BCCI AND KISSINGER ASSOCIATES
Beginning in the fall of 1986, and continuing through early 1989, BCCI initiated a series of contacts with perhaps the most politically prominent international and business consulting firm in the United States -- Kissinger Associates.
At the time, Kissinger Associates had five partners: former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Assistant and current National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, former Under Secretary and current Acting Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, international economist Alan Stoga, and investment bank T. Jefferson Cunningham III.
Ultimately both Stoga and a retired Brazilian Ambassador working as a consultant to Kissinger Associates, Sergio Correa da Costa, seriously explored finding ways to link BCCI's global network of banks with the services being offered by Kissinger Associates. Discussions between representatives of BCCI and representatives of Kissinger Associates took place over an 18 month period concerning the possibility of merging the capabilities of BCCI and Kissinger Associates on various, mostly unspecified, projects. Following BCCI's indictment, discussions continued as to whether Kissinger Associates could help BCCI respond to the ramifications of that indictment. These discussions ended in early 1989 at Henry Kissinger's personal insistence.
During the discussions, Stoga provided advice to BCCI on a possible public relations campaign. At their conclusion, Kissinger Associates referred BCCI to one its own directors, former Assistant Secretary of State William Rogers, and his firm, Arnold & Porter, who already represented Kissinger Associates on its own legal work. Rogers and Arnold & Porter in turn agreed to provide BCCI with legal services arising out of its indictment, although few services were provided as a consequence of the opposition of Clark Clifford and Robert Altman to the firm's involvement.
Although discussions concerning a broader relationship were cut short by the indictment, the BCCI-Kissinger Associates correspondence reveals much about BCCI's approach to seeking political influence in the United States. The correspondence also highlights BCCI's focus on doing business with, and ability, given its $23 billion in reported assets and 73 countries of operation, to attract interest from, some of the most politically well-connected people in the United States.
In late July, 1991, the Subcommittee received documents from BCCI's liquidators describing BCCI's use of a retired Brazilian Ambassador, Sergio da Costa, as a front-man for its purchase of a bank in Brazil while da Costa was also working -- according to the BCCI documents -- as a partner in Kissinger Associates.
In September, 1991, staff was advised by press that there were a number of documents at BCCI's document depositories concerning its relationship with Kissinger Associates. Staff were provided some of these documents by reporters, and found others in subsequent reviews of BCCI documents at its former offices in New York. These documents, on both Kissinger Associates and BCCI stationery, discussed in general terms the services Kissinger Associates might perform for BCCI, and were dated both before and after BCCI's indictment on drug money laundering charges in Tampa. Accordingly, they raised the question of whether Kissinger Associates had ever been retained by BCCI.
In November, 1991, the Committee on Foreign Relations authorized a subpoena for all documents to Kissinger Associates and related entities, for all documents pertaining to BCCI, and for its client lists.
In response, Kissinger Associates promised to cooperate with the Subcommittee investigation and to provide all documents pertaining to BCCI, under an agreement that the subpoena not be served. Kissinger Associates refused, however, to provide the client list, arguing that the list was beyond the parameters of the investigation into BCCI by the Subcommittee, and advising the Subcommittee that if it pursued the list, Kissinger Associates would litigate the matter, if necessary, through an extensive appellate process to the Supreme Court.
In providing several dozen documents material to the Subcommittee investigation on January 30, 1992, Kissinger Associates, represented by its attorney, former Presidential counsel Lloyd Cutler, made the following representations:
At the outset, it should be made clear that Kissinger Associates, Kent Associates, and China Joint Ventures (collectively referred to hereinafter as "Kissinger Associates") have never represented or provided any services for BCCI, ICIC, or any BCCI shareholder. Neither BCCI or ICIC nor any person known to be a BCCI shareholder has ever been a client of Kissinger Associates.
The only substantive contact between Kissinger Associates and BCCI occurred in late 1988-early 1989, when [BCCI officer] Abol Helmy met several times with Alan Stoga of Kissinger Associates to discuss a possible consulting arrangement for BCCI . . . In December, 1988, Mr. Stoga advised Mr. Helmy that Kissinger Associates was not interested in a consulting relationship with BCCI. At Mr. Helmy's request, Mr. Stoga met with Mr. Helmy again in January, 1989, at which time in response to a further inquiry from Mr. Helmy he again advised Mr. Helmy that Kissinger Associates did not want to proceed with a relationship. In February 1989, in response to Mr. Helmy's request for a recommendation for Washington-based legal counsel, Mr. Stoga recommended Arnold & Porter. Mr. Stoga has had a number of other meetings with Mr. Helmy since February, 1989, but these meetings have been of a purely social nature.(1)
While this account of the relationship is not untrue, it does fail to characterize the full extent of the contacts between BCCI and Kissinger Associates and the series of meetings and contacts between representatives of the two organizations. In fact, both Stoga, as a partner of Kissinger Associates, as well as its consultant, da Costa, worked over an extended period to bring the two organizations together, and such a relationship could well have developed but for BCCI's drug money laundering indictment. The following account, while not necessarily complete, is intended to provide a fuller picture of the contacts between BCCI and Kissinger Associates, of BCCI's goals and intentions in soliciting the relationship with Kissinger Associates, and of the assistance, albeit limited, provided to BCCI by Kissinger Associates in BCCI's time of trouble.
In the fall of 1986, Sergio da Costa, the most senior member of the Brazilian diplomatic corps and a close associate of then Brazilian president Jose Sarney, decided to retire 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. Da Costa was anxious to enter the private sector, and ultimately accepted offers from three organizations. Da Costa would move to Paris and set up an office there as a consultant to an international law firm, Coudert Brothers. He would simultaneously also work for BCCI, on a monthly retainer. And he would become a consultant to Kissinger Associates, for a third monthly retainer.
At the time, BCCI already knew Ambassador da Costa well. Months earlier, he had provided BCCI with advice on selecting possible front-men for BCCI's intended acquisition of a bank in Brazil. Under Brazilian law, foreign banks were not permitted to own a majority interest in any Brazilian bank. Accordingly, BCCI had decided to buy a Brazilian bank, purchase a minority interest in the bank openly, and hold additional shares to guarantee BCCI's control of the bank through cooperating Brazilian nominees, in what was essentially a conspiracy to circumvent Brazilian banking laws.
Da Costa was extremely politically well-connected in Brazil. He 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.(2)
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, who later himself had a series of contacts with Kissinger Associates.
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.(3) (emphasis in original)
The memorandum demonstrated that BCCI would provide da Costa 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 was not at risk and that the transaction was a standard nominee arrangement by which BCCI circumvented local laws and that this approached had been used a numerous of times previously by BCCI. Helmy also said it was BCCI's understanding that da Costa 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.(4) 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.(5)
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.(6) 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 BCCI telex that circulated in New York and London in early December, 1986 described da Costa's principal work to now be as a partner in Kissinger Associates, with BCCI understanding the Coudert Brothers work, by comparison, as merely a consultancy.
In September, 1986, while da Costa was negotiating the terms of his consultancy with BCCI, he also reached out to determine if he could reach a similar relationship with Henry Kissinger. In early September, he sent Kissinger a copy of a biography he had written, "Every Inch a King," concerning Brazilian emperor Dom Pedro I.
In November, 1986, da Costa and Kissinger concluded their discussions concerning the services da Costa would provide Kissinger Associates. Letters between da Costa and Kissinger, dated November 3, 1986, set forth the terms of their agreement, under which da Costa would be paid $40,000 a year as a consultant to Kissinger Associates, plus a 10 percent to 20 percent fee for putting together transactions for Kissinger Associates. The letters show that Kissinger sought an agreement from da Costa that he would work only for Kissinger Associates and for Coudert Brothers, and that da Costa told Kissinger in return that he would also be working for BCCI, as he and Kissinger had previously discussed. As da Costa wrote Kissinger:
From our brief conversation, I gathered that you had in mind, basically, the Brazilian "market", i.e. you would expect me to channel through Kissinger Associates whatever Brazil-related project is secured by me. . . What concerns me is the case of companies that have already indicated their firm intention of retaining my services as consultant under a permanent retainer agreement soon after November 1st . . . There is particularly the case of B.C.C.I., mentioned to you when we first discussed our association. They not only wish to retain me as a permanent consultant, but insist that I become member of the Board and shareholder of their Brazilian operation, obviously seeking to benefit from my standing in the country. . . In short, since we are both acting in good faith and are reasonable men, I cannot even visualize a possibility of discomfort in our business relationship. I am convinced that a simple reflection in a side letter like this would be far better than any attempt at spelling out a paragraph on the exact meaning of "exclusivity."(7)
Kissinger accepted da Costa's simultaneous involvement in acting as a consultant to Kissinger Associates and BCCI, and da Costa signed up for a two-year commitment.
On December 8, 1986, da Costa received the first of a series of payments of $12,500 a month from BCCI Grand Caymans to his account at BCCI's agency in New York for his consultancy to BCCI. In the same period, he received the first of a series of payments from Kissinger Associates of $10,000 a quarter.
Beginning in early 1987, da Costa began to act as a business agent for Kissinger Associates in Brazil on projects involving purchases of companies, plants, or assets in Brazil by foreign companies. During 1987, he made several trips to Brazil on behalf of Kissinger Associates, and attended in the summer of 1987 what he described in a letter to Kissinger Associates as "that amusing luncheon with the BNL crowd," referring to a meeting with people involved in the Banco Nationale del Lavaro, an Italian bank from whom Kissinger was a consultant, and which has recently been under investigation by the House Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs for its role in the illegal arming of Iraq using U.S. commodity credits.(8)
On September 20, 1987, da Costa wrote Kissinger to invite him to a party hosted by BCCI front-man Ghaith Pharaon, suggesting that Kissinger might want to obtain Pharaon as a client for Kissinger Associates:
I was asked to convey an invitation of Dr. Gaith Pharaon to a dinner at his plantation at Richmond Hill, Georgia, Saturday October 31st.
Although with residences in Paris and in Saudi Arabia, his real "home" seems to be the River Oaks Plantation, which once belonged to Henry Ford. His main local asset was the National Bank of Georgia, which he recently agreed to sell to First American Bankshare Inc of Washington DC for some $230 million. I believe that the latter bank is owned by the main shareholders of BCCI, of which Pharaon was or still is a shareholder . . .
As [Pharaon] admires you intensely and has a wide range of business interests in the US, I have thought of him for some time as a potential client. Hence my acquiescence to forward the invitation.(9)
In October, 1987, while da Costa was seeking to put together an acquisition of a plant in Brazil involving the New York firm of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., ("KKR") on behalf of Kissinger Associates, he wrote Lawrence Eagleburger and Alan Stoga, again referencing his invitation to Kissinger to attend the Pharaon dinner with da Costa.(10) However, Kissinger declined the invitation.
On May 28, 1987, da Costa decided to introduce BCCI acquisitions officer Abol Helmy, who had crafted BCCI's purchase of the bank in Brazil, and da Costa's participation as a BCCI front man, to Kissinger Associates partner Alan Stoga. A chronology provided the Subcommittee by Kissinger Associates' attorneys, and apparently prepared by Stoga in November, 1991, describes the meeting as follows:
Da Costa introduces Abol Helmy to Stoga without any specific purpose. Helmy is described as responsible for BCCI's acquisitions in Latin America.(11)
According to the Stoga chronology, on June 10, 1987, Stoga met Helmy again to discuss the possibility of a relationship between Kissinger Associates and BCCI. According to the Stoga chronology, no specifics of the relationship were discussed.(12)
On August 26, 1987, Pakistan's former Ambassador to the United States, Sultan M. Khan, who now worked at BCCI's representative office in Washington, D.C., wrote Kissinger, on BCCI stationery, to invite Kissinger to attend a dinner he and BCCI were hosting, honoring the leader of the Chinese delegation to the annual International Monetary Fund dinner. Although Khan had worked closely with Kissinger when he was U.S. Secretary of State and Khan was Pakistan's foreign minister, Kissinger declined the invitation.(13)
The Stoga chronology shows no further meetings between Stoga and Helmy until September, 1988. However, Helmy told Subcommittee staff that he had a series of meetings in this period with Stoga regarding possible links between BCCI and Kissinger Associates. Moreover, a November 2, 1988 letter on Kissinger Associates letterhead from Stoga to da Costa states, "I have been in regular contact with Abol Helmy for more than two years and, during that time, we have discussed the possibility of a consulting relationship [by Kissinger Associates for BCCI] several times."(14)
Helmy viewed his meetings with Stoga as a means to engage in business development for BCCI, and believed that Stoga also believed that it could be to both of their benefits within their respective organizations to provide one another with business.(15)
This process moved forward slowly, and it was not until October 7, 1988 that Stoga sent Helmy and BCCI written material from Kissinger Associates describing the nature of their business and the possible benefits to both organizations of a relationship. As Stoga wrote Helmy:
I enjoyed lunch yesterday and, even more, your suggestion that BCCI might be interested in developing a relationship with Kissinger Associates.
As you suggested, I am enclosing a brief explanation of our firm and biographical sketches of our principals. I am not sure the former really does us justice, but I am reluctant to be more specific, at least on paper, about the kinds of consulting projects we undertake for clients. . .
I agree that a next step should be for me to meet your [BCCI's] management in London or in New York.(16)
The materials enclosed by Helmy, and retrieved later by Subcommittee staff at BCCI's offices in New York, consisted of a six paragraph summary of Kissinger Associates approach to its business, and a two page biographical summary of its partners' credentials. According to the summary:
Kissinger Associates' purpose is to utilize the diverse backgrounds, experiences, contacts, and relationships of its senior personnel to assist client companies in sorting through and coming to terms with the increasingly complicated international environment. . . The firm does not provide detailed written materials to clients, in large part to assure the confidentiality and the frankness of communications.(17) (emphasis in original)
Less than one week later, BCCI was indicted in Tampa, prompting an immediate memorandum from Helmy to Swaleh Naqvi, then BCCI's chief:
Further to our recent conversation in London, I met with Mr. Alan Stoga who is one of the 3 partners of Kissinger Associates, Inc. Subsequently, the developments in the United States took place. Judging by the high level of adverse publicity that is being generated by the media, it is imperative that a firm response be made.
I received a call today from Mr. Stoga who informed me that Dr. Kissinger recommends that a public relations offensive be made by us and in that context has suggested using Burson-Marstellar, a highly reputable public relations firm that successfully dealt with 1st Chicago crises last year. Kissinger Associates, Inc. have indicated that they shall be happy to use their personal contacts with the firm and make the necessary recommendations. I shall, of course, not proceed in any way without explicit instructions from you.(18)
The next day, Helmy sent another memorandum to Naqvi, enclosing the materials he had received from Stoga concerning Kissinger Associates and advising Naqvi that he would meet with Stoga on October 14. Helmy and Naqvi then discussed the overture to Kissinger Associates by telephone, evidently to discuss the qualms that Kissinger Associates might have to working with BCCI now that it had been indicted. Following Helmy and Stoga's next meeting, Helmy reported back to BCCI London as follows:
I just met with Mr. Alan Stoga, Dr. Kissinger's partner, and discussed the relevant matters as per our phone conversation of yesterday.
I emphasized to Mr. Stoga that our conversations in getting our two respective organizations together have been going on for over a year and hence, have not been generated as result of the present circumstances.
I feel that a relationship could be established in the near future depending on how fast the present publicity ends.
I shall keep you duly informed of my next meeting with Dr. Kissinger himself which should be sometime next week.(19)
The correspondence makes clear Helmy's desire to secure this important relationship for BCCI as a means of helping BCCI reduce its current problems in the United States, and as a means for Helmy himself to increase his power within the BCCI organization.
While Helmy pursued the relationship from his office at BCCI New York, da Costa in the meantime also tried to push a relationship forward. Kissinger Associates had decided to end his consultancy in September as a consequence of his not having developed enough business in Brazil to justify his $40,000 a year stipend, and sent da Costa a letter to that effect which he evidently did not receive. In the meantime, Helmy had contacted da Costa to seek da Costa's assistance in reassuring Kissinger Associates that BCCI was truly an ethical institution.
On October 25, 1988, da Costa wrote Eagleburger and Stoga to remind them that the discussions to link the two organizations went back many months and were not prompted by the indictments:
On two or three different occasions last year and early this year, I suggested to BCCI to seek the assistance of K.A. [Kissinger Associates] to obtain their assessments worldwide and particularly regarding the Untied States. The suggestion was well received and matter virtually cleared six months ago. However, the situation created by the serious heart condition which stroke [sic] BCCI's president and founding father delayed the implementation until September 29th when I was asked to a meeting in London.
During the meeting, a few questions were put to me as to the type of work that KA did normally for their clients and the Deputy Chairman [Naqvi] indicated that instructions would be promptly sent to Mr. Abol Helmy in new York to approach KA and negotiate a contract.
That was Thursday September 29th. Thirteen days later, October 12th., the blow of the accusation for money-laundering, of which the bank expects to be entirely cleared, having offered the fullest cooperation with the investigators.
Mr. Abol Helmy has already contacted Alan Stoga last week and asked me to refer to the early conversations held at the bank about my recommendation, not to appear that he is seeking support in a moment of distress. . .
Perhaps you could start talking to Mr. Helmy in the clear understanding that a contract would be signed only after you had the opportunity to ascertain - to your satisfaction - that the procedures adopted by the bank to defend itself from the allegations are adequate enough.(20)
In response, Stoga wrote da Costa November 2, 1988. The letter from Stoga to da Costa was not to advise him that Kissinger Associates was sufficiently concerned about BCCI's drug money laundering indictments to preclude a relationship. The letter instead politely advised da Costa that as far as Stoga was concerned, the prospective relationship was Stoga's, not da Costa's, and that da Costa was not welcome to participate in further discussions between BCCI and Kissinger Associates. As Stoga wrote da Costa:
Thank you for your fax regarding BCC. After your kind introduction, I have been in regular contact with Abol Helmy for more than two years and, during that time, we have discussed the possibility of a consulting relationship several times. Abol raised this issue again in September saying that he was urging Mr. Naqvi to consider hiring us. Helmy did not mention your involvement during any of these discussions and said he, too, was surprised by your fax.
I am not sure how we will proceed with respect to BCC, but I will remain directly in contact with Abol.(21)
Da Costa acknowledged Stoga's position and had no further involvement with Kissinger Associates until December, when he wrote to remind the firm that he had not received his quarterly stipend, and was told that his consultancy was at an end, other than on a case-by-case basis should da Costa generate transactions for Kissinger Associates. Da Costa replied with a fax transmission to Kissinger, thanking him for being welcomed to Kissinger Associates "at that precise moment when I was leaving a life-long protected life to explore on my own the other side of the fence," and promising to do his best to generate more business in Brazil on a case-by-case basis in the future.(22)
Kissinger Associates determined to take its time in considering the risks and benefits of any relationship with BCCI, with Kissinger himself apparently taking the view throughout that the relationship was not worth having, while Stoga sought to continue to explore it.
The chronology provided the Subcommittee by Kissinger Associates states that Stoga telephoned Helmy in December to advise him that Kissinger Associates would not be interested in any relationship with BCCI, but that Helmy requested another meeting with Stoga "after holidays to discuss."(23)
BCCI files tell a different story. According to a December 19, 1988 memorandum from Helmy to Naqvi, he continued to be in communication with Stoga about the proposed relationship, and continued to anticipate that they would work something out despite the drug money laundering indictment:
I am in communication with Mr. Alan Stoga, Partner of Kissinger Associates, Inc. Their response was they are interested in principal but would like to wait a bit longer. I will be meeting Mr. Stoga in the first week of January, 1989 and will be discussing the issue further. It would be of interest for you to know that Mr. Scowcroft is now the National Security Advisor Designate in the Bush Administration and another Partner of Kissinger Associates is being tapped for Assistant Secretary of State in the Bush Administration. I shall keep you informed of my next meeting. You may agree that this association with Kissinger Associates, Inc. needs time to be cultivated. I am working in that direction.(24)
Evidence of what Helmy was referring to is a proposal which Kissinger Associates found in its files from Helmy to Stoga, dated January 9, 1989.
The proposal refers to a California bank known by Stoga to be available for a price of $76 million, a price which he estimated was less than 10 times the bank's expected earnings. The bank was for sale, and if Kissinger Associates could find a buyer, there was an opportunity for everyone to make money. Helmy provided Stoga with a 17 page outline for the proposal transaction, and asked him to consider it.
The proposal revealed that the bank involved was the Independence Bank of Encino, held by BCCI shareholder and front-man Ghaith Pharaon.
There is no record that Helmy advised Stoga or Kissinger Associates of what he also knew about Independence Bank -- that the bank was secretly owned by BCCI, in arrangements similar to the nominee arrangements Helmy had personally crafted for da Costa in Brazil. Helmy himself may not have known Independence Bank's other secret -- that at the time, it was already in the deep financial trouble that three years later lead to a $150 million bailout of Independence Bank, with funds lent by the U.S. Treasury, of the Bank Insurance Fund.
At about this time, in January, 1989, according to the Stoga chronology, Stoga again met with Helmy to repeat that Kissinger Associates would not proceed with a relationship with BCCI. The Stoga chronology states that Helmy said he understood that the time was not right and he hoped if circumstances changed, the firm would reconsider.
The Stoga chronology is again contradicted by BCCI files. A memorandum written January 11, 1989 from Helmy to Naqvi, found in BCCI's Kissinger Associate files in New York, presents an entirely different picture of the relationship at this stage:
I had a lunch meeting with the gentleman in January 5, 1989 and a follow up telephone conversation on January 10, 1989. It was established that it is in our interest for both parties to continue with the conversations. As such, the door for an eventual relationship remains open.
They were far more knowledgeable of the details of our situation during this meeting and made certain "unofficial" general recommendations which I shall convey to you at our next meeting. I am meeting my contacts senior partner by the end of January with a view of discussing our overall worldwide activities.(25)
In staff interviews, Helmy later confirmed that the memorandum referred to Stoga and to the "senior partner" to an intended meeting with Kissinger.
There are four possible explanations of the difference between Helmy's understanding and the Kissinger Associates chronology.
First, Helmy could have been wilfully misleading his superiors at BCCI about the relationship, although it is hard to understand why he would do this, persistently, for months, unless he had in fact received some encouragement from Stoga. Moreover, Stoga had in fact continued to meet month after month with Helmy.
Second, Helmy could have misunderstood what Stoga was telling him. Again, this would fail to explain why Stoga continued meeting with him to discuss these matters.
Third, Stoga could himself have been trying to keep the door open, despite instructions from Kissinger to the contrary. There is some evidence for this from the various memoranda, including Stoga's later representations as to what happened. It would be plausible that Stoga as the most junior member of the partnership would at the time have had a greater need than Kissinger himself to take advantage of BCCI's 73 nation financial network and reported $23 billion in assets to generate new business,
Finally, Kissinger Associates as an organization might at the time have been seeking to keep its options open concerning a possible relationship with BCCI, and rewritten history once BCCI had become notorious. The documents provided do not either preclude such a possibility, or prove it.
It is impossible to make a definitive judgment on this issue because of the remarkable absence of any contemporaneous documents concerning Kissinger Associates' rejection of the relationship with BCCI, at least among the documents provided the Subcommittee by Kissinger Associates. While Kissinger Associates did provide the Subcommittee with Stoga's November, 1991 reconstruction of what took place, for better or worse, the only contemporaneous documents available to the Subcommittee concerning this issue were those created by Helmy while he was at BCCI.
However, there is no evidence from any source that Helmy ever met with Kissinger, as Helmy had implied he would do in two of his memoranda to Naqvi. Moreover, there is no evidence that Stoga took any action to follow up on Helmy's business suggestions.
It is not contested, however, that Kissinger Associates did make "certain 'unofficial' general recommendations" to BCCI, just as Helmy's January 11, 1989 memorandum stated.
The Stoga chronology shows that Stoga did stay in contact with Helmy through January, 1989. The chronology states that Helmy asked to meet with Stoga, and did so on January 25, 1989, when Helmy told Stoga that he was now in charge of the Tampa legal case, and would appreciate Stoga recommending new lawyers for BCCI in Washington.
As Helmy later explained, he, among others at BCCI, felt that Clark Clifford and Robert Altman had their own agenda and own problems, and were not ideally situated to manage the overall handling of the Tampa case. He had received authority to try to go around Clifford and Altman, and was using the best contacts he had to develop an alternative.(26)
According to the Stoga chronology, Stoga reported the request for assistance to Kissinger, and after consulting with Kissinger, told Helmy he could recommend William Rogers and a team of lawyers at Arnold and Porter, which Kissinger Associates had long used to handle legal matters pertaining to the firm and its principals. According to the Stoga chronology, this was "without reference to HAK," that is, Henry Kissinger. At the time, Rogers was also on the Board of Directors of Kissinger Associates.(27)
BCCI's records in New York first alerted the Subcommittee to the possibility that BCCI had been represented by Arnold & Porter and former Assistant Secretary of State William D. Rogers. An undated document maintained in the Kissinger Associates file at BCCI listed as BCCI's team of representatives:
FIRM: ARNOLD & PORTER
1. Mr. William D. Rogers
(Formerly Assistant Secretary of State)
2. Mr. Jerry Hawke
(Formerly General Counsel Federal Reserve Board)
3. Mr. Irv Nathan
(Formerly Deputy Attorney General of the US)
FIRM: Kissinger Associates
1. Dr. Henry Kissinger
2. General Scowcroft
(Presently: National Security Counsel Chief)
3. Mr Eagleburger
(Presently: Assistant Secretary of State (Designate)
4. Mr. Alan Stoga(28)
The listing of the present and former government titles of the "team" BCCI was seeking to assemble gives a clue as to BCCI's intentions. Consistent with BCCI's historic approach to responding to its problems, it was seeking to retain people as close to the heart of the U.S. government as it could find to fix its problems, and in its view, this appropriately included people who worked for the Justice Department, State Department, and Federal Reserve.
In fact, while Kissinger Associates did not perform any services for BCCI apart from its referral of Arnold & Porter, Arnold & Porter did agree to represent BCCI, although that representation never developed into any substantial activity on the part of the firm. According to BCCI officers Abol Helmy and Abdur Sakhia, the principal reason the representation did not ultimately take hold was that Clifford and Altman did not want BCCI to develop any independent representation in Washington, and squelched the Arnold & Porter representation. As Sakhia recollected, in the period after BCCI's indictment:
We had a longish meeting about Kissinger representing us. I came in late in the meeting, and the upshot of it was they referred him to William Rogers. Then Rogers met with Naqvi and Abedi, but Clifford did not want Rogers involved.(29)
As Rogers described the representation:
Our relationship with BCCI consisted of about 10 meetings and telephone calls with BCCI people, one meeting with Messrs. Clifford and Altman and related office work. The purpose of the discussions was to explore legal services that Arnold & Porter might render BCCI. We geared up to provide services with background reading and the like. But we did not communicate on behalf of BCCI with any public official in connection with any BCCI matter, either orally or in writing. We made no appearances on behalf of BCCI in any judicial proceedings or in any administrative matter. We did not lobby on behalf of BCCI. And we did not communicate with any Senator, Representative or Hill staff.(30)
In all, four Arnold & Porter partners worked on BCCI matters between June 12, 1989, the date Arnold & Porter agreed to "provide legal advice from time to time to BCCI and its affiliates as and when requested to do so by BCCI," and January, 1990, including the three referred to in the BCCI memorandum concerning Arnold & Porter and Kissinger Associates. The firm did about $16,000 in legal work for BCCI in all, a fraction compared with the $20 million BCCI paid the various attorneys whose services were managed on BCCI's behalf by Clifford and Altman.(31)
During the spring of 1989, Abol Helmy, frustrated in his attempts to wrest control of BCCI's legal strategy in the U.S. from Clifford and Altman, and BCCI's unwillingness to take advantage of the Arnold & Porter representation he had arranged, decided to leave BCCI and form his own company, Equicap.
During this period, Helmy had several meetings with Stoga which the Kissinger Associates chronology characterized as "social." Helmy also provided Stoga with copies of detailed proposals he was working on for a Brazilian investment fund, which appears to be a suggestion to Stoga that Stoga help him solicit possible investors for the fund.
In November 1991, after BCCI's global closure, Kissinger Associates began to receive queries from the press concerning its contacts with BCCI. In response to those queries, Kissinger asked Stoga to reconstruct his contacts with BCCI. Stoga reviewed the documents concerning BCCI contained at Kissinger Associates files that were later provided the Subcommittee, and prepared a memorandum to Kissinger on November 11, 1991 that described the contacts as follows:
The most titillating passage in Helmy's memos claim I passed along a recommendation from you about a public relations offensive involving Burson Marstellar which we would help facilitate. Another memo implies that he met you. And another says that we had been discussing a client relationship for over a year.
To the best of my collection, I did not talk to Helmy about Burson (which had not been a client for almost two years at that point), in particular, or about public relations in general. The only "advice" I do recall giving is telling him in an aside that, based on what I read in the papers, BCCI would be lucky to survive as a bank in the U.S. unless there was a thorough house cleaning. And, of course, when Helmy in February, 1989, asked for the name of a good lawyer, we referred him to Bill [Rogers].
With regard to meeting you, as you know, there is no reference on your calendars, you have no recollection, and da Costa says it did not happen. Additionally, I asked Helmy (with whom I developed a social relationship after he left BCCI) and he says he did not meet with you.
Finally, I remember that Helmy said when he approached us in September, 1988 that after meeting me a year earlier he had begun thinking about proposing a relationship. He was concerned that we would think his 1988 overture was a product of the indictment, but insisted that it was not. At the same time da Costa -- whose contract had not been renewed -- sent us a memo which said he had been having conversations with BCCI about a relationship with us for some time. If so, he did not tell us about them until the moment it looked like a contract might be in the offing. Then da Costa tried to prove he would deserve a fee.(32)
Stoga offers no explanation in the memorandum to Kissinger as to how Helmy could have set forth the supposed recommendation to BCCI of Burson Marstellar from Stoga and Kissinger himself if Stoga had said nothing concerning the firm. But it seems less than likely that Helmy would as a matter of sheer coincidence fabricate the supposed recommendation by Stoga and Kissinger of a firm who had indeed been a client. An alternative theory might be simply that Stoga did make the recommendation, represented it as Kissinger's, and failed to recollect it three years later. A third possibility is that Stoga chose not to remember the recommendation, or whether it actually came from Kissinger himself, given its "titillating" quality.
Helmy was by his own account distraught to find out that his overtures to Stoga and Kissinger Associates were about to become public. As he later told Subcommittee staff, he had sought to nurture his relationship with Stoga before while he was at BCCI and since he had left, considered him a personal friend, and feared the exposure would damage a relationship of some personal importance to Helmy. Helmy understood that exposure of the BCCI-Kissinger Associates letters could potentially injure Stoga's standing with Kissinger himself, and wished to help Stoga out of a situation which Helmy felt Helmy had created. Accordingly, after talking with Stoga, Helmy drafted a letter, dated November 13, 1991, to describe his current view of what had taken place.
In the letter, Helmy wrote Stoga as follows:
Obviously both you and I are distressed by the recent articles in The Boston Globe and the New York Times which discuss my 1988 recommendation to BCC that I retain the services of Kissinger Associates after BCCI was indicted in Tampa, Florida.
I am, of course, surprised that a recommendation that BCCI retain the services of an organization enjoying the fine reputation held by Kissinger Associates warrants publicity, but I suppose that in the current milieu this kind of thing makes the news too. . .
On the merits, while we were discussing the possibility of BCCI's retention of Kissinger Associates, the fact is that you never told me or led me to believe that Dr. Kissinger himself actually made any recommendation. Only my enthusiasm to encourage Mr. Naqvi and BCC inadvertently resulted in my memorandum suggesting otherwise. Also, as you told The New York Times, and to the best of my knowledge, Kissinger Associates was never actually retained by BCCI in any kind of professional, advisory, or any other relationship. . .
Since no good deed goes unpunished, my efforts to assist BCCI in gaining the valuable services of Kissinger Associates, seem, now, to have caused both Kissinger Associates and myself a degree of harm for which I apologize to you and your organization.(33)
Thus, Helmy sought to make clear that Henry Kissinger himself had never to Helmy's knowledge been involved in his attempts to link the two organizations. His letter did not refer to the one thing that definitely happened during the course of his discussions with Stoga -- the initially successful referral of BCCI to William D. Rogers and Arnold & Porter.
The solicitation by BCCI of a relationship with Kissinger Associates was largely based on personal contacts. It began with overtures by Ambassador da Costa, a man Kissinger knew was simultaneously a consultant to Kissinger Associates and to BCCI. The solicitation then developed through the burgeoning personal relationship between BCCI officer Helmy and Kissinger Associates partner Stoga.
Although Henry Kissinger was never himself especially interested in this potential client, BCCI become aggressively interested in Kissinger Associates because of its political connections, at a time when BCCI was struggling for survival.
Following the Tampa indictments, Kissinger himself recognized the potential risk to the reputation of his firm should it perform services for BCCI, and by December or January instructed Stoga to advise BCCI that no relationship was possible. Unable to respond to Helmy's overtures directly, Stoga, with Kissinger's participation, eventually agreed to pass BCCI on to William Rogers at Arnold & Porter as a means of helping Helmy and BCCI, while protecting Kissinger Associates.
The result was that through the Kissinger Associates connection, BCCI retained lawyers who had previously represented the Justice Department, State Department, and Federal Reserve, agencies of some relevance to BCCI's predicament. That relationship failed to develop not because of any lack of willingness by Arnold & Porter or Helmy at BCCI, but as the direct result of Clifford and Altman's need to maintain control over BCCI's affairs in the United States.
This story highlights once again BCCI's consistent strategy of responding to problems through reaching out to prominent political figures and retired government officials in hopes that it could use political influence to solve its problems. The failure of this strategy was a reflection of BCCI's own naivete about how to do business in the United States, the care which Kissinger himself took to protect his own reputation in dealing with clients, and Clifford and Altman's role of primacy in BCCI's U.S. affairs. BCCI's ability to get its foot in the door at such politically well-connected institutions, does, however, raise questions about the general vulnerability of such politically well-connected firms to providing services that advance the secret agendas of other clients who may be less notorious than, but equally noxious as, BCCI.
1. Letter, Lloyd N. Cutler to Senator Kerry, January 30, 1992.
2. Memorandum/telex, Sakhia to Siddiki, May 6, 1986, Senate document.
3. BCCI internal memorandum, Helmy to Ameer Saddiki, September 2, 1986, Senate document 000653.
4. Staff interview, Abol Helmy, January 12, 1992.
5. Telex, Shafi to da Costa, October 28, 1986, BCCI Senate Document 000645.
6. BCCI Luxembourg Letter of Appointment, Ameer H. Siddiki to Ambassador Correa da Costa, October 28, 1986, Senate document.
7. Letter, November 3, 1987, da Costa to Kissinger.
8. Letter, Sergio Correa da Costa to Chris Vicks, Kissinger Associates, August 13, 1987.
9. Letter, Da Costa to Kissinger, September 20, 1987.
10. Da Costa Memorandum to L. Eagleburger and A. Stoga Re: Kohlberg Kravis Robert & Co -- KKR; October 6, 1987.
11. BCCI Chronology, January 30, 1992, provided to Subcommittee by attorneys for Kissinger Associates.
13. Letter, Khan to Kissinger, August 26, 1987.
14. Letter, Stoga to da Costa, November 2, 1988.
15. Helmy staff interview, January 12, 1992.
16. Letter, Stoga to Helmy, October 7, 1988.
17. Attachment, KISSINGER ASSOCIATES, INC., to Stoga letter to Helmy, October 7, 1988.
18. Letter, BCCI New York, from Abol Fazl Helmy to Swaleh Naqvi, October 12, 1988.
19. Memorandum, BCCI New York, Helmy to Naqvi, October 14, 1988.
20. Memorandum, Sergio Correa da Costa, to Kissinger Associates, October 25, 1988, Ref. BCCI as client of KA, Attention: Mr. L. Eagleburger, Mr. Alan Stoga.
21. Letter, Stoga to da Costa, November 2, 1988.
22. Letters, Cunningham to da Costa, December 12, 1988; da Costa to Kissinger, December 13, 1988.
23. BCCI Chronology, provided to Subcommittee by Kissinger Associates.
24. Letter, BCCI New York, Helmy to Naqvi, December 19, 1991.
25. Memorandum, BCCI New York, Helmy to Naqvi, January 11, 1989.
26. Helmy staff interview, January 12, 1992.
27. BCCI Chronology provided by Kissinger Associates to Subcommittee.
28. BCCI Document in Kissinger Associates file, BCCI New York.
29. Staff interview, Abdur Sakhia, October, 1991.
30. Letter, Rogers to Winer, March 3, 1992.
31. Id and attachments.
32. Stoga to Kissinger, November 11, 1991, RE: BCCI.
33. Letter, Abol F. Helmy to Alan Stoga, November 13, 1991.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|