal processes in Argentina required for such sales, and was a secret in Argentina until the Subcommittee released these documents. As former Argentine Defense Secretary Raul Alconada Sempe testified before the Subcommittee, the sales had never been authorized, and that if such a proposal had been made legally, it would have required notification to the Argentine parliament:

Sales without the Defense Minister knowing, from 1983 on, it was impossible, because it was only the Defense Ministry that authorized such sales. What does exist, and I think this is a general problem throughout all countries, is that there are countries that have arms, countries that need arms, and the famous middleman crop up. The brokers, the sales agents, and these are the people that try to match the buyer and the seller. . . . They just try to look for such a deal. This is what may have happened.(28)

Following the conclusion of the hearing, investigators in Argentina determined that the sale appeared to be a proposal made unofficially by a general in the Argentine air force to various countries in the Middle East, including Iraq. BCCI had offered to act as a broker and possible financier for the proposed sale of the Mirage jets, which represented a substantial percentage of the total possessed by Argentina. However, the general involved had never been able to convince Argentine governmental figures that the transaction was in the interest of Argentina, and the proposal died.

Other BCCI documents describe BCCI's involvement in a possible sale of night vision equipment by Litton Electron Devices in Arizona to the Government of Argentina, guaranteed by an Argentine government bank, through a company owned by the Argentine government. It is not clear from the documents whether BCCI ultimately financed the night-vision equipment sales or not.


When BCCI was closed globally on July 5, 1991, one of the nations that was worst hit was Bangladesh, which had deposits of $171 million at the time of its closure. Following the collapse, some 40,000 depositors threatened a hunger strike after losing their life savings, 500 depositors actually conducted a sit-down strike in the capitol's financial district, and another thirty depositors threatened to engage in self-immolation if the government did not find a way to restore some of their losses. One month later the Bangladeshi government promised to provide up to $1400 to each of the banks depositors, as a means of ending the highly-publicized strikes.

Thus, the impoverished government of one of the poorest countries in the world was forced, in essence, to raid its own treasury to alleviate the suffering of the small depositors to make up for millions stolen from Bangladesh by BCCI and former Bangladeshi government officials, including the man who had been president and dictator of Bangladesh throughout the 1980's, Mohammed Ershad. These schemes included massive tax evasion and an equally massive and illegal currency trafficking ring involving then-president Ershad, top aides, and President Ershad's mistress, which continued until Ershad was deposed in December, 1990.

According to various press accounts, supplemented by information from BCCI insiders provided the Subcommittee, President Ershad worked with his brother-in-law, former Bangladeshi diplomat A.G.M. Mohiuddin, to smuggle millions of dollars out of Bangladesh through BCCI into the United States. BCCI also hired various relatives of Ershad to work at BCCI branches in Hong Kong, Britain and Canada, and in return, Bangladesh hired one of BCCI's top officers to serve as Bangladesh's first ambassador to Brunei -- whose embassy functioned primarily as a sales office in Brunei for BCCI.(29)

The BCCI-Ershad connection was essential to the Bangladesh president because given his country's impoverishment, he had relatively limited opportunities outside of what BCCI could bring him to get rich. His salary was only $13,000 a year as president, but through making use of BCCI he was able to move millions of dollars of fund siphoned out of Bangladesh governmental accounts.

As BCCI officer Abdur Sakhia testified in response to a question about payments by BCCI to the leading political families of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, including President Ershad:

The payoff [came] either in the form of cash, or hiring of their relatives, contribution to their favorite charities, payment of their medical bills. It took various shapes. So in some cases cash may have been given, in some cases their relatives were hired, in other cases their charities were funded, their projects were financed at favorable rates, loans at favorable rates. So it took different shapes and forms.(30)

In the case of Bangladesh, the payoffs in fact came in almost every shape and form. By far the most detailed account of these payoffs was provided by the Los Angeles Times, which sent a reporter to Bangladesh to interview government officials, BCCI officers, and private business there about the relationship between BCCI and Bangladesh after BCCI's collapse. Its account has been generally corroborated by testimony to the Subcommittee from statements by BCCI officials, including Sakhia and Chinoy. As the Times found:

Here, in a land that perpetually ranks among the poorest of the world's poor, BCCI stretched the law to its limits to avoid paying desperately needed government taxes, to skirt national banking regulations and to remit as much profit as possible out of Bangladesh and into the bank's international web of corporations and subsidiaries.(31)

The practices described in the Los Angeles Times article were typical of BCCI's practices in other countries. After the Central Bank of Bangladesh forbid BCCI from exporting profits in Bangladesh abroad -- the "flight capital" BCCI specialized in -- BCCI created the BCCI Foundation, a charitable trust based in Bangladesh, whose official purpose was to fund scholarships, rural health care centers and school libraries. Funding for the BCCI Foundation came from BCCI's banking operations in Bangladesh. Those profits became tax-free because they were given to the Foundation. And the foundation in turn gave funds not principally to the needy, but to a joint venture investment bank, called the Bank of Small Industries & Commerce or BASIC, staffed by BCCI officials, in which President Ershad and his top aides had a financial stake.(32)

Towards the end of Ershad's rule in Bangladesh, the scheme had become sufficiently transparent that it created outrage within the country. For example, the Foundation's most important scholarship program, to provide interest-free loans to talented college students, received about $10,500 in donations from the Foundation in 1990, in a year when the Foundation earned over $21,000 in interest alone.(33)

In the meantime, BCCI hired three of Ershad's close relatives, along twelve other sons and daughters of prime ministers, finance ministers, police chiefs, central bank governors and deputy governors.(34)

In late 1990, Ershad resigned under fire, and was tried for a variety of arms trafficking offenses in Bangladesh, and sentenced to a ten year prison term, while awaiting trial on additional corruption charges, including some pertaining to his relationship with BCCI. Following BCCI's collapse, the new government retained an investigative firm in New York in an attempt to trace what the new government contended as much as $520 million in funds misappropriated from the Bangladesh treasury by BCCI, Ershad, and his relatives. The investigators have alleged that Ershad moved millions of dollars through BCCI accounts in London and Hong Kong.(35)

Even disaster relief aid provided by foreign governments to Bangladesh to help victims of a devastating cyclone in 1990 wound up being deposited in BCCI and lost with the closure of the bank.(36)

Thus, BCCI, which promoted itself as a Third World Bank devoted to assisting the Third World in development, stole millions from Bangladesh, in concert with Bangladesh's ruling political family, in what one BCCI official was later to describe as "a perverse, reverse Robin Hood."(37)
Site Admin
Posts: 33486
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The BCCI Affair: A Report to the Committee on Foreign Re

Postby admin » Thu Apr 28, 2016 8:39 pm

Part 2 of 3


By early 1986, BCCI had identified Brazil as a prime target for BCCI expansion. Latin American banker Brian Jensen, then an Alternate Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund, had been working closely with BCCI, on an unofficial basis in this period, to help BCCI obtain its relationship with Peru through payments to Peruvian central bankers. In addition to his work on BCCI's Peruvian activities, Jensen studied the Brazilian economy and Brazilian banking system for BCCI, and wrote Abedi a memorandum which Jensen faxed to BCCI from offices at the IMF in early 1986 describing his approach to Brazil:

The establishment of a banking concern in Brazil can become a priority. I feel I can be useful in identifying and putting together a concrete and well-balanced possibility for BCCI while at the same time protecting for a positive attitude from the local authorities to such initiative. . .
A US $230 billion economy with an external trade component that exceeds 25 percent of GNP, Brazil offers the advantages of a large internal market of 135 million people and a rapidly growing export sector . . . Brazilian legislation . . . and long standing traditions or practices . . . exclude foreign banks from establishing branches or investing in domestic commercial banks at present. However, foreign equity participations of up to one-third of the common stock or half of non-voting shares are allowed in investment banks. These are specialized financial intermediaries authorized to issue certificates of deposits and other savings investments, as well as to extend loans to the private sector. . .(38)

Abedi told Jensen to talk with Brazilian bank officials to find a way to get around the regulations. The following month, Jensen sent a second memorandum from his IMF offices in Washington to BCCI:

Conscious of BCCI's interest in Brasil and according to our recent conversations in London. . . I have held discrete conversations (on a no-name basis) with central Bank authorities and existing banking groups (well know to me) as to the better possibilities and strategies. . .

The route followed by most new investors in Brasilian banking in recent years has been to buy equity into existing groups, assuring in his manner an important presence in the market. All foreign investment has been in this fashion. The rationale has been to find a solid and reputable local group (ongoing concern) and acquire up to 30 percent. . .(39)

BCCI well-understood the concept. It did not mind holding a public minority interest in a Brazilian bank, so long as it had sufficient additional secret interests through nominees to insure that in reality the local bank was BCCI anyway. BCCI directed its acquisitions officer, Abol Helmy, who was already handling the Argentine FinAmerica purchase, to locate possible nominees for BCCI in Brazil.(40) Eventually, two were found -- Sergio da Costa and Carlos Leoni Siqueira, to be BCCI's nominees, each to hold on BCCI's behalf one-third of the bank, with the remaining investor, Jacque Eluf, to hold an additional one-third, which he himself would pay for, but which BCCI would guarantee against loss.

The nominees chosen by BCCI were extremely prominent members of BCCI's elite. Jacque Eluf, who it was guaranteeing against loss, was one of the wealthiest men in Brazil, owner of IAT Co., Brazil's largest exporter of industrial alcohol, with a net worth in 1986 of about $100 million. BCCI nominee Carlos Leoni Siqueria was one of Brazil's leading attorneys, on the board of directors of companies such as IBM Brazil and Grupo Gerda, Brazil's largest privately owned steel manufacturing company. BCCI Nominee Sergio da Costa was at the time the most senior member of the Brazilian diplomatic corps and a close associate of then Brazilian president Jose Sarney.(41)

Da Costa was available to BCCI because at the age of 67 after four decades of serving Brazil as its Ambassador to such significant postings as England, Canada, the United Nations, and the United States, he was retiring and anxious to make money. Da Costa had been brought to BCCI by BCCI shareholder and front-man Ghaith Pharaon, who in late April, 1986 had met with Da Costa in Miami to seek Da Costa's help in responding to the problems posed for BCCI in circumventing the Brazilian bank laws. A telex from Miami branch manager Abdur Sakhia to BCCI-London on May 6, 1986 described the meeting having ended positively for BCCI:

Ambassador Da Costa has promised Dr. Pharaon to assist the Bank in any way he can and he also had asked Mr. Ferreira [a prominent Brazilian businessman close to President Sarney] to use his association with the President of the Republic to assist BCC.(42)

By September of 1986, da Costa had agreed to himself become a front-man for BCCI in Brazil. In return, BCCI agreed to pay him $150,000 a year, with no further responsibilities beyond being a front-man and using his influence to help BCCI with Brazilian authorities in Brasilia, the capital city.

Under the terms of the arrangement, da Costa agreed to be a director and shareholder, secretly acting as BCCI's nominee, of the bank BCCI was purchasing in Brazil, in a transaction structured by BCCI officer Abol Helmy.

Helmy drafted a memorandum, "Strictly Private and Confidential," regarding "Brazil," on September 2, 1986, under which da Costa and a second prominent Brazilian would each own 50 percent of a Brazilian company that would buy 12,622,500 voting ordinary shares in BCCI Brazil, pledge those shares to BCCI, give BCCI the right to vote its shares, and give BCCI the right to buy those shares. Da Costa would agree to serve on the three man board of directors as BCCI's front-man, to guarantee BCCI control of the bank. He would 'pay' $1,233,580 for his 'share' of BCCI Brazil's stock, and BCCI would reimburse him that amount in New York. The internal BCCI memorandum drafted by Helmy makes explicit the fact that these arrangements were designed to deceive Brazilian authorities:

It must be emphasized that the Brazilian economy and bureaucracy are highly sophisticated. As such any payments made by Brazilians must have the appropriate ORIGINATION OF FUNDS. That is, the Brazilian 'investors' must have the necessary net worth for Brazilian taxation authorities' purposes to support any investments made. . .
Messrs. Da Costa and Leoni to ensure that the transaction is fully acceptable to the Central Bank and to ensure that there are no adverse public consequences will be purchasing their shares in cash. . .

Both Ambassador Da Costa and Mr. Leoni are reluctant to take loans from any bank to finance the transaction for Central Bank and public image purposes . . . I have negotiated, subject to BCC management approval, an interest free loan to the individuals concerned . . . to enable them to complete the transaction.(43) (emphasis in original)

The memorandum demonstrated that BCCI would provide da Costa and Leoni with $2,467,160 for the purchase of his stock in BCCI Brazil, every penny the stock would cost. In a staff interview, Helmy acknowledged that da Costa and Leoni were not at risk and that the transaction was a standard nominee arrangement by which BCCI circumvented local laws and that this approach had been used a numerous of times previously by BCCI. Helmy also said it was BCCI's understanding that da Costa and Leoni would take care of arrangements with Brazil's central bank and other Brazilian officials to make sure that they acquiesced in the transaction as structured.(44) Thus, in essence, Helmy at BCCI and da Costa, while still Brazil's Ambassador to the United States, had with other BCCI officials and other prominent Brazilians, created a plan by which they would together make possible BCCI's purchase of a bank in Brazil to circumvent Brazilian law.

BCCI officials were ecstatic at da Costa's participation in their plan for Brazil, and his agreement to be a Senior Advisor to BCCI. On October 28, 1986, while da Costa was still Brazil's Ambassador to the United States, the head of BCCI's Miami office, S. M. Shafi, sent him a congratulatory telex at the Embassy:

congratulations from myself and my colleagues on your joing [sic] our Brazilian project. We welcome you to the fold BCC family. I am very certain your experience, qualifications and contacts not only in Brazil but also internationally will go a long way in turning our subsidiary in Brazil into one of the most successful units of BCCI.(45)

Da Costa signed a three-year consultancy agreement with BCCI on November 3, 1986, under which he committed to acting as "Director of [BCCI's] investment bank in Brazil," and a front-man for BCCI there.(46) Da Costa then followed through in participating in the plan developed by Helmy under which BCCI would secretly purchase a majority interest in BCCI Brazil through nominees. He received his 'loans,' from BCCI, and purchased his 'stock' in the Brazilian bank. BCCI duly reported its loans to him on its books in Panama, characterized as "International Loans," as if they were normal loans that BCCI anticipated would be repaid. By April 30, 1988, da Costa's 'loans,' from BCCI amounted to $1,563,723.85. In fact, da Costa did not pay interest or principal on the loans, which were shams to mask BCCI's ownership of the 'da Costa' shares of the bank.

Among themselves, BCCI officials were also pleased about another aspect of being connected to da Costa. As he entered his agreement with BCCI to circumvent Brazilian banking laws, he had told them that he was also joining Kissinger Associates. A full account of da Costa's and BCCI's relationship with Kissinger Associates is set forth separately.(47)

To penetrate the Brazilian market, BCCI had once again made pay-offs to some of the most prominent people in Brazil -- this time among others to the country's most senior and prestigious diplomats -- in order for them to participate with BCCI in circumventing the laws of their country.


BCCI developed a number of relationships with governmental entities in the impoverished Central African country of Cameroon, including the United Nation's account there and the U.S. embassy's account there. But the most critical relationship for BCCI in Cameroon was with the country's ministry of finance, which, after BCCI began making payments to its officials, agreed to borrow funds from BCCI on which BCCI charged Cameroon interest, and then to redeposit them in non-interest bearing accounts, benefiting no one other than BCCI and the bribed officials.(48)

At the same time, BCCI went into a joint venture with the government of Cameroon to finance BCCI's bank in Cameroon. The joint venture was successful for both BCCI, which held 60 percent of the banks shares, and for Kanga Zamb Jean, who was previously Cameroon's finance secretary and governor of a province of Cameroon before he became chairman and managing director of the bank. In that capacity, Jean was officially representing the interests of the Republic of Cameroon, which held a minority interest in the bank. In fact, Jean was also lining his own pockets.(49)

BCCI's relationships with Cameroon were flourishing by the time of BCCI's indictment in Tampa on drug money laundering. In 1988, Cameroon started directing oil export financing through BCCI, as a result of payments being made by BCCI to people in the finance department of the Cameroon national oil company. The payments were small, amounting to no more than $3,000 to $4,000 per person, but enough to secure BCCI what it needed in such a low-income country. In return for this small investment, BCCI benefitted a number of ways. As Nazir Chinoy, Paris regional manager in this period, explained:

The deposits from the purchasers of the oil are kept from 7-10 days in Paris. You can use that money to make a small profit there. But more important than the deposit was the exchange. The money is kept in Paris then is converted into French francs. There is an exchange profit to be made for BCC Paris as well as for BCC Cameroon.(50)

BCCI Cameroon became a cash cow for BCCI, with deposits amounting to between 90 and 100 million pounds sterling. When BCCI was closed globally, Cameroon was caught with most of that money still deposited -- including a substantial amount of government funds -- amounting to about $90 million, which for Cameroon constituted a substantial loss.(51) Of those funds, approximately $63 million amounted to real deposits by Cameroon that had been discovered by BCCI's auditors, but never recorded by BCCI on the books. BCCI had kept the deposits off-the-books in order to use the cash to finance other BCCI operations elsewhere.(52) Later, BCCI's chief financial officer, Massihur Rahman, was to refer to the treatment of Cameroon's as unrecorded deposits at BCCI as "major fraud."(53)


As Colombia was transformed during the 1980's from a country whose biggest cash crop was coffee, to one whose biggest cash crop was cocaine, BCCI decided to enter the Colombian market through buying Banco Mercantile, a troubled bank there.

It did so fully aware of the nature of most of the dollars that were being generated in Colombia. According to Abdur Sakhia, who was then on BCCI's top officials in the United States, BCCI's decision to acquire a Colombian bank was exceptionally controversial even within BCCI:

In December, around Christmas 1982, we had a meeting in Panama, and Mr. Akbar Bilgrami, who was indicted and convicted, and Mr. Amjad Awan, brought in a proposal of this bank in Colombia. We wanted to expand in Colombia in terms of a branch in Bogota which would do international business, but according to them the only way we could get an entry into Colombia would be to buy this bank.

I was vehemently opposed to the acquisition, one, because the bank was doing very poorly . . . I said: What are we going to do with all of this? We do not know what people they are, what type of clients they are, what are they doing in Cartagena, Cali, Medellin? How are we going to control this.

I had been to Colombia twice before this meeting to our office. We used to have a representative office in Bogota. And every time they would take me from the airport escorted by an armed guard to my hotel. . . I said: How are we going to manage offices in remote arts of Colombia when you cannot walk in Bogota unescorted? I said: We don't know what types of clients they are, what type of business they have, what type of money they have; we shouldn't go into this acquisition.

Later on I learned that we would now divide the operation into Caribbean and U.S. on one side and Latin America on the other side. So Colombia, Panama, Peru were taken out of my jurisdiction.(54)

We knew that the money that we would be getting in Colombia would be drug money. We knew that all the dollar deposits we would be getting would be drug money.(55)

Thus, when Sakhia complained about the concept of expansion into Colombia at a time when Colombia had already become lawless as a result of the drug trade, BCCI's response was to take away his jurisdiction over BCCI operations pertaining to Colombia, as well as its drug-producing neighbor Peru, and its drug-money laundering neighbor, Panama.

Akbar Bilgrami, convicted of money laundering in the Tampa case, told the Subcommittee that he could not, for legal reasons, discuss in any detail his activities in Colombia. He was willing, however, to make some general statements about the flow of funds from BCCI Colombia to the United States.

First, it was true that BCCI, like other foreign banks based in Colombia, was moving dollars out of Colombia into FDIC-secured banks in the United States. According to Bilgrami, one of the key goals of many of his Colombian clients was to obtain federal insurance for their cash deposits. Accordingly, BCCI would take their funds, and immediately transfer the funds to accounts set up in their names in First American, which BCCI secretly controlled, and in National Bank of Georgia, which BCCI then separately secretly controlled. According to Bilgrami, most of this was typical flight capital:

You know, all flight capital is questionable money: Tax evasion, drugs money, arms transactions, pure political corruption. But we were small, only able to take in $100 million yearly. Other banks were taking in a billion each. So we were losing out on that business. Credit Suisse was repatriating $1 billion per year in flight capital from Colombia. Union Bank of Switzerland, another $1 billion. We only handled $100 million. But that amount did go from BCCI Colombia into the United States.(56)

In Colombia, as in so many other nations, BCCI found that to stay in business, it had to pay bribes. Because the bank it had acquired was in such poor shape, and so near to collapse, the Colombian government had made no objections to BCCI's acquisition of it, and no payments by BCCI to officials were necessary. That changed, however, after BCCI bought the bank. According to Bilgrami:

Colombia was a unique situation. We never paid any illegal money to purchase the bank. But when we inherited the bank, we learned that it was a tradition to pay the treasurer of the bank commissions on the largest accounts. I asked Mr. Naqvi for clarification, you know, should we pay it? And he said to pay it in dollars so that it couldn't be traced to us. So we paid it, around $20,000 to $30,000 monthly.(57)


BCCI's situation in the Congo was different from its situation in many other countries, in that the best known example of its criminality emanated from government cheating, rather than BCCI's.

Originally, BCCI had purchased government securities, at a discount, under an agreement by which the government promised to repay BCCI, and then the government had, after making some of the repayments, failed to follow through on the deal. Thus, BCCI's original wrongdoing was merely its creation of a mechanism for repayment through skimming off commodities transactions. However, BCCI then wound up paying bribes only after Congo officials failed to honor the deal worked out originally. In essence, BCCI made the payoffs to protect itself after it had been the victim of fraud by the Congo.

As Nazir Chinoy advised the Subcommittee, in August 1985, BCCI had worked out what looked like a profitable arrangement with the Government of the Congo by purchasing notes issued by the Congo in the range of $65 million to $67 million. These notes had been originally purchased by Mohsen Hujaj, a Lebanese contractor, with extensive contacts in the Congo. Hujaj accepted the notes from the Congo in payment for services he had performed after the government proved unable to pay under the terms of its contract with Hujaj. In a three-way deal, Hujaj got the government to acknowledge this indebtedness to BCCI and agree to certain repayments starting every three months.

A complex scheme was devised to insure that BCCI would be repaid on the notes without the government of the Congo having to acknowledge the payments or set aside funding for them. The Congo government placed 17 million in deposits in dollar terms in BCCI Paris, while BCCI was given the right to handle funds generated through the sale of oil and to take a charge off the proceeds of these sales. Under the terms of the deal, the oil sales were made from the Government of the Congo to a French company called ELF. ELF paid the money to an offshore account in a Swiss bank which had lent Congo $60 million. When the oil proceeds came in, the balance after paying for the oil would be sent to BCCI Paris, which got about $20 million of the proceeds and would use this for repayment on the notes. The arrangements worked well until January 1986, when suddenly the money stopped coming in from the Swiss bank.(58)

With some difficulty, BCCI learned from the Swiss bank that the government of the Congo had repaid the Swiss bank directly for its lending, and in the future they took payment directly for the oil from ELF, bypassing BCCI entirely. In response, BCCI turned once again to a tried and tested technique -- bribery. As Chinoy explained:

We had to make expensive presents to the finance minister to get much of our money out. We were still owed $40 million by 1987 and having difficulty with the Lebanese, Hujaj, who threatened to get me killed because we were holding $11 million of his deposits at BCCI which were pledged. We released $6 million and had to find other means of securing repayment on the rest.(59)

In the meantime, French authorities, under the leadership of Jacques Chirac, had recognized the Congo's parlous financial condition, and convened a meeting of bankers in an attempt to restructure Congo's debt. Under the terms of the restructuring, BCCI, which was the second largest of all lenders to the Congo, would be forced to accept losses on its lending, which it did not wish to do. Accordingly, BCCI officials discussed what kind of payments could be made to the ministry of finance in the Congo to solve the problem:

Dildar Rizve [a senior BCCI official] said, if I can get to him, if he releases our funds, I'll set up a scholarship for him. I have a feeling it was $100,000 for his children. But in 1987 the finance minister was replaced and a new finance minister came in who was a younger and more honest man. The new chap wanted $5 million as a temporary overdraft to assist the President for his tribe. If we could get him that, they would pay us back within 5-10 days. I spoke to Naqvi [then BCCI's second highest ranking official] who said, go and do it. It was repaid and he was honest. He said, if you want money, lend me another $20 million. Congo had changed from socialism to joining the World Bank and becoming capitalist. He said I will see that your outstanding [loan]s are paid before we join the World Bank. The money was given. On June 29 1988, the new finance minister was in Paris and Security Pacific [which was lending the Congo new funds] paid us the full amount outstanding.(60)

BCCI was one of only two out of 32 banks that was fully repaid on its lending. While the new finance minister was, in Chinoy's view, honest, to keep him that way, BCCI did make sure that he and the Governor of the Central Bank received presents from BCCI. According to Chinoy, "we gave him the expensive presents and that made the difference."(61)


Shortly after establishing offices in the United States, BCCI cornered the market for government funds and programs in Jamaica as the result of establishing a personal relationship with then-Prime Minister Edward Seaga. Ultimately, this relationship involved BCCI being involved in financing all of Jamaica's commodity imports from the United States under the U.S. Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) program and handling essentially every foreign current account of Jamaican government agencies.

According to Abdur Sakhia, who brought in the Jamaican account, unlike BCCI's practice in so many other countries, its relationship with Jamaica was based on nothing more than reaping more benefits for having taken some additional risk.

Sakhia told the Subcommittee that the relationship began, in part, because he had known Mr. Seaga's family as a result of his children and Sakhia's children attending the same school in Toronto, Canada. Soon thereafter, Seaga invited Sakhia to Jamaica to find out if BCCI would lend Jamaica any money. Jamaica began to borrow from BCCI, and the borrowing continued until BCCI executives began to become concerned about whether or not BCCI would be repaid. Seaga began personally telephoning BCCI, and Sakhia personally, to beg for additional money for Jamaica.

They owed a lot of money to BCCI. Seaga told me, we need oil, we need seeds for planting, can we make an exception here? Finally he called me in desperation at home. He told me, there is an oil ship which is here in Kingston already, it is ready to unload the oil. If we don't unload it we will have a dark Christmas in Jamaica. Just give us and extra $4 million or $5 million and we will make it up to BCCI. I promise you personally.(62)

Sakhia decided to take the risk. When the crisis was over, Seaga insured that BCCI received essentially all Jamaica's foreign business. BCCI soon wound up with "practically every foreign currency account of Jamaican government agencies at BCCI," including lucrative concessions in which Jamaica selected BCCI as the bank to handle all of the U.S. government or international organization sponsored guarantee programs. As Sakhia told the Subcommittee:

By the mid-1980's, we handled every penny that came into or out of Jamaica in terms of foreign currency.(63)

We were bankers to the central bank, we were bankers to all official governmental organizations in Jamaica.(64)

Typically, BCCI would provide financing, usually for the import or export of products, which in turn would be guaranteed by the foreign or international organization. Jamaica provided BCCI a no-risk means of generating profits through international organizations and foreign governments, and BCCI in return loaned funds to Jamaica which other banks refused to provide, on the basis of the personal relationships involved, and BCCI's expectation that these relationships would in the long run guarantee its repayment.(65)

At the time of BCCI's collapse, Jamaica owed about $34 million to BCCI. Thus, Jamaica may well be one of the few nations to have actually benefitted from the unusual deal worked out between BCCI and its political leaders.(66)


BCCI's activities in Nigeria were so profoundly, overwhelmingly corrupt as to suggest a very significant level of corruption in Nigerian officialdom generally. Whereas BCCI's activities in most countries merely involved corrupting a few, key people, in Nigeria the corruption was systemic and endemic, and touched nearly every operation of the bank in Nigeria.

According to BCCI officers, this was not the consequence of BCCI applying its practices to Nigeria, but rather, BCCI adapting itself to the conditions already present in Nigeria. According to BCCI officers interviewed by the Subcommittee, few European or American businesses active in Nigeria would have been able to do business without making one or another form of pay-off to Nigerian officials during the 1980's, and, to the knowledge of some BCCI officials, several such corporations, including some well-known European and U.S. banks, did.

During the Subcommittee's original investigation of BCCI in 1988, corruption involving Nigerian officials was one of the earliest allegations of BCCI criminality made to staff. As former Subcommittee investigator Jack Blum testified:

There are extraordinarily close relationships at all levels of the Nigerian Government with BCCI. [During my intial investigation] I had been called . . . by the Nigerian Ambassador who had been asked to call by the President [of Nigeria] to say, what's happening here? What are you guys doing with respect to BCCI?(67)

Several BCCI officials described BCCI having made cash payments to officials of the Nigerian central bank. As Abdur Sakhia testified:

During a meeting of the World Bank in Seoul, Korea -- I think it was in 1985 -- I saw one of the BCC officers with a lot of cash, handing it out to the staff of the central bank of Nigeria. This is what I saw personally being given to them.(68)

The most detailed account of BCCI's activities in Nigeria came from Nazir Chinoy, convicted in the Tampa case of money laundering during the time he was BCCI's Francophone regional manager. Prior to moving to BCCI-Paris, Chinoy had been stationed by BCCI in Nigeria for the first half of the 1980's, where he saw first hand the pervasive corruption of the Nigerian banking system, and BCCI's solutions for dealing with it profitably.

At the time Chinoy arrived in Nigeria in December, 1980, he found that BCCI already had purchased a minority interest in a commercial bank in Nigeria -- owning just 40 percent of the Nigerian bank, with corrupt Nigerian officials insisting on controlling the remaining 60 percent. But even with only 40 percent, the Nigerian offices of BCCI were earning BCCI very significant profits. In fact, the profits were so large that BCCI feared the Nigerians might try to take remaining interest in the bank away from BCCI. Chinoy's job was to establish a second bank for BCCI in Nigeria to protect BCCI against the possible expropriation by the government of the first bank.(69)

BCCI was already being used for short-term commercial financing through letters of credit for the purchase and sale of goods by various Nigerian governmental entities. Moreover, some Nigerian officials were using BCCI in London and elsewhere to store cash they had earned through off-the-books deals while in the government. As Chinoy explained:

Nigerians were keeping large laundered funds generated by influential people who got contracts from international companies and commissions paid abroad. The money was kept abroad and not repatriated to Nigeria. BCCI was a good place to keep it.(70)

The simplest means of generating funds for Nigerian officials was requiring a "commission" on each transaction. As Chinoy stated:

Commission means kick-back. The government approves a $300 million contract. A multinational corporation agrees with the government which has helped him, 10 percent gets kicked back. A company is established abroad or they nominate a cousin or someone who is paid 3 percent. It is known as a commission but it is actually a kickback.(71)

Other mechanisms by which these funds were generated for Nigerian officials were through over invoicing of imports and under invoicing of exports. When over invoicing would take place, the government would pay more for goods than the actual market price. BCCI would disguise this through shell entities which would appear to any outsider as arms-length brokers, but which in fact were mere mechanisms by which money would be skimmed off from the government and deposited in BCCI, to be shared by BCCI and by the official responsible for handling the purchase. When under invoicing would take place, the reverse would happen. The government would ship greater commodities than were reflected on the government invoices; the additional commodity would be sold at the same time as that invoiced, and the additional funds generated would again be split by BCCI and the Nigerian official, who of course would have keep his profits outside his home country. As Chinoy explained it:

Essentially, BCCI was handling the financing of commodities through bribery. For example, BCCI loaned $250 million to Nigeria to be repaid within the next six months for oil exports. Nigeria would charge OPIC prices but would load ten percent more than the invoice. That way you are giving a 10 percent discount.(72)

Business was so good that Chinoy's predecessor and superior at BCCI, Alauddin Shaikh, who was a senior official at the bank, decided to leave BCCI to form a partnership with a Nigerian, Razar Sareef, who had gained control of Nigerian oil exports. Shaikh has been implicated by numerous BCCI officials in making pay-offs not only in Nigeria, but in several other countries. His new venture was in any case a success. It wound up controlling the National Petroleum Corporation of Nigeria account for the United States, an account it continued to control at least as of 1991.(73)

Other techniques used by Nigerian officials with the connivance of BCCI were currency swaps involving government funds. Government funds were placed in an account at BCCI in London. BCCI would place the funds with Lloyds or another bank and swap it into different currencies or make stock investments with it. If there was a loss, Nigeria bore it. If there was a profit, the first 8 percent went to Nigeria, on anything additional, the money was split between Nigeria and the traders at BCCI.(74)

In addition to the skimming that was taking place of government funds, BCCI found itself in the position of being able to earn enormous fees from ordinary commercial transactions in Nigeria, because Nigerian officials insured that financial transactions undertaken by BCCI for its customers would be handled much more efficiently than similar transactions undertaken by any other foreign bank doing business in Nigeria. While other banks would have to wait days or weeks for their transactions to be processed by the relevant government ministries, BCCI, would have their transactions handled promptly. As Chinoy explained:

BCCI got big profits because early release of foreign exchange was the crux of any deal. BCCI was two to three times faster than Chase Manhattan or the Bank of America or any other joint venture. BCCI was faster than any Nigerian bank in getting foreign exchange out of the Central Bank. It had very good relations with Central Bank of Nigeria. Unless you were friendly with receptionist, it would lie in the tray and wouldn't go anywhere for days. BCCI used to look after the girl at the foreign exchange desk. When the BCCI clerk would hand in the foreign exchange she would do that first for processing its release. Release of foreign exchange was important. Clerks at every level were looked after by presents. We had an officer, Mr. Saddiqui, who used to go and spend at least 10 days a month in Nigeria. His specific job was to look after people at all levels. In addition, he had appointed one to two expatriates who did nothing but spend their time at Central Bank. I do not think that cash was actually paid, but presents were bought in large amounts, as much as 20-40 dresses, shirts, ties at a time brought in from London and given. Everybody was kept happy. so that there is no objection raised by a clerk that a document isn't filled in exactly correctly. Because BCCI was so good and there was a BCCI application where someone had forgot to cross a "t" or dot an "i" and they would get it rectified quickly. This is Nigeria.(75)

The result was that BCCI began to develop almost a monopoly on handling import-export financing in Nigeria. As Chinoy explained:

For banks other than BCCI, sometimes it could take 90 days for your letter of credit to take. If some clerk is unhappy he says your documents are not in order and he throws it back and doesn't give a reason. In Nigeria it is very important to have contacts because it takes 14 days for a letter to reach you. BCCI would get its letters of credit three times faster than anyone else. They will get it through the Central Bank faster than other banks. Business increases due to this reputation.(76)

According to Chinoy, the price-tag on some of the presents provided Nigerian bureaucrats was not small -- typically, they included such items as silver canteens, cutlery sets, tea sets, coffee sets, and $5,000 luxury watches and similar goods valued at a few thousand pounds, and given to Central Bank and other Nigerian officials.

Chinoy knew about the corruption of top Nigerian officials personally. During his residence in Nigeria, three Nigerians controlled the release of foreign exchange in Nigeria. One of the three, the country's comptroller of foreign exchange, was named Al Haji Balu:

Once when I was in marketing in 1985-1986, I saw a deposit from Balu of 280,000 Deutschmarks in a certificate of deposit in Frankfort. I knew what his salary in Nigeria was. This was at the time worth about $150,000 US, for deposit at BCCI Frankfort. He didn't have that kind of money from his government salary. It was obvious what was going on.(77)

Another extremely prominent Nigerian political figure who was being paid bribes by BCCI was Al Haji Ibrahim Dasuki, chairman of BCC Nigeria up until 1990-1991, when he became the Sultan of Sokoto. BCCI audit records show a $1 million loan from BCCI to Dasuki which BCCI provided him to pay for his shares of BCCI-Nigeria. Dasuki repaid this favor -- although not this loan -- to BCCI in many ways. According to Chinoy:

Dasuki had fantastic contacts with the government. He was a politician and religious leader of great eminence, and in line then to be Sultan of Sokoto. He could help the bank and used to be paid. He was paid from Caymans as well as from Nigeria. He was paid in London by one of Mr. Naqvi's special assistants, Asad Matualah, now in custody in Abu Dhabi.(78)

Chinoy explained that Dasuki was the one who would fix problems with other government officials for BCCI if anyone noticed that exchange laws were being broken or other problems arose. Dasuki was able to perform this role because of his position as a religious leader, making his support indispensable to other key Nigerian officials:

Dasuki came from the North where all presidents in Nigeria come from, and even the President has to go and pay homage to the Sultan of Sokoto. When he became Sultan all of the leaders would owe him a measure of deference. He took full advantage of that. Two to three times BCCI got into trouble and Dasuki would sort it out.(79)

Dasuki also acted as a local representative for BCCI, obtaining the right to import goods for Nigeria, and providing that right to a business associate affiliated with BCCI. The BCCI associate would then arrange for import of the commodity involved, such as rice. According to Chinoy:

It was like a license to make money. Rice was gold. Dummy companies were created on a per transaction basis and had no other life beyond that.(80)
Dasuki had so much business activity, he was able to establish his nephew, Ibrahim Katuni, to a level where by the mid-1980's, every foreign country did business with him because he had access to every ministry and had cut deals with each of them.

Katuni would tell a foreign businessman, this is how you'll make $100,000, and I'll take 20 percent. He kept Dasuki happy and was hoping to become President of BCCI.(81)

BCCI found other ways of circumventing practices in Nigeria which frustrated other banks and prevented them functioning normally. As the indictment of BCCI officials in New York described it, BCCI's success in this area involved defrauding the Central Bank of Nigeria. Foreign exchange shortfalls in Nigeria had caused the government in about 1981 to impose restrictions on imports, requiring letters of credit used in connection with imports to be secured by 100 percent cash deposits in Nigerian banks. In turn, the banks were required to certify that the payment had been made to the Central Bank. As the transactions involved might take months to be completed, this would tie up the company's funds for substantial amounts of time, discouraging the import activity altogether. BCCI's way around the problem was to create phony loans for the importers and deposit the "proceeds" from the phony loans on BCCI's books in Nigeria, and then inform the Central Bank that the deposits had been made. Once the import transaction was over, the paperwork would be reversed. Through this technique, BCCI generated letter-of-credit business from importers who would not otherwise have been able to do business; earned commissions on opening the letters of credit; earned interest on the fictitious loans it granted; and realized exchange profits from converting currencies.(82)

BCCI also handled black market foreign exchange transactions for Nigerian officials for use in Nigerian elections. Because Nigeria has never developed credit cards, and Nigerians rarely use checks, essentially all transactions in Nigeria are in cash, with few record-keeping requirements adequate to monitor graft, which is endemic.(83) Most of the time, officials sell their cash in Nigerian currency and buy foreign exchange with it for purchasing goods abroad, or for maintaining deposits and homes abroad, typically in the United Kingdom. But sometimes the Nigerians found they needed Nigerian currency, especially during election time. According to Chinoy:

At elections, the officials need the money and sell the foreign exchange at black market price and that money is paid in Nigerian currency to them and they return the foreign exchange abroad. This method is employed by Nigerian politicians to obtain political money. It is commonplace throughout Africa.(84)

As noted above, BCCI's Nigerian operations were among the bank's most profitable. This is understandable. In the case of BCCI and the Nigerian government, crime paid.


Pakistan was the home of almost all of BCCI's top officials, including founder Agha Hasan Abedi. Long before BCCI itself was started by Abedi, he began the practice of making pay-offs to politicians as a mechanism for securing business and strengthening his banks.

For example, when Abedi formed the United Bank in 1959, he appointed as chairman of its board I. I. Chundrigar, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, who was a close confidante of Pakistani's then current prime minister, Ayub Khan. Abedi maintained close ties to Khan's government, later hiring General Khan's minister of information to become the "publisher" of a BCCI promotional magazine, "South."(85)

When the Pakistani military government was replaced following the civil war that resulted in the severance of East Pakistan into Bangladesh, Abedi became just as cozy with Pakistani "socialist" Ali Bhutto, Khan's ideological opposite, making political payoffs on behalf of Bhutto during elections.(86) When Bhutto was overthrown in 1978 in a military coup, Abedi swiftly changed allegiances again to Bhutto's successor, Islamic "puritan" General Zia.(87) Zia later executed Bhutto for financial crimes, in which Abedi, among others, was clearly involved, while forming close ties to Abedi, on whose financial skills he increasingly relied.

The relationship was personal as well as professional. A sample BCCI payment to General Zia was obtained by the Subcommittee, showing BCCI's branch in the United Arab Emirates making a payment to Zia of 40 million Pakistani rupees -- several hundred thousand dollars -- on May 26, 1985.(88)

The BCCI-Pakistan relationship was important to both the bank and a succession of Pakistani governments. Although Abedi had been close to Bhutto, and formed a close relationship with the current President of Pakistan as well, it was General Zia was who in charge of Pakistan during most of BCCI's existence, and General Zia who did the most for BCCI. As Nazir Chinoy, who was based in Pakistan in the late 1970's and early 1980's, recalled:

Every time Mr. Abedi came, he always called on President Zia. President Zia did not meet Abedi during office hours, but in the night when Mr. Abedi would fly in, they would finish official dinners first and I would be sitting with Abedi and Abedi would leave for two to three hours and meet with Zia. It was the President Zia that he spoke to first before speaking to the finance minister. I think that Abedi used Zia and Zia used Abedi also for the gulf countries, when he wanted some assistance. It was a two way street.(89)

The Pakistani government guaranteed BCCI's ability to push aside immigration and customs requirements for its distinguished Arab visitors on their holidays in Pakistan, and BCCI's ability to engage in profitable banking. In return, BCCI assisting Pakistan in violating monetary controls imposed on its government by international organizations. As Chinoy explained:

In 1979, Pakistan was very short of foreign exchange, and under pressure from the World Bank to devalue the rupee. The World Bank had placed credit ceilings. The total lendings by commercial banks were limited to a figure by the World Bank. For BCCI's lending, the figure given was $750,000 US. This was just not viable to maintain. We had large deposits and had large surplus funds. Mr. Abedi was very keen that these limits go up. The World Bank would increase the limits each quarter based on how much foreign exchange Pakistan was able to generate based on central bank records. If the dollar reserves of the country went up, the World Bank would allow larger lendings in rupees. I am not sure who was the brains behind it, Mr. Abedi or Naqvi but between the two of them they came up with the idea. $50 million would be placed with BCCI Pakistan through BCCI's Kuwaiti affiliate, KIFCO. BCCI transferred money to KIFCO. I have a feeling that KIFCO got the money from Caymans. In any case, Kifco placed the money with BCCI Karachi.(90)

Thus, according to Chinoy, BCCI used an affiliate which was officially separate from BCCI, but secretly controlled by it and owned by it, to launder BCCI funds from one BCCI location to BCCI Pakistan, in order to make it seem as if BCCI Pakistan had generated an extra $50 million in legitimate deposits through this paper transaction. BCCI reported the extra $50 million to the Pakistan central bank, which in turn reported it to the World Bank to show the a $50 million increase in Pakistan's dollar reserves from abroad.(91)

A similar account of these transactions is described in the indictment of BCCI's top officials by the New York District Attorney on July 29, 1992. According to that indictment, the amount involved in all totalled $100 million.(92)

Zia died in a plane crash in mid-August, 1988, leaving a vacuum in relationships that BCCI very much regretted. Among BCCI officials, it was generally believed that if Zia had still been alive in October, 1988, he would have used his influence with the U.S. government to soften the handling of the case against BCCI in Tampa.(93)

With Zia gone, BCCI was not left without resources in Pakistan, however. The man who became President, Ishaq Khan, had served as chairman of the BCCI Foundation throughout the 1980's, and had close ties to Abedi.

The relationship between BCCI, the Pakistani government, and the BCCI Foundation had been deeply entangled from the start. As in the Bangladesh version of the BCCI Foundation, the Pakistani BCCI Foundation was created as a means of sheltering BCCI profits from taxation. In 1981, it received tax-free status while Ishaq Khan was Pakistan's minister of finance. In turn, the foundation received BCCI's profits from Pakistani operations, and then used some of those profits to finance projects the Pakistani government wanted and could not pay for itself. For example, BCCI provided $10 million in grants in the late 1980's to finance an officially "private" science and technology institute named for Pakistani President Ishaq Khan, whose director, A. Qadir Khan, has been closely associated with Pakistan's efforts to build a nuclear bomb. The institute is believed by some experts to be the headquarters for Pakistan's efforts to build an Islamic bomb. In the same period, other BCCI officials were assisting Pakistanis in purchasing nuclear technologies paid for by Pakistani-front companies through BCCI-Canada.(94)

The Foundation also made payments to somewhat less political entities, such as $3 million dollars for an "investment" in Attock Cement, a private cement company in Pakistan ostensibly owned by BCCI front-man Ghaith Pharaon, but in fact a front for BCCI itself. As BCCI officer Nazir Chinoy testified:

this foundation was set up . . . with the government of Pakistan nominating as the chairman, one or two trustees from the public and two or three from BCCI management . . . 90 percent of [BCCI Pakistan's] pre-tax profits being generated in rupees [were] given to the Foundation. It is a lot of money. . . .A charitable foundation is not subject to the same audit strict audit procedures or scrutiny by the central bank or the state bank of Pakistan. . . it becomes an opportunity to get employment. If you want to do somebody a favor, you could put him on the staff of the foundation and find a job for him.(95)

Among other officials whose activities were financed by BCCI in Pakistan were Jam Sadiq Ali, the highest ranking official in the province of Sind -- where Karachi is located -- whose personal expenses were financed by BCCI for years of self-exile in London, and who defended BCCI and Abedi after its collapse.(96)

Yet another high-ranking Pakistani official placed on BCCI's payroll after his government service was Pakistan's former Ambassador to China, Sultan Khan, who was provided a job at BCCI at its representative office in Washington, D.C. There, according to BCCI records, Khan solicited business for BCCI and its secretly-held subsidiary, First American, from the Chinese Embassy and Chinese officials in the mid-1980's, sponsored occasional events on behalf of the Chinese to which he invited prominent Americans, and had lunch with foreign diplomats who controlled accounts whose business BCCI was interested in acquiring. By the late 1980's, Khan continued to go to BCCI's Washington representative office, but according to him had little to do there beyond reading the newspapers and picked up his paycheck until the office closed after BCCI's indictment in Tampa.(97)

According to BCCI's former head of Latin American and Caribbean operations, Akbar Bilgrami, such appointments of retired Pakistani officials were typical.


Repatriating U.S. dollars from Latin America to the United States was an essential function of BCCI Panama from its inception. This was apparent to anyone who had contact with BCCI's Panama offices. As a Colombian marijuana trafficker and cooperating Justice Department witness told the Subcommittee:

Everyone who did business in the drug trade knew about BCCI. We all used it. It was very conveniently located at the airport when you came into Panama. Its officers were very attentive. And even if something went wrong, and your money was frozen at the request of the United States, BCCI would make sure you could get your money back.(98)

As this trafficker explained, his accounts at BCCI had been frozen at the request of the United States as a result of an anti-drug operation it had mounted called Operation Pisces. After the funds were frozen, he went to Panama, where he was told by his lawyer that if he was willing to give up 10 percent of the full amount, BCCI would find a way to release his funds to him, while telling the U.S. government they were frozen. He agreed, and soon the lawyer produced a letter from the Attorney General of Panama -- who at the time was supposedly working closely with the United States on anti-drug efforts -- ordering the release of the funds.(99)

Cartel money-launderer Ramon Milian Rodriguez, who testified before the Subcommittee in February, 1988 concerning his knowledge of Noriega's involvement with drug trafficking and money laundering, wrote the Committee after BCCI's global closure to inform the Committee that he too banked at BCCI, and that a substantial portion of his remaining funds following his arrest and conviction in Tampa had remained at BCCI and was lost in its closure.(100)

Following BCCI's plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney in Tampa in January 1990 which required BCCI to cooperate with law enforcement in anti-money laundering activities, BCCI's own employees in Miami began to recommend that BCCI's attorneys refer to the Justice Department BCCI's overall operations in Panama, as well as Colombia, for possible further criminal investigation. When BCCI's attorneys refused to undertake this action, apparently out of concern that such a referral would wind up destroying the bank, these lower-level BCCI employees again asked the lawyers to criminally refer BCCI's Panama and Colombian operations to Justice. The lawyers again refused to do so.(101)

BCCI officials argued that in handling flight capital and dirty funds out of Panama, BCCI was little different from most other foreign banks which had decided to locate there.(102)

However, it was no accident that BCCI was the foreign bank that obtained the bank account of Panama dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega. Once again, BCCI systematically solicited relationships in Panama with top officials as the key to long-term profitability. While Noriega was in charge of Panamanian intelligence, G-2, under the government of General Torillos, Noriega had come to know Alauddin Shaikh, a BCCI official who frequently handled payoffs to government officials in a number of countries.

As Nazir Chinoy explained:

Originally Panama was set up by Alauddin Shaikh, Amjad Awan was his understudy only. Awan reported to Shaikh, not anyone else. Up until I was in London in 1985, Shaikh used to fly to Panama two to three trips a year to meet with General Noriega. The relationship was very close. General Noriega gave a copy of old hand-written Koran to Alauddin Shaikh.(103)

When Noriega visited London, Shaikh provided him with dinners and entertainment, and soon thereafter, Noriega assisted BCCI in obtaining a license to open a bank in Panama. Shortly thereafter, Shaikh's assistant, Awan, who had met Noriega in London, was transferred by BCCI from London to Panama, where he made the acquisition of Noriega's account a priority.(104)

Awan pressed Noriega on numerous occasions to open an account at BCCI, and in early 1982, Noriega agreed, opening an account in the name of the Panamanian defense forces. Under his agreement with Awan, Noriega would have sole control over the funds, which would be maintained by BCCI in the United Kingdom in numbered accounts.(105)

During the first two years he held the account with BCCI, Noriega used his accounts at BCCI to make political payoffs in the course of elections, and for intelligence operations. For example, Noriega directed BCCI to payoff the mortgage of his hand-picked candidate for president of Panama, Nicholas Barletta. Later, this changed, and he used his accounts with BCCI as a personal account for himself and his family, who received credit cards from BCCI and began making extensive charges for shopping trips in Miami, New York, London, Paris, and at popular European resorts on the BCCI "Panamanian Defense Forces" account. At its height, Noriega maintained about $25 million in the account, mostly from cash deposits. The largest single deposit of currency into the accounts was approximately $4 million.(106)

Noriega introduced members of his business clique to BCCI, and encouraged BCCI to make loans to them, including businessman Enrique Pretelt and arms dealer and drug trafficker Cesar Rodriguez. BCCI provided them with lines of credit that were secured by Noriega's promise to Awan that he would make sure that the loans were made good. However, these loans were defaulted on. In the case of Rodriguez, when BCCI raised the issue with Noriega, Noriega advised the bank to look his estate and that he would have no further responsibility. Against Awan's wishes, BCCI chose to swallow the losses -- which amounted to $10 million in all -- rather than irritate Noriega by pushing forward with attempts at recovery.(107)

The closeness of the relationship between BCCI and Noriega extended to Noriega's wife and children as well, each of whom made use of BCCI accounts. Noriega handled the purchase of Noriega residences in the United Kingdom. And Noriega's daughter was even hired as an employee at BCCI-Miami, where the bank trained her in its own techniques for banking.(108)

Later, when Noriega was indicted in Miami in February 1988, he told BCCI to move his bank accounts at BCCI-London to another location, in an effort to hide them from U.S. authorities. Awan and other BCCI officials, including Swaleh Naqvi, then BCCI's Acting CEO, discussed Noriega's request and decided to move the funds to BCCI-Luxembourg as a means of keeping the funds concealed from detection by law enforcement in the United States and United Kingdom. The funds stayed in Luxembourg for the next four months.

In July, 1988, when BCCI learned that the Subcommittee had subpoenaed it for Noriega's records, Awan met with BCCI officials Naqvi, Dildar Rizvi, and S.M. Shafi to discuss whether Noriega's funds needed to be hidden still further. Noriega then called Awan and asked Awan to transfer the money out of BCCI entirely, to Panama's government bank, Banco Nacional de Panama, and immediately from there to a small European bank. Awan then met Ziauddin Akbar, BCCI's former head of Treasury operations, who in 1986 had left BCCI to become the head of Capcom, its commodities trading affiliate. Awan discussed Noriega's problems with Akbar, who offered to hold the $23 million in Noriega funds for BCCI in one of the trading accounts Capcom maintained for laundering money, a company sometimes referred to as Finley and sometimes as Findley. At BCCI's direction, Awan then travelled to Panama through a circuitous route designed to ensure that there would be no record of Awan's travel to Panama through the United States, and while in Panama, met with General and Mrs. Noriega. The Noriegas authorized BCCI to transfer their money to the Findley account at the Middle East Bank in London, and Akbar then moved the Noriega funds through Capcom to different entities, breaking up the trail by which Noriega's money could easily be traced by anyone.(109)

Thus, BCCI officials in the United States, Panama, the United Kingdom and Luxembourg colluded with one another to hide funds which they knew were the subject of a pending criminal action in the United States from law enforcement. They hid the funds through using the rather traditional mechanism in money laundering of layering -- moving the funds from entity to entity and from location to location until they could no longer be traced.



BCCI's method and scope of operations in Peru parallelled its functions in most, if not all, other countries. First, officers of the bank cultivated favorable relationships with powerful members of government and the private sector. Second, BCCI sought to do business in Peru with the hope of securing the high net worth depositors upon which its operations depended regardless of the source of the deposits. Finally, the bank conducted the full range of highly suspect or outright illegal activities that it conducted in other countries, including allegedly giving bribes and kickbacks, hiding money in numbered accounts, evading regulatory inspection, and laundering stolen government funds and drug profits.
Site Admin
Posts: 33486
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The BCCI Affair: A Report to the Committee on Foreign Re

Postby admin » Thu Apr 28, 2016 8:39 pm

Part 3 of 3


Near the end of 1984, the government of Peru ceased making any payments on its national debt. The breach of its debt repayment obligations subjected Peru to two direct results over the next year. First, Peru became a bad risk to which very few, if any, banks or countries outside of Peru would extend loans and lines of credit. These loans and lines of credit were essential to financing trade between Peru and other nations because the external sources were Peru's only source of foreign currency. Second, those banks and countries to which Peru had already become indebted sought to collect the money that Peru owed them. The directors and managers of Peru's central bank -- the Banco Central de Reservas del Peru ("BCRP"), which managed all the funds of the government -- particularly feared attachment and seizure of Peruvian assets located in other countries.(110) In short, Peru was faced with a dilemma: On the one hand, its need to finance foreign trade compelled it to form a relationship with a bank outside the state. Yet Peru faced attachment and seizure of any funds placed outside of the protection of its own borders.

Thus, entering 1986, Peru was faced with two immediate needs as a result of its refusal to pay its debt obligations. First, it needed to form a relationship with a bank which would extend lines of credit in foreign currency in exchange for deposits of Peruvian currency. Second, insofar as Peru faced attachment and seizure of its assets by countries and banks to which it was indebted, it needed to form a relationship with a bank which could "hide"(111) Peruvian deposits from creditors. These two criteria -- "reciprocity" and "safety" -- formed the express agenda of the BCRP as it began to approach BCCI and other banks in mid-1986.(112)

Formation of the Relationship

Just as in the United States, one of BCCI's very first actions lay in hiring a prestigious law firm. Jorge del Castillo, a member of the Peruvian House of Delegates, testified that, upon entering the country in 1984,

BCCI . . . asked for and got the legal advice of a very important law firm in Peru, . . . Arias & Davis & Associates, which is a very well known law firm.(113)

Moreover, just as in the United States, the law firm hired was well-connected to the Peruvian government. Del Castillo testified that the partner at Arias & Davis's representing BCCI was:

. . . Dr. Sterling, . . . a person whom all of us respect and could not possibly be suspected of anything illegal, he is a member of Dr. Lunes Flores' party, and is the President of the Peruvian Senate. He is beyond reproach.(114)

Thus, from its entry into Peru, BCCI sought to cultivate the patina of respectability that it had sought to cultivate since its creation.

In the meantime, BCCI began to promise Peru terms that it, alone among international banks, could meet. Peru would deposit its funds at BCCI-Panama, BCCI-Panama would hide those funds under Panama's strict bank confidentiality laws, and BCCI would then lend money to Peru at a rate of about 50 cents on the dollar, which Peru could use to purchase foreign goods.

This attractive offer was offset, in part, from the beginning, by Peru's legitimate concerns about BCCI as a bank. The central bankers of Peru understood that BCCI had no lender of last resort, and that their funds could disappear if something went wrong. These concerns were met, in part, through bribes by BCCI to at least two of the decision-makers at the central bank, who from there on would become staunch supporters of the BCCI relationship.(115)

Following the bribe payments, the BCRP entered into a formal banking relationship with BCCI on April 28, 1986. The BCRP and BCCI signed two documents, "General Business Agreement for the Handling of Numbered Account" and "Operative Covenant for Numbered Account." These two documents described the accounts to be provided to the BCRP. The deposits were to be in a numbered account, with BCCI to "keep absolute secrecy about [the BCRP's] identity." The accounts were to be kept in Panama, which maintained strict bank secrecy laws. In a letter dated the same day, a $60 million line of credit was extended to the BCRP. In exchange for the credit line, the BCRP promised to keep at least $200 million in its accounts.(116)

These agreements were advantageous to BCCI for three reasons. First, BCCI required that the BCRP deposit four times the amount that it was obligated to lend. Thus, as long as the relationship between the two lasted, BCCI would have $140 million to use for purposes other than its loan obligations to the BCRP. Loans are traditionally considered assets to a bank, and deposits, because they are due upon a customer's demand, are considered liabilities. Thus, the $140 million wouldn't be considered a traditional asset increasing the book value of the branch.(117) However, within the context of the transaction itself, the $200 million minimum requirement limited the BCRP's ability to withdraw the money at will and thus provided a near-certain $140 million for BCCI's use.

Second, the account agreements were advantageous to BCCI because they did not obligate BCCI to pay any interest on the BCRP deposits. This savings in interest would amount to millions in itself.(118) However, the letter of credit did obligate the BCRP to pay an interest rate on any amounts borrowed, as well as "[o]ther charges like Confirmation, Commitment, Negotiation, etc. . . . as per BCCI schedule of charges."(119)

The agreement between BCCI and the BCRP was advantageous to the BCRP in at least one way. Peruvian Central Bank official Ricardo Llaque testified that no other bank with which the BCRP had a relationship would provide a letter of credit as high as BCCI:

Senator Kerry[:] Did not other banks in Panama offer numbered accounts?

Mr. Llaque[:] Yes, but not levels of credit which were very high . . . . It [the size of the line of credit] was one of the most important points in the decision of the board to accept the corresponding relationship . . . and since it was a revolving line of credit it meant that this was a benefit . . . at an amount much higher than what the nominal amount of the line of credit really was.(120)

Llaque was contending that the line of credit BCCI was advancing Peru was greater than that offered by any other bank. However, it was still substantially below the level of the amounts deposited by Peru. More importantly, since BCCI needed Peru's assets, and as an institution tended not to be concerned about the repayment schedule of loans, BCCI's needs and Peru's needs fit one another perfectly.

Relationship Between BCCI And Peruvian Elite

As described above, in the course of obtaining the Central Bank account, BCCI officials paid bribes to the Central Bank officials handling the accounts.(121) The purpose of these bribes was to ensure that once the relationship was established and BCCI had agreed to lend funds against Peru's central bank assets, the Peruvians would have a personal stake in keeping Peru's assets at BCCI.

As the District Attorney of New York has alleged in his July 29, 1991 indictment of BCCI, and his indictment on July 29, 1992 of BCCI's top officials and front-men:

The BCC Group made corrupt payments to the President and the General Manager of the Central Bank of Peru. In or about 1985, the BCC Group made payments of money to the President and General Manager of the Central Bank of Peru upon an agreement and understanding that said President and General Manager would take deposits of hundreds of millions of dollars of Peruvian government reserves with banks of the BCC Group. Hundreds of millions of dollars of the Central Bank of Peru's funds were placed on deposit with banks of the BCC Group, and said payments to the President and General Manager of the Central Bank of Peru were calculated as a percentage of the amount on deposit.(122)

Or, as BCCI's head of Latin American and Caribbean operations, Akbar Bilgrami put it:

We had to make payments into a Special Project Accounts. I was told that BCC's relationship with Peru arose because Mr. Brian Jensen joined the bank in 1986; he was an ex-Central Bank official. BCC's push in 1987-1988 was to get big chunks of deposits from Peru. You see, Peru was being cheap, not paying its foreign debt. BCC offered to keep Peru's money hidden: $320 million in Panama.(123)

Or, in the more laconic conclusion of Abdur Sakhia, the head of BCCI's Miami office:

the relationship between Peru and BCCI was not kosher.(124)

However, even with the payment of bribes, BCCI officials worried that the $250 million in assets could disappear from BCCI if the officials they had paid-off were to lose favor. Given the significant size of the lending BCCI had agreed to in return, they wanted assurances that in the view of BCCI, could only be had from Peru's president, Alan Garcia. Accordingly, after the relationship had been established, S. M. Shafi, head of BCCI's Latin American operations, went to Lima, Peru to meet with Garcia and receive such assurances. The meeting took place in mid-February, 1987, and Garcia promised BCCI that the funds would remain at BCCI. Following the meeting with Garcia, the Peruvian central bank raised its limit for deposits with BCCI by another $50 million.(125) Moreover, the BCRP agreed to "irrevocably and unconditionally" guarantee any loan provided by BCCI. That is, if a local bank or institution defaulted on a loan from the BCCI letter of credit, the BCRP promised to repay the loan. Moreover, the guarantee covered the entire $110 million dollars. In August, 1987, the BCRP received another $50 million increase, but it appears that no corresponding deposit was required.(126)

BCCI sought and had been granted permission from the government (as required by law) to open branches in Peru as early as 1984. Although BCCI never in fact opened branch offices in Peru, its actions in 1984 established a presence in the country which laid the groundwork for the deal eventually struck between BCCI and the BCRP in 1986. Llaque said, "It [BCCI] had sent its people to Peru, and when we began to look for new corresponding banks the bank was already there."(127)

However, it has been alleged that, when the BCRP began searching for corresponding banks in 1986, the relationship between BCCI and the government was already so strong that the BCRP did not even seek proposals from banks other than BCCI. Fernando Olivera, presiding officer of an committee formed by the Peruvian Parliament to investigate Peru's financial operations, testified before the Subcommittee on August 2, 1991. Olivera suggested but did not clearly state that his investigation had revealed that the BCCI proposal was the only proposal sought and entertained by the BCRP.(128) He also testified that the BCRP based its decision to invest in BCCI based solely on a three-page report regarding BCCI Holdings, S.A., in Luxembourg.

The documents do not provide a clear answer as to whether Llaque's explanation or Olivera's explanation was correct. For example, it is unclear how BCCI's mere presence in Peru would in itself be helpful in convincing the BCRP to make deposits with it. Even the placement of deposits in numbered accounts in Panama was not a service unique to BCCI; the BCRP held similar numbered accounts in Panama branches of four European banks other than BCCI as early as December, 1985, six months before its accounts with BCCI were opened.(129)

In opening the BCCI accounts, four BCCI executives held meetings with members of the BCRP.(130)

Over the next year and a half, while the BCRP's relationship with BCCI continued, several more meetings were held between members of the Peruvian government, BCCI executives, and foreign VIPs. On 12/18/86, Akbar Bilgrami came to Peru accompanied by Panamanian General Manuel Noriega. On 07/21/87, Alberto Calvo, an agent of BCCI, met with Daniel Carbonetto, Economic Advisor to Alan Garcia Perez, the President of Peru, who Calvo described to his superior at BCCI, S. M. Shafi, as the person "who the public opinion considers the most influential person in the decision-making process regarding economic policies." Carbonetto and Calvo discussed how the Peruvian government could obtain additional lines of credit through BCCI. They also described the risk of BCCI continuing to hold Peru's central bank reserves at BCCI-Panama, given "Panama's political situation."(131) Calvo concluded:

Mr. Carbonetto asked me to go with him to visit the President Mr. Alan Garcia, and to brief him about our conversation. I politely refused with the excuse that I was leaving for Chile.

In reality I prefer to meet with the President after knowing what will be the policy of the Central Bank regarding the placement of it's reserves and after having a chance of receiving your instructions on this matter.

We agree to meet with the President of the Central Bank one week after he takes office and after that we will visit the President of the Republic.(132)

This meeting between Shafi and Alan Garcia appears to have occurred finally in October of 1987. A separate meeting involving Garcia, Manuel Noriega, and BCCI official Akbar Bilgrami, apparently took place December 18, 1986, according to Fernando Olivera, a Peruvian legislator who headed a commission reviewing the relationship in 1991, discussed below.

Illegal Activities

There is a characteristic of BCCI's activities in Peru not present in other countries which should be emphasized at the outset. The BCRP's purpose in entering into a relationship with BCCI, if not illegal, was at least highly suspect. The BCRP -- a branch of the Peruvian government acting in this matter as government -- expressly intended to conceal its country's funds from legitimate creditors, because of its desire to avoid paying off its debts. Just as Manuel Noriega used BCCI with the intention of hiding funds which rightfully belonged to the Panamanian government, the BCRP used BCCI to conceal funds with were rightfully owed to private banks and other countries. The formal difference between Noriega's use of BCCI and the BCRP's lies in the fact that Noriega was acting as an individual using the bank to deceive his government, while the BCRP was acting as an arm of government using BCCI to deceive banks and other countries. In his testimony before the Subcommittee, deputy central banker Llaque used the euphemism of "safety" to describe the BCRP's purpose:

Senator Kerry[:] . . . [O]ne of the services that you were looking for was an ability to be able to hide the money from seizure, was it not? . . .
Mr. Llaque[:] Yes. Perhaps "hide" is not the word . . . . We had at least two cases of embargoes of funds from the Central Bank in U.S. banks, and also an embargo of funds from commercial banks in the United States as well.(133)

It is apparent from the Subcommittee's review of testimony and documents that "hide" was exactly the word to describe the BCRP's intent in using BCCI. No witness or document disputed that the funds were due to legitimate creditors; not did any witness or document question the propriety of an outside nation seeking to attach funds.

The need for safety manifested itself in two requirements. First, the funds had to be kept in an account shielded from creditors. Thus, BCCI provided Peru with a numbered account which bore no connection with the Peruvian government on its face. Second, the account needed to be kept in a country with strict regulatory laws protecting disclosure of account owners. Thus, the account was opened not in Peru, but in Panama.(134)

End of BCCI Relationship With Peruvian Central Bank

By mid-1987, despite the bribes paid by BCCI and its efforts to secure the support of President Garcia, officials at the Peruvian central bank were becoming increasingly uneasy about the bank's relationship with BCCI. The officials had learned about BCCI's massive commodities trading losses in London, which had in effect wiped out BCCI's capital. They also feared that the Noriega regime in Panama was potentially unstable, and that the United States might ultimately take action against it -- as it did just six months later in shutting down Panama's banks through refusing to accept dollars.

Accordingly, they asked the senior analyst of foreign banks at the Central Bank to provide the Central Bank with an analysis as to the safety and security of Peru's funds at BCCI. The analyst, Gonzalo Aramburu, was only too glad to provide the facts about BCCI -- it had no lender of last resort in case of a default in any of its operational units; over the previous two years BCCI had showed significant losses in operations in the options market; and BCCI "uses an unusual accounting system in that it does not make it possible to clearly identify the level of losses of the fiscal year, or the activity that led to them."(135)

Accordingly, Aramburu recommended the Central Bank to take immediate action to protect itself by cutting back on the $270 million in was then maintaining in BCCI.(136)

Over the following month, Peru removed $70 million in deposits from BCCI. By the end of the year, it had removed over $150 million. The remaining funds were pulled at the end of January, 1988, as Panama fell into a crisis over accusations concerning Noriega's drug trafficking.

Peruvian Legislative Commission

Following BCCI's indictment on drug money laundering charges in Tampa in October 1988, and growing international concern about BCCI during 1989 and 1990, a legislative commission was created in Peru to review a number of charges of Peruvian corruption, including issues pertaining to the Central Bank's decision to place the government funds at BCCI. The head of that commission, Fernando Olivera, a member of the Peruvian House of Deputies from an opposing political party to former President Alan Garcia, testified before the Subcommittee on August 2, 1991 about the meaning of BCCI's activities in Peru:

We think that the cause of this behavior and the decision to place Peru's international reserves in BCCI was corruption. And here we have a document of the Swiss Bank Corp. in Panama providing that BCCI oversees George Town Bank Corp Grand Cayman. From there, transfers were made to the Security Bank to the Swiss Bank in New York and transferred from there to an account in Panama of the Swiss Bank. These were the bribes for these officers [Lionel Figueroa and Hector Neyra of Peru's Central Bank]. . . . There are some other people under the Selva Negra and Terra Firma codes, and . . . we are convinced that there are other authorities higher up who intervened.(137)
As another member of the Commission, Pedro Cateriano, testified before the Subcommittee:

In Peru the members of the [Central Bank] board of directors are political. They are named by the President and members of the board . . . That is why the function they carry out is not really technical. It is basically political.(138)

The clear message of the legislative commission was that the Central Bank officials could not have been acting alone, and that other important Peruvian political figures, including former President Alan Garcia, were involved.

Another Peruvian legislator, Jorge Del Castillo, who requested to testify before the Subcommittee to defend President Garcia, stated that the Central Bank was independent of the President and autonomous in all respects with no relationship to the Peruvian executive branch. Del Castillo also provided documents to the Subcommittee consisting of an investigation on behalf of Garcia of alleged BCCI accounts maintained by Garcia that did not, in fact, exist. Del Castillo testified that this investigation disproved that allegations concerning Garcia's involvement in any bribes that may have been failed.(139)

BCCI officer Akbar Bilgrami, who, unlike the other witnesses is neither Peruvian nor affiliated with any Peruvian political party, told the Subcommittee that it was his understanding that Garcia had indeed provided assistance BCCI, but that he had not heard of specific payments being made to Garcia.

My main sources for information on payments in Peru were two BCCI officials, Amir Lodhi and S.M. Shafi. According to them, President Garcia approved that funds be placed in BCCI. Mr. Shafi told me that the BCC had to pay for the deposit, but we didn't know how much, or to whom the money went. This was handled by Mr. Saddiqui [one of BCCI's top officers in London]. Two Central Bank officials and Mr. Jensen were handling it in Peru. Mr. Shafi went to President Garcia as an insurance policy of getting the amounts. I heard that the money went into the hands of the Central Bank officials and Mr. Jensen. Mr. Shafi did not tell me that Mr. Garcia received money. He said that he went there to guarantee that the money would be placed in the account, as an insurance policy. Mr. Tariq Jan [another BCCI officer] also went with Mr. Shafi to the meeting with Garcia. I believe that Mr. Shafi went to see him to make sure that the relationship would occur. You know, it wouldn't be good for BCC to start down this road without the support of the country's president. I also think that Mr. Lodhi also met with Mr. Garcia, but that meeting was more general. The meeting with Shafi was just with regard to this relationship -- the money for the letters of credit. Lodhi's meeting with Garcia was about Latin America and third world causes, and so on.(140)

On September 22, 1992, the Attorney General of Peru announced that she would seek Garcia's extradition from Colombia after charging him with alleged irregularities for his role in depoisiting Peruvian resesrves in BCCI. The official, Blanca Nelida Colan, had "drawn up charges against Garcia for the possible existence of foreign bank accounts for his alleged participation in depositing $287 million in reserves" in BCCI.(141)


There were more than enough reasons for BCCI and Peru's Central Bank for the two to development a relationship in 1986. Peru was seeking to hide its money from foreign creditors, as it began refusing to pay its foreign debt. BCCI was engaged, as always, in a quest for deposits to prop up finances which were in an especially rickety and fragile state in this period. BCCI, as usual, met with top officials in the country to secure and strengthen its relationship with the Central Bank, including President Garcia. Bribes allegedly were paid to two Peruvian central bankers. When BCCI finally collapsed, Peru escaped harm principally because its exposure had previously been so large and so imprudent, especially given both Panama and BCCI's shaky state by the beginning of 1988, that responsible officials in Peru had acted to end the relationship.


In Senegal, BCCI paid bribes to employees of the Foreign Exchange Department of the Central Bank, and provided them with gifts, to assure that BCCI received preferential treatment in the release of foreign exchange funds. This preferential treatment again placed BCCI in a favorable position in relationship to other banks for handling imports to Senegal, similar to that described in some detail above concerning BCCI's activities in Nigeria.

Additionally, BCCI helped the Central Bank of Senegal in defrauding the International Monetary Fund through falsifying deposits in Senegal to the IMF. At the time, Senegal was required by the IMF to maintain cash deposits of a certain level on reserve, and was unable to do so. On the critical reporting dates for the Central Bank, BCCI discounted a $5 million to $6 million promissory note to a Senegal corporation for two to three weeks, the corporation then placed the funds on deposit with the Central Bank of Senegal for that period, showing the IMF that Senegal was meeting its banking obligations, and when the IMF review was concluded, the transaction was reversed.(142)


BCCI's situation in Sudan was similar to its situation in a number of African countries -- it assured its access to central bank funds through making payoffs to officials. As Akbar Bilgrami described it, this was a general practice which he personally participated in only once, by his superiors at BCCI London when he was a very junior officer of the bank:

In 1977, I was asked to go with the Senior Official of the Central Bank and given 100,000 pounds. I was told to buy him anything he wanted. I kept the receipts as we were buying items. This made the central bank official very nervous, the keeping of receipts. He said, 'Barclays doesn't keep receipts.' I brought the receipts back to my boss, who said 'What did you do that for?' and threw them away. We spent about 70,000 pounds that day.(143)


In Zambia, BCCI once again worked with government officials to defraud an international lending institution, in this case, the World Bank. In 1987, the World Bank required Zambia to reduce its borrowings by making a $35 million payment by December 31, 1987 from internal sources or savings. When Zambia could not come up with the funds, BCCI loaned $45 millon to Zambia, hiding the source of the funds so that they appeared to be from Zambia's own sources.(144) As a result, the World Bank granted a new $60 million loan to Zambia. As Nazir Chinoy explained the transaction:

The funds were given to Zambia by BCCI. The routing was that they were sent from BCC Paris to a Zambian commercial bank to London and from there, the World Bank was repaid. Two days later, Zambia was able to draw on the $60 million tranche from the World Bank. BCCI Paris was repaid from Copper exports. The terms for BCCI Paris were one percent front-end fees; one and a half percent over LIBOR [a standard European international banking rate].(145)

According to Chinoy, BCCI was able to make money in several additional ways off the Zambian transaction. In addition to the transaction fees specified above, BCCI made money converting the payments it received in French francs on the copper exports to dollars. Moreover, BCCI was able to use the transaction to assist with internal bookkeeping problems, by sending 50 percent of the front end fee to BCCI-Grand Cayman in compensation for BCCI-Grand Cayman having issued a letter to BCCI Paris underwriting the risk in case Zambia defaulted. In this way, BCCI-Paris reduced its taxable income.


Several BCCI officials interviewed by the Subcommittee referred to bribes paid to Zimbabwe's prime minister, and the political chief opposition figure in Zimbabwe, by BCCI at the time it opened a joint venture with Zimbabwe. By the account of Nazir Chinoy:

I accompanied Mr. Abedi and Mr. Sheikh to the opening of a joint venture with Zimbabwe. I think to get permission for establishing a bank in Zimbabwe that money was paid to President Mugabe and to Nkomo. The basis I am making this statement was that when I went there with Mr. Sheikh I was acting as Mr. Abedi's personal assistant or secretary. Mr. Sheikh went off on his own to see Nkomo who was the chief opposition at that time, and then he went off to see President Mugabe, and when they talked they wanted me out of the room. Many of us were there for the opening. But only Alauddin Sheikh and [BCCI CEO] Abedi were left in the room with these two political figures. Otherwise I was accompanying him and acting with him.

Mr. Sheikh carried a bag with him. At the time I had a suspicion that you don't get permission as a foreign bank so easily without a payment. Without favors, it wouldn't be so easy to get a bank that fast, especially given the opposition of the British banks who were already established there.(146)

By the account of Akbar Bilgrami:

We paid Mugabe and Nkomo. I was at the Parklane Branch. BCC was approached to look after the expenses of the delegates, which were paid. In addition, we paid 500,000 pounds from the Parklane Branch. Someone from Mr. Naqvi's office came to Parklane and picked up the money. I don't think than Ian Smith was getting paid by us. I think that the Rhodesian government was taking care of him. That was in 1980-1981.(147)

By the account of Abdur Sakhia:

I drove one of my colleagues in London to a hotel, and he went with a briefcase and he came back without a briefcase, and I asked him: What happened to your briefcase? And he smiled at me and he said: This was for those people. I said: What, did you carry gold bars? He said: No, some cash. . . So this was prior to independence of Zimbabwe, when they were negotiating for independence. Some officials, some politicians from Zimbabwe were staying at a hotel in London.(148)


BCCI official Nazir Chinoy provided a detailed account of corruption in the African Development Bank to the Subcommittee, which he referred to in a much more limited way in public testimony.

According to Chinoy, BCCI had a long relationship with African Development Bank, maintaining about $32 million in deposits in BCCI's Paris branch in the mid-1980's. When Chinoy arrived, he found the hard way that the African Development Bank was placing those funds on the basis of bribes being paid to the officials at the African Development Bank who controlled the placements.

Fifteen days after my appointment, we lost a deposit of $14.3 million. When this deposit was lost I was concerned. [Another BCCI official] rushed to me and asked me whether I had made the payment? I said, what are you talking about? She said, haven't you been briefed by London? I said, no. She said, have you failed to look after the Treasurer? We were giving them top of the market rates. So I said, no I haven't been briefed. I learned from [BCCI official] Zafir Iqbal that when my predecessor was here, he drew up his expense account and he took cash dollars in travellers checks to give to the man controlling the African Development Bank's accounts, his name was Ismael Emay. I asked how much? Either 1/32nd or 1/16th. $8,000 to $10,000 a year in all. I said, fine, will I be getting the money from Cayman? He said I don't know, you'll have to manage.(149)

Chinoy made a round of courtesy calls at the African Development Bank, meeting the president of the bank and the Treasurer. Chinoy stated that he told the Treasurer that he should look Chinoy up in Paris, that Chinoy did not know what his predecessor had failed to do, but if it hadn't been paid to the Treasurer, Chinoy would pay it. According to Chinoy:

We debited the account and started to pay him. $5000 back due. We opened an account for him and his wife in Monte Carlo. He would draw maybe a couple of thousand dollars as he wanted in expenses. The balance he would send to Monte Carlo. The account he opened later in 1986. The money came from BCCI Paris. We started building up a relationship. By the way, BCCI London had 10m in investment funds of African development bank, this was kept by Investment and finance section for investments in stocks and bonds and this was controlled by Iqbal Rizvi directly with African Development Bank. At this stage, there was rivalry between me and general manager. He wanted ADB under his wing and I wanted to push for Paris. I started building up a relationship but he wouldn't allow me to attend the ADB conference and he didn't take anyone from France in 1986 for meeting in Zimbabwe. Gradually, we started acting in parallel rather than in coordination. Deposits went up to $35 million, $45 million in dollar terms.(150)

Chinoy and BCCI intensified their marketing campaign to the African Development Bank and became friendly with its president, eventually obtaining the bank's entire French franc account, amounting to 200 million or more francs -- some $35 million dollars. According to Chinoy:

We continued the payment to the Treasurer. But I told him no more than $50,000 a year. Which he made in 1987-88.(151)


The above account of corruption involving officials of fifteen countries outlines typical methods by which BCCI acquired and maintained accounts and relationships with governments and government officials around the world. While lengthy, it is by no means complete and the size of the iceberg below remains difficult to measure. The above account should be enough, however, to demonstrate the fundamentally corrupt nature of BCCI's relationships with the politically prominent, and its strategy of corrupting those in or with access to government, for its own purposes.

The pervasiveness of BCCI's corruption of officials in so many countries also raises larger questions about the persistence of corruption as a way of doing business generally, around the world. BCCI officials contend that its practices were typical of those engaged in by other banks, including U.S. banks, doing business in developing countries. For example, if true, this would suggest that international lending institutions financed by the U.S. taxpayers, such as the IMF and World Bank, are routinely being defrauded by collusion between the governments of those countries and unethical banks that see the opportunity to make profits through helping such governments defraud those institutions.

BCCI officials further suggested that U.S. and European businesses that are successful in many of the countries in which BCCI was doing business, especially in Africa, can be so only to the extent that they themselves meet local standards and participate in the endemic corruption. Such participation by U.S. entities is, of course, prohibited by the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The testimony in staff interviews by BCCI officials raises the question of whether violations of that act may be substantially greater in number has been recognized.

Finally, the information concerning BCCI's corruption of officials around the world illustrates the public policy interest to lift the veil of secrecy regarding financial information that still obtains in too many jurisdictions. Strong bank secrecy and confidential laws were essential to BCCI preventing the detection of its criminality and its corruption of public officials. In case after case, BCCI shifted funds to bank secrecy havens in order to protect its payoffs from exposure. Moreover, secrecy laws have to this day impeded the ability of the Subcommittee to detail numerous further cases of such corruption that clearly exist. For example, documents subpoenaed in the United States by the Senate, and in the possession and control of BCCI's liquidators in the United Kingdom, have been withheld from the Subcommittee by the British courts on the basis of British secrecy laws. Little progress can be made in combatting corruption so long as many jurisdictions continue to promote numbered accounts and secrecy to flight capital and dirty money. The United States needs to take a fundamentally more active and aggressive role in changing the attitudes of many foreign governments on this issue.



1. Agence France Presse, July 12, 1991.

2. Indictment, People v. Abedi, et. al, Supreme Court of the State of New York County of New York, July 29, 1992.

3. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 2 pp. 507-508.

4. Staff interview, Sakhia, October 7, 1991.

5. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 2 p. 515.

6. Staff interview, Chinoy, March 9, 1992.

7. See Bankrupt: The BCCI Fraud, Kochan and Whittingon, Gollancz, London 1991, pp. 61-62.

8. Sakhia, S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 2 p. 508.

9. See reference to November 5, 1986 letter in minutes of Evidence Taken Before House of Commons Treasury and Civil Service Committee, Banking Supervision and BCCI, February 5, 1992, Sec. 252.

10. BCCI -- Consolidated Report, EWP, Loans Over $7.5 million, March 31, 1991.

11. s. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 1 p. 288.

12. Staff interview, Helmy, January 12, 1992.

13. Staff interview, Akbar Bilgrami, July 20-28, 1992.

14. Staff interview, Chinoy, March 9, 1992.

15. S. Hrg. 102-350 t. 2 p. 528.

16. See documents published in S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 6.

17. BCCI-FinAmerica-Gotelli documents, provided to Senate by BCCI liquidators, July, 1992.

18. Id.

19. People v. Abedi, Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York, July 29, 1992, p. 23.

20. Letter, to Dr. Juan Sommer, February 4, 1988.

21. See Los Angeles Times, May 8, 1991, "Encino Bank Ordered Sold."

22. UPI, July 30,1 991, "Argentine Central Bank revokes BCCI license."

23. Reuters, August 1, 1991, "Argentina Had No Funds in BCCI; Minister Angry at Media," Washington Post, August 24, 1991, "BCCI Trail in Argentina Remains Untraced."

24. Associated Press, August 1, 1991, "BCCI in Argentina -- Political Headaches, But Little Economic Impact."

25. Associated Press, July 31, 1991, "Court Probes Alleged Money Laundering by Foreign Banks."

26. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 1 p. 127.

27. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 1 p. 159.

28. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 1 p. 243.

29. See e.g. Los Angeles Times, November 2, 1991, id.; Newsday, August 13, 1991, "Ex-Bangladesh Ruler Linked to BCCI;" Daily Telegraph, August 13, 1991, "Bank Linked to Missing Bangladesh Disaster Aid."

30. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 2 p. 515.

31. Mark Fineman, Los Angeles Times, "BCCI Left its Mark on Bangladesh, November 2, 1991.

32. Id.

33. Los Angeles Times, id.

34. Id.

35. See Daily Telegraph, "BCCI Scandal: Bank Linked To Missing Bangladesh Disaster Aid," August 13, 1991.

36. See Agence France Presse, "Bangladesh Appeals to Canada to Unfreeze Some BCCI Accounts," July 26, 1991.

37. Mark Fineman, Los Angeles Times, "BCCI Left its Mark on Bangladesh, November 2, 1991.

38. Memorandum from Brian Jensen to Agha Hasan Abedi, January 30, 1986, Senate document 001546.

39. Banking Venture in Brasil - Aide Memoire, Jensen to Saddiki at BCCI-London, February 24, 1986, Senate document 001545.

40. Staff interview, Abol Helmy, January 12, 1992 and BCCI documents pertaining to Brazil, produced by BCCI liquidators and from BCCI document repository in Miami.

41. Id.

42. Memorandum/telex, Sakhia to Siddiki, May 6, 1986, Senate document.

43. BCCI internal memorandum, Helmy to Ameer Saddiki, September 2, 1986, Senate document 000653.

44. Staff interview, Abol Helmy, January 12, 1992.

45. Telex, Shafi to da Costa, October 28, 1986, BCCI Senate Document 000645.

46. BCCI Luxembourg Letter of Appointment, Ameer H. Siddiki to Ambassador Correa da Costa, October 28, 1986, Senate document.

47. Staff interview, Abdur Sakhia, October, 1991; see also BCCI telex concerning Da Costa, October 28, 1986, id..

48. Staff interview, Nazir Chinoy, March 9, 1992; see indictment, People v. Abedi, New York Supreme Court, July 29, 1992, p. 24.

49. Staff interviews, Chinoy, id. See also People v. Abedi, New York County, indictment, July 29, 1991, id. p. 23.

50. Staff interview, Chinoy, March 9, 1992.

51. See testimony of Alan Kreczko, Deputy Legal Advisor, Department of State, S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 3 pp. 575-578.

52. See Price Waterhouse Section 41 Report to the Bank of England, June 1991.

53. Commentary, Massihur Rahman, to Price Waterhouse Section 41 Report to the Bank of England, June 1991.

54. Sakhia testimony, S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 2 p. 526.

55. Staff interview, Sakhia, October 7, 1991.

56. Staff interviews, Bilgrami, July 20-28, 1992.

57. Staff interview, Bilgrami, July 20-28, 1992.

58. Staff interview, Chinoy, March 9, 1992.

59. Staff interview, Chinoy, March 9, 1992.

60. Staff interview, Chinoy, March 9, 1992.

61. Id.

62. Staff interview, Sakhia, October 7, 1991.

63. Staff interview, Sakhia, October 7, 1991.

64. Sakhia, S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 2 . 508.

65. Id.

66. Price Waterhouse audit report, December 31, 1990.

67. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 1 p. 63.

68. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 2 p. 515.

69. Staff interview, Nazir Chinoy, March 9, 1991, see also Chinoy testimony S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 4 p. 829.

70. Staff interview, March 9, 1991.

71. Staff interview, March 9, 1992.

72. Staff interview, Chinoy, March 9, 1992.

73. Id.

74. Id.

75. Staff interview, March 9, 1992.

76. Staff interview, Chinoy, March 9, 1992.

77. Staff interview, Chinoy, March 9, 1992.

78. Staff interview, Chinoy, March 9, 1992.

79. Staff interview, Chinoy, March 9, 1992.

80. Staff interview, Chinoy, id.

81. Staff interview, Chinoy, id.

82. People v. Abedi, July 29, 1992, New York County Supreme Court, p. 20-21.

83. Staff interview, Chinoy, id.

84. Chinoy staff interview, id.

85. Testimony of Rahman, S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 1, p. 540.

86. White Paper on the General Elections, Government of Pakistan, July 1978, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 3, pp. 314-317.

87. Former BCCI Pakistan branch chief Nazir Chinoy provided detailed information about the Zia-Abedi relationship in a series of interviews with Senate staff from March 9-16, 1992; see also check to General Zia from BCCI-UAE, May 25, 1985, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 2 p. 511.

88. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 2 p. 510.

89. Staff interview, Chinoy, March 9, 1992.

90. Staff interview, Chinoy, March 9, 1992.

91. Chinoy testimony S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 4 pp. 368-369.

92. See People v. Abedi, New York Supreme Court, County of New York, July 29, 1992.

93. Staff interview, Sakhia, October 7, 1991.

94. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 3 p. 599.

95. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 4 pp. 392-393.

96. Los Angeles Times, August 9, 1991.

97. Staff interview, Sultan Khan, March, 1991.

98. Staff interview, Colombian marijuana trafficker and federal cooperating witness, September, 1989.

99. Id; the trafficker provided copies of the original letters to the Subcommittee in 1989, signed by the Attorney General of Panama.

100. Milian-Rodriguez letter to Senator Kerry, August, 1991.

101. Letters, Lino Linares, Miami branch, BCCI to Holland and Knight and to Raymond Banoun, July and August, 1990, and January 1991. Details on this interaction are set forth in the chapter on BCCI's lawyers.

102. Staff interviews, Akbar Bilgrami and Amjad Awan, July, 1992.

103. Staff interview, Chinoy, March 9, 1992.

104. Awan testimony, S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 6; see also Blum memorandum of Awan interview, Pt 1 pp. 17-22.

105. Id.

106. Id., see also Affidavit of Amjad Awan, Government Exhibit O, U.S. v. Noriega, Southern District of Florida.

107. Id.

108. Staff interviews, BCCI attorney Raymond Banoun, May-July 1990; see also Banoun notes produced to Subcommittee September 3, 1992.

109. Id.

110. An understanding of the nature and composition of the BCRP is important to the discussion which follows. Del Castillo testified that the Peruvian constitution designates the BCRP as "an autonomous body . . . not depend[ent] upon the executive branch." S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 1 p. 233. However, Cateriano testified that its directors are partisan politicians "named by the President and . . . by the Senate." at 199. Thus, the BCRP should not be considered an autonomous body free from political pressure or private influence.

111. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt 1 p. 167.

112. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 1 p. 166.

113. at 232.

114. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 1 p. 232.

115. See People v. BCCI, New York Supreme Court, July 29, 1991.

116. Letter from A.M. Bilgrami and Ishtiaq Nasim to the BCRP, dated 28 April 1986 ("[T]his is to advise you that in consideration of your placing U.S. $200 [million] [sic] deposits with our Panama Office, we are placing at your disposal a line of [sic] credit for $ U.S. 60 [million]. It is our mutual understanding that you will continue to maintain equivalent sufficient balances in your Placement Account.").

117. Staff interview, Akbar Bilgrami, July 1992.

118. At an interest rate of 5% per year, for example, BCCI would save $7,200,000 per year in fees.

119. "Agreement on operational procedure between BCR and BCCI regarding utilization of credit line for US $60 millions by Peruvian local banks (PLBs)," dated May 30, 1986.

120. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 1 p. 167.

121. Staff interviews, Akbar Bilgrami, July 20-28, 1992; see also indictments People vs. BCCI, July 29, 1991 and People vs. Abedi, July 29, 1992, brought by New York District Attorney.

122. People v. Abedi, et. al, New York County Supreme Court, July 29, 1992.

123. Staff interviews, Bilgrami, July 20-28, 1992.

124. Staff interview, Abdur Sakhia, October 9, 1991.

125. Staff interviews, Akbar Bilgrami, July 20-28, 1992; documents reprinted in S. Hrg. 102-350 pp. 202, 206-207.

126. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 1 p. 165.

127. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 1 p. 166.

128. 196-197. Compare the 8 July 1987 memorandum from Carlos Saito to Ana Ma. de Reategui (both of the BCRP) entitled "Evolution of BCRP deposits abroad" ("At the end of June 1986 work was already underway with seven banks" . . . . "The last bank with which correspondent relations were established was . . . BCCI.").

129. See the Evolution of BCRP deposits abroad, hearing book at 176.

130. S. Hrg. 102-350 PT. 1 p. 170.

131. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 1 p. 206.

132. Id.

133. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 1 p. 167.

134. See the Evolution of BCRP deposits abroad, at 175 ("[I]t was decided to open special accounts in the market in Panama, which have maximum security.").

135. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 1 p. 173, "Central Reserve Bank of Peru, Memorandum to Juan Villanueva from Gonzalo Aramburu, August 7, 1987.

136. Id.

137. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 1 p. 199.

138. Id.

139. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 1 p. 233.

140. Staff interviews, Akbar Bilgrami, July 20-28, 1992.

141. Reuters, September 22, 1992, "Attorney General To Seek Extradition of Ex-President Garcia."

142. People v. Abedi, Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York, July 29, 1992.

143. Staff interview, Bilgrami, July 20-28, 1992; Bilgrami testimony, S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 6.

144. People v. Abedi, Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York, July 29, 1992, p. 18.

145. Staff interview, Chinoy, March 9, 1992.

146. Staff interview, Chinoy, March 9, 1992.

147. Staff interview, Bilgrami, July 20-28, 1992.

148. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 2 p. 515.

149. Staff interview, Chinoy, March 9, 1992.

150. Chinoy, id.

151. Id.
Site Admin
Posts: 33486
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Return to Wackenhut / Inslaw Promis Software / Arkansas-Contra

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests