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.
Litton Electron Devices Tempe AZ
Litton Electron Devices, Tempe Mailing Address:
Litton Electron Devices
1215 S. 52nd St.
Tempe, AZ 85281
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)
BCCI and the Bush family
The Bush Family Saga
Part II - Part I Here
BCCI (Bank of Credit & Commerce)
By William Bowles
05/11/03: (Information Clearing House)
"BCCI defrauded depositors of $10 billion in the '80s in what has been called the "largest bank fraud in world financial history" by former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau."
BCCI and the cover-up Continues today
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.