THE BCCI AFFAIR
1. BCCI CONSTITUTED INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL CRIME ON A MASSIVE AND GLOBAL SCALE.
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.
2. BCCI SYSTEMATICALLY BRIBED WORLD LEADERS AND POLITICAL FIGURES THROUGHOUT THE WORLD.
BCCI's 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.
3. BCCI DEVELOPED A STRATEGY TO INFILTRATE THE U.S. BANKING SYSTEM, WHICH IT SUCCESSFULLY IMPLEMENTED, DESPITE REGULATORY BARRIERS THAT WERE DESIGNED TO KEEP IT OUT.
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.
4. THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT MISHANDLED ITS INVESTIGATION AND PROSECUTION OF BCCI, AND ITS RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER GOVERNMENT AGENCIES CONCERNING BCCI.