THE ORIGIN AND EARLY YEARS OF BCCI
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 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)
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'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.
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)
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.
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 consdier 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. Travelling 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 spend $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 farther 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 Sheik 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 reated 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.
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 moneys 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)
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.
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.
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 wa 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.
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)
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 means 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 Travellers 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 "travellers 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 travellers 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)
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.
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.
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.
20. Akbar Bilgrami, Staff interview, July 13, 1992.
21. Staff interview, Bilgrami, July 13, 1992.
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.
29. Staff interview, Akbar Bilgrami, July 13, 1992.
30. Staff interviews, Chinoy, March 9-16, 1992.
32. Staff interviews, Chinoy, March 9-16, 1992.
34. Testimony, Nazir Chinoy, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Operations, March 18, 1992, p. 26.
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.
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.
61. BCCI document, Summary of the Management Meeting, New York, 12.2.83 p. 7.
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).
77. Staff interviews, Sakhia, October 7, 1991; Chinoy, March 9-16, 1992.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|