When BCCI began its surreptitious takeover of First American, Jimmy Carter was President of the United States. The point man for that takeover, of course, was the President's close personal friend and former Director of the Office of Management and Budget, T. Bertram Lance.
Lance ultimately was forced to abandon his role in the takeover, but he maintained his contacts with BCCI for another decade. During that time, Lance introduced BCCI, and its president, Agha Hasan Abedi, to former President Carter and to the President's friend and former UN Ambassador, Andrew Young. During the 1980's these three former powerful government officials used, and were used, by BCCI, to varying degrees and for various purposes.
Of the three, Lance was far and away the most visibly involved with BCCI. In 1977, when Lance became Director of the Office of Management and Budget, he had serious financial problems. After resigning later that year amid accusations that he had mismanaged corporate and personal financial matters, Lance went to work for BCCI as a consultant. He appears to have traded on his access to the President for BCCI's ability to bail him out of his crushing debt. After getting millions from BCCI, Lance provided services to the bank for the next decade.
BCCI courted the rich and powerful all over the world and so it was natural that President Carter should be approached with an eye towards using him to give credibility to the bank. The President apparently did not establish a relationship with BCCI or Abedi, until after he left office. However, throughout the 1980's, Abedi used President Carter as a means of gaining stature for himself and for BCCI in a number of third world countries. The President, in return, received millions of dollars for his charities.(1)
Andrew Young is one of the most famous black politicians, not only in this country, but all over the world. A former Congressman, Young is also a past Mayor of Atlanta. Perhaps most significant for BCCI, Young was the first black US Ambassador to the United Nations under President Carter. In that position he often championed Third World causes. BCCI used Young in much the same way as it used Carter -- for introductions and access to government leaders in developing countries. Young, in return received a salary and loans, although his financial relationship never amounted to that of his colleague Lance.
It is no coincidence that at the time the bank closed, BCCI had established its presence in Georgia in many different ways ranging from the ownership of the National Bank of Georgia to the headquarters for BCCI front man Ghaith Pharaon's U.S. corporate headquarters.
Bert Lance, who provided testimony to the Subcommittee on October 23, 1991 about his role in the BCCI affair, told the Subcommittee that he is "mystified" by the "whole developing scandal."(2)
Lance was the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Carter from January 20, 1977 until September 21, 1977. He was forced to resign after it was alleged that he engaged in questionable financial dealings at the National Bank of Georgia where he was chairman for two years, and, earlier, at the Calhoun National Bank where he was also chairman.(3)
Lance has stated on many occasions that he first met Agha Hasan Abedi, the President of BCCI, in October, 1977 when he was introduced by a member of the Georgia state assembly, an oil man named Eugene Holley. According to Lance, Holley:
had some conversations with Mr. Abedi about me and whatever few abilities I might have and things of that nature; and that he thought it would be worthwhile if I had occasion to meet Mr. Abedi and discuss with him what his interest might or may not have been in regard to the United States, in regard to investments, in regarding to banking generally, and so on.(4)
Holley was the Chairman of the Georgia state Senate Banking and Finance Committee. According to press reports Holley "had sought aid from Middle Eastern sources for his petroleum and real estate ventures."(5) According to the Washington Post, "Several Georgia banks that lent money for his [Holley's] ventures have suffered grave losses," noting that "NBG, under Lance's direction, was among the lenders."(6)
In September 1977, Lance met with Holley, Abedi and Naqvi at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. Lance testified that Abedi told him:
I am building a bank headquarters in London that has a deep and abiding interest in the problems of health, hunger, economic development, things primarily in the Third World, problems that we are all familiar with and problems that we all want to see resolved in one form or another.(7)
According to Lance, who was in serious financial trouble at the time, "I shared that concern."(8)
Lance told the Subcommittee that he subsequently met with Abedi and told him that "I am not about to get involved in situation whereby the relationships that I establish after having resigned would create any problem of embarrassment, concern, or anything else for the President of the United States."(9) Lance ultimately did introduce Abedi to Carter, which ultimately caused substantial embarrassment and concern for the former President, but this was until 1981 after Carter had left the Presidency.
In October 1977, Lance decided that he should "do due diligence about Mr. Abedi and BCCI" before getting involved with them. To handle this task, he chose Clifford and Altman, who had represented him before the Senate.(10) Lance told the Subcommittee that Clifford "told me . . . Mr. Abedi was a man of integrity and character, that BCCI . . . they were people of integrity and character."(11)
With assurances from Clifford and Altman that BCCI was a reputable institution, Lance began to advise Abedi on gaining a foothold in the United States. He testified to the Subcommittee his advice to Abedi was:
very clear and precise, as I recall, that you need to acquainted, you need to go through the regulatory process in the United States; that, obviously, despite my difficulty sometimes in dealing with them, that I thought it to be the best process in the world; that banks who were regulated in the United States offered their depositors safety; that it was the kind of climate that was appropriate and proper, and that it was they ought to do.(12)
In line with this sage advice, in late 1977 Lance led a group of Middle-eastern investors, including Abedi, in an attempt to take over Washington D.C. based Financial General Bankshares. The effort was blocked when the SEC discovered that the investors had secretly acquired a 19% holding in the bank and had to divest it.(13) Lance was forced to sign a consent decree by the SEC.(14)
Lance explained to the Subcommittee that he had recommended the purchase of Financial General to Abedi. He told the Subcommittee that he "happened to know about Financial General because when I was at the National Bank of Georgia, they were owned by Financial General." Lance also testified that he "happened to have an awareness of ...other stockholders in Financial General at that point in time... [who] had [not] been very happy about their investment."(15) Indeed, Lance was accused by the SEC of having been involved in the struggle for control of FGB while he was still director for the office of management and budget.(16)
At the same time that Lance was assisting Abedi in the takeover of Financial General, Ghaith Pharaon, a BCCI front man, offered to buy 60% of the former budget director's stock in the National Bank of Georgia stock for $20 a share, $3 more than Lance had originally paid for it. At the time Lance held 12% of the bank's stock and his sale of some 120,000 shares provided him with a gross gain of approximately $2.4 million. According to press reports, the stock had been trading for about $10.50 to $11.25 before the sale became imminent.(17)
In testimony before the Subcommittee, Lance explained that Abedi told him that he "had an investor who, by the name of Gaith Pharaon, who has acquired banks in the United States previously. . . And he said to that would appear to make a lot of sense." (18) Indeed, it did make sense for Lance, who had previously listed liabilities in excess of $5 million, including a $3.4 million loan form the National bank of Chicago.(19)
At the time the transaction raised concern that Pharaon may have been paying an inflated price in order to help Lance, save President Carter further embarrassment from his association with Lance, and gain influence with the administration. However, Lance stated publicly that "I'm not for sale; I've never been for sale, and that stands on its own."(20) Pharaon also disputed any claims that he was trying to buy influence: "Why should I buy influence? We have many ways of reaching your President through our channels. We have a great deal of influence already."(21)
Lance also testified about Clifford and Altman's role in the Pharaon's purchase of his shares: "Mr. Clifford and Bob Altman represented me at that point in time ...They were very aware of what I was trying to do and were very helpful to me in trying to do that."(22)
In summary, Lance explained:
[T]here were two groups of investors there that Abedi said he was representing. One happened to be the investors that subsequently ended up as the individual shareholders in Financial General, and, Gaith Pharaon, who ended up as the sole investor in the National Bank of Georgia...
And during November and December 1977, it pretty well took place in the broad beginnings of the purchase of Financial General on the one hand and, obviously, the acquisition of the National bank of Georgia on the other.
[T]here were two different entities, is what I'm trying to say to you, that were involved. I guess I was central to both of them. Mr. Clifford and Bob Altman were central to both of them. Mr. Clifford and Bob Altman were central to both of them. And, in fact, Mr. Clifford and Bob Altman represented me in a legal sense.(23)
While Lance took pains to separate the two transactions -- the purchase of his NBG stock and the acquisition of Financial General -- for the Subcommittee, he testified that at a meeting in Atlanta over Thanksgiving weekend in 1977, "there was basic discussion and negotiation about the purchase of NBG. But there was also negotiation -- not "negotiation" as such, but conversation -- about the purchase of Financial General." Pharaon, the purchaser of NBG, was not present, but Abedi, Naqvi, Abdus Sami and Dildar Rizvi, the elite of BCCI, were all present.(24) In fact, Lance never met Pharaon until the night of the closing on the sale of NBG in January, 1978. Nevertheless, he testified that it was his "impression" that "he [Pharaon] was obviously a person who comes across as being in charge of whatever he's doing, and makes decisions and that sort of thing."(25)
After the sale of NBG stock to Pharaon and the failed takeover of Financial General, Lance continued as an advisor to Abedi and BCCI. Lance described his role as offering advice on "investments in the United States" and "economic development around the world." For these services Lance was paid by BCCI through ICIC, the "bank within a bank", which Lance understood to be a kind of "commercial finance operation."(26) When asked by Senator Pressler what ICIC paid him, Lance responded that he had been asked the same question recently by the SEC and he had refused to answer and he therefore would not answer the Senator. Lance added that "All of that is matter of public record."(27) The Washington Post reported in March, 1978 that:
The president of an Arab-controlled bank paid off a $3.5 million loan for Bert Lance without even asking Lance to sign a note, an attorney claimed yesterday at a court hearing in the Financial General Bankshares case.
Lance's $3.5 million loan from First National Bank of Chicago was repaid in January by Agha Hasan Abedi, president of Bank of Credit and Commerce international, said Edward McAmis, attorney for Financial General in a civil lawsuit against Lance, Abedi, BCCI and others accused of using illegal methods in seeking control of Financial General.
McAmis said Lance told him in a sworn statement made on Monday that Abedi repaid the loan directly, without any discussion of the interest rate or how and when Lance would repay Abedi. The multi-million loan made with only an oral promise to repay showed Lance's close ties and obligation to Abedi and BCCI, McAmis argued.
Lance's attorney, Robert Altman, accused McAmis of deliberately misconstructing the loan as part of a campaign to smear Lance.
"It wasn't like that at all," Altman said. he said formal loan documents were being drawn up, but had not been completed because of the lawsuit and other complications.
The article continues:
The revelation that Abedi repaid the Chicago loan came as a surprise. It had been reported earlier that Lance had sold his NBG stock for $2.4 million and used the money to pay off some of his debts, including the Chicago loan.
Court records in Georgia showed the Chicago loan was repaid on January 4, the same day lance completed the sale of his NBG stock to Gaith R. Pharaon, a Saudi Arabian financier who has business ties to Abedi. That same day Lance paid back a $443,000 loan to a Tennessee bank, raising questions about how he paid nearly $4 million in debts with $2.4 million in cash.
Yesterdays's assertions suggest Lance got money from two Arab sources in January, when he moved to extricate himself from past debts -- the sale of stock to Pharaon plus the loan from Abedi.(28)
Although no longer personally involved in the takeover of Financial General Bankshares, Lance continued to provide advice on the acquisition of the bank. He testified, for instance, that in 1978, at the suggestion of Abedi, he met separately with two of the potential shareholders, Sheik Kamal Adham and Sheik Zayed, the ruler of the United Arab Emirates. Lance told the Subcommittee that he met Zayed in Lahore, Pakistan in "February or March, 1978."(29) According to a February 12, 1978 story in the Washington Post, "In recent weeks, Lance was in Karachi, Pakistan, and sources say the trip was in connection with his dealings with Abedi."(30) Despite the fact that he no longer worked for the government, Lance made the trip on an official, US diplomatic passport.(31)
A meeting during this period would have followed the memorandum written by Abdus Sami to Mr. Abedi on January 30, 1978
in which Mr. Sami discusses the strategy for the takeover of Financial General Bankshares. Sami expresses the need "to keep individual ownership to below 5 percent" and he states that "we want two other names immediately." The two names who ultimately were submitted as investors were those of Sheik Zayed's son's Khalifa and Mohammad. When Senator Kerry asked Lance if he travelled to Pakistan in order to solicit the use of the names of investors from Sheik Zayed, Lance responded, "That's not my understanding of what actually took place."(32) Lance then told the Subcommittee, "Mr. Sami and I never and a conversation along these lines."(33) The Sami memorandum, however, contains a provocative reference to "our friend" involved in the FGB negotiations.
Lance admitted to the Subcommittee that the reference was to him, but testified:
[T]he acquisition of shares were basically handled by Mr. Sami, and he was the man who was responsible. I was not involved in that.(34)
As a new strategy for acquisition of Financial General Bankshares progressed, Lance told the Subcommittee that he reiterated to Abedi the need to "go through the regulatory process." He further advised:
[t]hat you take an outstanding American citizen who has no blemish in regard to anything in a public sense, and you take the stock that these individual investors are going to own, and then you put that together in some sort of trust and give that trustee irrevocable voting rights about that stock, and you will have taken a major step in dealing with some of the perception problems that you may have about individual investors.(35)
Abedi followed Lance's advice almost to the letter. Clifford and Altman created a shell corporation, in a form of a trust, to hold the FGB stock. Clifford, who became Chairman of First American was essentially a trustee since his associate, Robert Altman, the President of First American, held a power of attorney for virtually every shareholder. And perhaps most importantly, Clifford had the reputation as being "an outstanding American citizen." Clifford helped to alleviate some of the "perception problems" not only in the acquisition stage, but also throughout the 1980's.
Lance's relationship with Abedi and BCCI was interrupted in May, 1979 when he was indicted in the northern district of Georgia. After a sixteen week trial, he was acquitted.(36) Lance testified, "[B]asically, in all of 1979, I was out of the picture as it related to BCCI, as it related to Financial General, and so on."(37) According to Lance, Clifford, Altman and Abedi decided that he was "too controversial" and that he "would bring down the wrath of the regulators."
Despite the fact that he was no longer involved in the takeover of Financial General, Lance testified "my relationship with Mr. Abedi, from the standpoint of personal relationships, moved forward from that point on."(38) Lance said that he did "continue to have conversations and visits with Mr. Abedi."(39)
Lance described one of those conversation with Mr. Abedi to the Subcommittee. In 1983 Lance and Abedi attended a symposium at Emory University. In a car ride to Abedi's hotel from the University, Abedi, according to Lance, explained how he had been he had been placed on a CIA watch list in 1980 because he was a "Third World liberal." Lance testified that "subsequently, beginning in 1984, I would say, I sensed a change in Mr. Abedi, that he no longer had any concerns about visits to the United States." Lance concluded that in 1984 there was an attempt by the CIA to "co-opt" Abedi, although he could offer no proof.(40)
Lance also believed that the CIA Director Casey may have used wealthy businessman Bruce Rappaport to "spy" on Lance to see what he may have known about Abedi and the Agency's involvement with the bank. According to Lance, Rappaport befriended him for no apparent reason, but "He made it very clear to me that he had a very close and definitive relationship with Mr. Casey; the Director of the CIA." Lance said that Rappaport maintained contact with him for a period of years until the death of Director Casey.(41) Again, Lance offered no proof of his theory, and, in fact, he failed to mention in his testimony that despite his suspicions of Rappaport, he arranged with him to have one of his sons work in the financier's New York bank.
Besides advising Abedi and BCCI, Lance, during the 1980's pursued financial investments with BCCI-related individuals such as P.S. Prasad, an Indian who was BCCI's largest individual borrower in the United States with over $30 million in outstanding loans. At the time of BCCI's collapse in 1991 Prasad fled the country and returned to India.
Lance served on the board of McDowell Industries, a construction company. In 1984, using various holding companies, Prasad bought out McDowell and merged it with Maxpharma, a publicly traded company owned by Prasad which manufactured generic over-the-counter and prescription drug products. The buy out was handled by the investment banking firm of Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc. According to Lance, he personally met Dennis Levine, the investment banker who put the deal together. Levine does not recall having ever met Lance or Prasad. Lance continued to serve on the Board of directors of McDowell until approximately 1986. In 1988, Maxpharma was delisted from the American stock exchange after having multimillion dollar losses for the prior seven years, including a nearly eight million dollar loss in 1988.(42) It is unclear exactly what Lance's role was in Prasad's shuffling of companies, but one source close to the negotiations has alleged that "Lance was released of a multimillion loan he had guaranteed (either personally or through National bank of Georgia) for Maxpharma."(43)
Lance's involvement in another Prasad venture is clearly documented. Dr. Prasad borrowed $450,000 from "a bank" to purchase a small business investment company (SBIC) in 1983 called Falcon Capital Corporation.(44) The purpose of SBICs are to provide financing for venture capitalists, provided or guaranteed by the US Government, with the goal of creating new jobs. On September 15, 1986 Prasad's Falcon Capital made an unsecured loan of $75,000 to Bert Lance at an interest rate of 14 percent per annum for a period of five years. The ostensible purpose of the loan was to set up a consulting business in mergers and acquisitions. According to the SBA Assistant Inspector General for Audit, "[I]n 1988, review did not disclose that T. Bert Lance used the proceeds of the loan in a regular and continuous business operation."(45) Moreover, as of September 30, 1987 principal of $9,738.40 and interest of $8,990.27 were delinquent on the loan. Lance has told the Subcommittee that he eventually paid off the entire loan, but the Subcommittee has been unable to independently verify his claim.
In June 1988, Forbes Magazine reported that Lance was being considered by BCCI shareholders and management to run the bank in the absence of Aga Hasan Abedi who had suffered a debilitating heart attack. According to Forbes, "An Arab investor group suggested a compromise candidate to run things, a man who could keep the Saudi and Pakistani factions within the bank at bay. That man: Bert Lance."(46)
Also in 1988, Lance was an unofficial advisor to Presidential candidate Jesse Jackson, who Lance also introduced to Abedi. Nazir Chinoy, former branch manager of BCCI Paris, testified that when Jackson stayed in Paris, all of his expenses were paid by BCCI.
Finally, after the indictment in Florida of BCCI and BCCI personnel, Lance reportedly flew to London with former Chairman of the Democratic Party John White to meet with Naqvi and to advise BCCI on the best strategy for fighting the indictment.
The full story of Bert Lance's involvement with BCCI remains to be told. Lance was intimately involved with the bank between late 1977 and his indictment in 1979 during which time he provided advice to BCCI in exchange for being relieved his financial burdens. During the 1980's Lance continued his relationship with BCCI, offering advice and providing important introductions, most notably to former President Carter. While Lance's relationship spanned the decade, there are many gaps in the public record as to exactly what services Lance performed for the bank and what compensation he received. This merits further investigation.
Former President Carter has enormous respect and admiration throughout the world, but particularly in the Third World where he focused much of human rights policy while he was President. The President's focus on "Third World" issues, combined with BCCI's need for rapid worldwide expansion led the bank, and its president, Aga Hasan Abedi, to court President Carter after he left office. BCCI, which styled itself as a "Third World", bank successfully exploited the President's reputation and access by providing large amounts of funding to the his charitable organizations. In turn, the President became an unwitting pawn of BCCI, failing to acknowledge, even when it became obvious, that the bank was a criminal institution.
There is nothing to suggest that Jimmy Carter was even aware of BCCI or Aga Hasan Abedi while he was President of the United States. However, the president would have known of at least two important BCCI front men, Kamal Adham and Gaith Pharaon. President Carter undoubtedly met Kamal Adham in the negotiations over the Camp David Accords as Adham, the chief of Saudi intelligence, acted as an important liaison for Anwar Sadat. This is discussed in more detail in the chapter on BCCI's contacts with the CIA and foreign intelligence.
President Carter would have known of Gaith Pharaon because Pharaon bought the National Bank of Georgia where the President's good friend Bert Lance had been chairman and where the President had business loans. According to a 1980 Jack Anderson story, Senator Orrin Hatch, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, investigated the Carter loans at NBG. In his story Anderson quotes from a confidential, investigative memorandum to Senator Hatch:
The assumption in financial circles is that Pharaon acted for the Saudi royal family in purchasing the national bank of Georgia. The bank's biggest borrower just happened to be Jimmy Carter. Thus the President of the United States found himself to be deeply in hock to a Saudi Arabian financier with close ties to the Saudi royal family.(47)
The memorandum to Senator Hatch continues:
[T]he bank's confidential files contained embarrassing information about the president's financial affairs. The files revealed that the Carter peanut business wrote $3 million in overdrafts and unprocessed checks to repay peanut commodity loans during the 1975-1977 period.
While Carter was scrounging for money in his 1976 presidential campaign, the business borrowed $1.15 from the bank to buy peanuts, without a single peanut in bonded storage to secure the loan, in violation of the loan agreement. By September 1, 1977 , the business was insolvent to the tune of $410,000.
Of course, the Saudis remained discretely silent. The friendly Pharaon not only kept quiet about Carter's irregularities, but renegotiated the loan to Carter's advantage.
According to a memo in the bank files, the bank renegotiated the repayment terms. This resulted in a savings of $60,000 for the Carter family in 1987. The President owned 62% of the business and therefore was the largest beneficiary.(48)
The memorandum concludes:
The press and public have been conditioned by Watergate to expect a smoking gun -- a taped conversation, a full confession by one of the conspirators or some other dramatic evidence... Perhaps the American people need to be reeducated about scandal.(49)
The Subcommittee has not been able to verify the accuracy of the information supplied by Senator Hatch's investigator.
Since leaving the White House and the office of he Presidency in 1980, Jimmy Carter has devoted himself to several charities, including providing assistance to several organizations for fighting disease in the Third World. In this capacity the former President developed a friendship and working relationship with the founder and President of BCCI, Aga Hasan Abedi.
President Carter was introduced to Abedi in 1982 by Bert Lance who brought the banker to Plains, Georgia . Lance remembers, "There was an immediate relationship that developed between the two of them. You could sense it as they talked there in the living room of the Carter residence."(50)
According to Carter, Abedi approached him to undertake charity work on the third world:
The foundation or the bank, I never did know which, had a massive program in the third world called South. They published a monthly magazine that had major conferences in different cities around -- in the developing nations. Mr. Abedi, when he came to see me, said that they were just holding conferences, they were issuing publications, they were doing scholarly work, but they'd never actually planted a seek, or immunized a child or did anything of a specific nature. And he knew that our relationship with the Center for Disease Control let us have access to health care programs, and we were already embarked on those. So his relationship with us was one of "I want to do something practical to help people who are suffering, and we will help you."(51)
During the 1980's Carter and Abedi met over a dozen times and established a very warm, personal relationship. In 1983, for instance, when Carter and former President Ford held a joint symposium on conflict resolution at Emory University, Mr. Abedi was in attendance. (52) When Abedi suffered a heart attack in February 1988, Carter contacted heart specialist Norman Shumway who, at the former President's request, flew to London to examine Abedi, and oversaw a heart transplant operation for the BCCI president. Carter even visited Abedi during his hospitalization and was quoted as calling Mr. Abedi "one of the most unusual men I have met."(53)
The President travelled several thousand miles together with Abedi on the BCCI corporate jet and they visited at least seven countries together. Abedi has stated publicly that he has been "to every country...All the top politicians and heads of state were my friends, Jimmy Carter, James Callahan, I knew them all."(54) Callahan, the former British Prime Minister, has claimed that Carter introduced him to Abedi in 1981 at a charity dinner for the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust in London.(55)
In October 1986 the Carter Center opened in Atlanta. The center was created to study third world issues among the guests was Abedi, who had contributed over $500,000 to the center.(56) Moreover, Abedi and BCCI donated $8 million Carter's Global 2,000 project, helping to fund programs in Asia and Africa. Abedi was appointed the co-chairman of Global 2,000.
Less than one month after the Carter Center opened, the former President travelled with Abedi to Pakistan and to Bangladesh to sign agreements with government officials starting Global 2,000 health care programs in those countries. According to a Global 2,000 statement at the time, the programs sponsored by Carter focused on control of polio, measles, tetanus and diarrheal diseases.(57) BCCI either had, or was to develop corrupt relationships with several of the countries visited by Carter and Abedi, including Bangladesh and Suriname. In 1986 Carter also travelled to the United Arab Emirates, again accompanied by Abedi, for a three day visit during which time he met Sheik Zayed.(58)
In 1987, they met in Bangkok with the King of Thailand before flying on to Hong Kong and back to China.(59) In Beijing they attended a state dinner with Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping where they shared a toast with Premier Zhao Ziyang. President Carter has acknowledged that his travels with Abedi helped the BCCI president in his business:
[I] don't think there's any doubt that when a former President of the United States goes to a country and has anybody in his entourage, that person has some advantage to be derived.(60)
Indeed, the countries to which President Carter travelled with Abedi became important banking centers for BCCI. In China, for instance, BCCI opened the first foreign branch and reportedly conducted weapons transactions involving the Chinese government.
By 1986, of course, several US government agencies, including the Central intelligence Agency, the Justice Department and the Treasury were aware of BCCI's criminal connections. The CIA, for instance, knew that BCCI had secretly -- and illegally -- acquired First American Bankshares, Washington D.C.'s largest financial institution. The State Department knew that the terrorist Abu Nidal was using the bank to finance his operations in Europe. And the Customs Agency was working with the US Attorney's office in Tampa in Operation C-Chase, an undercover sting operation designed to expose drug money laundering in South Florida, which ultimately targeted BCCI.
During this entire period, President Carter was never briefed by any agency of the US government concerning BCCI.
This seems all the more extraordinary given that during several of his trips with Abedi the State Department asked the former President to raise particular issues with the governments of those countries.(61) However, the former President has said that neither did he ever ask for a briefing, nor did he ever feel the need to request one. Carter has said that he does not feel either "betrayed or deceived". According to the former President he did not become concerned about his association with the bank until the revelations that BCCI had been General Noriega's banker. At that point, the President stated:
[W]e were quite concerned , but the public news media reports -- I believe including statements from the Justice Department -- was that this was a problem that was apparently confined to the one bank operation in Panama dealing with Noriega. We had no information that it was broader.(62)
In point of fact, the indictment in Tampa charged BCCI with having a "corporate policy" of soliciting narcotics proceeds which clearly suggests that knowledge of BCCI's criminal activity was broader than President Carter has suggested was publicly available.
In 1987 President Carter invited BCCI's most famous Georgia resident, Gaith Pharaon to have lunch at the Carter center. According to published reports, Pharaon brought David Paul, the President of Centrust with him.(63) Although Pharaon never contributed any funds to President Carter's charities, Centrust made a corporate contribution of $100,000, which arrived with a note instructing Carter fundraisers to "credit it to Gaith Pharaon."(64)
In 1991 after the Federal Reserve issued a cease and desist order concerning BCCI's ownership of First American, the President began to disassociate himself from Abedi and the bank. On April 15, 1991 President Carter said:
We have, at the Carter Center, about 20,000 contributors to our programs, and we appreciate very much what BCCI did at the beginning to get this project started. But now, one of our major contributors is Sheik Zayed, in Abu Dhabi.(65)
Sheik Zayed, of course, was a major shareholder in BCCI from its inception and at the time that President Carter made his remarks, actually controlled the bank. According to the Atlanta Constitution, President Carter was aware of this: [W]hen BCCI changed owners and stopped payments on its Global 2,000 commitments, Mr. Carter asked the new owner, the President of the United Arab Emirates, to pay the $2.5 million balance due."(66)
On August 26, 1992, George G. Schira, the first executive director of the Carter Presidential Center, was indicted on charges that he impersonated former President Jimmy Carter and defrauded the center and one of its financial contributors out of $650,000.(67)
In committing this fraud on the former President, Schira used BCCI to receive some $650,000 from a shipping magnate through impersonating President Carter and Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, and calling on the magnate for help.
The funds were first transferred to BCCI in London, and then to BCCI's secretly owned U.S. subsidiary, the First American Bank of Georga, and to BCCI's secretly owned Swiss subsidiary, the Banque de Commerce et Placements.
President Carter was used by BCCI to enhance its credibility around the world and particularly in developing countries. President Carter travelled to a number of these countries with BCCI's president, Abedi, increasing Abedi's status and helping Abedi gain access and entry to political leaders from those countries. At the same time, the former President became beholden to the bank for its generous contributions to his charities. While President Carter did not show sufficient interest in establishing the bona fides of the bank, the CIA, which had substantial negative information on BCCI, failed to provide him with that information. When a President of the United States becomes a private citizen, it is obviously his choice with whom he associates. Nevertheless, former Presidents are afforded physical protection, and should be afforded, to the extent possible, protection of their reputation. As a result of his own lack of diligence in seeking information on BCCI's poor reputation, and the CIA's lack of diligence in telling President Carter what they knew, President Carter became closely associated for a decade with a bank that constituted organized crime. This outcome was not in the interests of the United States.
Andrew Young is one of the most prominent Black Americans in the country and has a record of high achievement in public service. However, The Subcommittee finds that Young's relationship with BCCI was inappropriate, particularly during the period that Young served as the Mayor of Atlanta. While he may technically have violated no ethical rules of his office, his financial relationship with BCCI has the appearance of influence-peddling.
Former UN Ambassador and Mayor of Atlanta Andrew Young represented BCCI as a consultant. Young has said that he learned about BCCI after leaving his position as UN Ambassador in 1979. While he does not recollect who introduced him to Aga Hasan Abedi, BCCI's president, he believes it may have been Gaith Pharaon, the man who purchased Bert Lance's holdings in the National Bank of Georgia.(68)
While he was Mayor, Young made at least four international trips on which he made key introductions for BCCI. According to Young, BCCI officials were occasionally involved during trips that he made with the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. He has explained that he performed services for the bank or met with officials in Tunisia, Nicaragua, Zimbabwe and several Persian Gulf states.(69)
In recent indictments issued by the Manhattan District Attorney, Robert Morgenthau, Tunisia and Zimbabwe were described as countries where government officials were bribed by BCCI officials. There is no information that Mayor Young had any knowledge of any impropriety committed by BCCI officials in either of these countries.
While serving as the Mayor of Atlanta, Young, like Lance, provided services for BCCI in return for financial benefits. Young had a $50,000 annual retainer with the bank, and has claimed that he only became a paid consultant in 1986 after he travelled with former President Carter to Africa on a BCCI jet. Young's fees were paid to his consulting firm, Andrew Young Associates. The relationship between Andrew Young Associates and BCCI lasted for eight years until 1989. During most of that period, the BCCI's loans were booked, and according to BCCI's records, "parked," at its offices in Panama.(70)
According to a loan review document from the National Bank of Georgia, AYA had "initially served as a vehicle for Andrew Young's lecture and occasional consulting fee income," but that following his election as Mayor, the firm "was reorganized to focus primarily on offering consulting services to domestic businesses working to achieve sales to various third world countries."(71) According to the memorandum, AYA relies "largely upon name recognition and third world political contacts."(72)
The document described characterized the company as "small, illiquid, unprofitable, and infinitely leveraged."(73)
According to Stony Cooks, Young's business and political associate, expenses incurred from Mr. Young's travels on behalf of BCCI were used to reduce the balance on the credit line. Cooks has claimed, the "offset" arrangement was worked out between himself and Swaleh Naqvi, the chief operating officer of BCCI without specifying the date of the arrangement.(74)
As of October 10, 1989, the outstanding loan to AYA (Andrew Young Associates) was $197,000 and while interest on the loan had been paid, the principal had not paid down. (75) In a letter from Asif Mujtaba, the Group Vice-President of First American Bank in Georgia to Bande Hasan, BCCI Miami, Mujtaba wrote "This loan matured on October 6, 1986 and I have written to the borrower demanding payment."(76) Cook's assertion following BCCI's global closure that payment of the principal, nearly $200,000, was offset by Young's travel expenses, is difficult to believe. Young would have had to have a large number of trips on BCCI's behalf in order to accumulate $200,000 in expenses, and there is evidence, as discussed below, that when he made trips on behalf of BCCI, he immediately sought cash reimbursement from the bank.
Documents show that Andrew Young Associates received its line of credit from the National Bank of Georgia beginning in 1980 which was transferred to BCCI Panama sometime after June 1985, the year Young was re-elected Mayor of Atlanta. (that same year the National Bank of Georgia donated at least $10,000 to Young's successful candidacy for Mayor of Atlanta in 1985.) (77) There is no explanation for why the loans were transferred. Documents do show that while AYA was paying down interest, Young's brother, Walter Young was not servicing the loan. In 1988, after several years of non-payment BCCI's Tariq Jamil wrote S.M. Shafi: "I understand that this loan is also guaranteed by Mayor Young, and therefore I would submit that the collection should be handled delicately as we would like to preserve the relationship between the BCC group and Mayor Young."(78)
According to published reports, Young travelled extensively on behalf of BCCI. The Subcommittee has obtained documents showing one trip which Young made to Nicaragua. In a May, 1987 memorandum written by S.S. Shafi to Ameer Siddiki, BCCI London, Shafi recounts a meeting with government officials in Managua, Nicaragua that had been arranged by Young:
Our first meeting with the Cabinet Ministers and other important personalities of Nicaragua was arranged by Mr. Andrew Young, Mayor of Atlanta who had travelled there for this purpose. Most of the Cabinet Ministers attended the dinner and after some time we were joined by the President of the Republic, Mr. Daniel Ortega. He explained to us at great length the great recession and losses and the widening of the trade gap in his country. The idea behind was to impress on us that BCCI primary concern being the promotion of economic growth in Third World countries we should arrange for credit lines for their pre-export financing of their coffee, sugar, bananas and other items.(79)
In the same memo Shafi reports that "The Minister [of Foreign Trade] added that a delegation headed by him would visit London to meet Mr. Abedi within a few days through good offices of Mr. Andrew Young."(80)
In September, 1987, Tariq Jamil, BCCI London, who had previously worked at the National Bank of Georgia, wrote to Saheb Shafi, BCC LACRO, requesting that Young be reimbursed for his travel expenses to Nicaragua, noting:
Needless to say, we shall continue to receive patronage and help from the Mayor in any of our endeavors in Central America for developing contacts and business for Latin American Region.(81)
The request for $2,345.17 reimbursement was accompanied by a July 15, 1987 letter from Young's assistant Stony Cooks stating that "[p]resently, Mayor Andrew Young's anticipated dates for his visit to Guatemala are August 12-6, 1987."(82) Cooks has told the press, as noted earlier, that Young's travel expenses were used to pay down his loan. The Subcommittee has been unable to verify that assertion, but finds the account -- that Young's travel expenses on behalf of BCCI amounted to nearly $200,000, and were used to offset the loan -- difficult to believe, especially given the reimbursement request in the case of the Nicaragua trip.
An NBG Loan memorandum also shows that Young proposed a joint venture in the country of Nigeria:
[T]o establish a joint venture agreement between A.I.C. and a Nigerian partner, former Head of State, General O. Obasanjo, is being negotiated. The joint venture company would cooperate in the assembly, manufacture and sale of farm equipment in Nigeria and throughout Africa.
Andrew Young Associates will consult with A.I.C. to provide advice and information about the business environment and business development opportunities in the developing nations.(83)
The significance of the Nigerian proposal is simply that it involves a former head of state of the Nigerian government, which was pervasively involved in receiving corrupt payments from BCCI in the form of bribes, kick-backs, money laundering, and other services specified in the chapter on BCCI's activities in foreign countries.
Consistent with its strategy of buying political influence, BCCI used Georgia lawyer and political operative Charlie Jones to court powerful government officials. For example, Jones was hired by Clifford and Warnke to lobby the Georgia state legislature during the takeover of National Bank of Georgia by First American. In order for the takeover to have proceeded, a technicality in the banking law had to be changed. According to Roy Carlson, Jones was paid "the vicinity of $1 million" for successfully lobbying the legislature.(84) NBC reported in February 1991 that members of the legislature had flown to a resort at the expense of BCCI.
Jones also arranged to have Senator Sam Nunn invited to lunch by the Egyptian Ambassador to the United States where Jones introduced the Senator to Gaith Pharaon. Nunn subsequently met with Pharaon on three occasions -- each meeting was arranged by Charlie Jones. There is nothing to suggest, however, that Senator Nunn had any relationship with BCCI or knowledge of Pharaon's ties to the bank.
According to Senator Hatch, Jones also used the offices of Senator Wyche Fowler to set us a meeting between himself, Amir Lohdi, a BCCI employee and aide to Gaith Pharaon, and Danny Wall, the nation's top savings and loan operator. According to a report released by Senator Hatch in 1991, at the time, Centrust was seeking US authority to sell $200 million in bonds to stave off its failure. Senator Fowler has denied that he or anyone in his office played any role in setting up the meeting.(85)
Beginning in the late 1970's BCCI made a concerted effort to court important members of the Carter administration, including the President himself. Bert Lance, for example, appears to have been relieved of substantial debt by the bank. While Mr. Lance's financial dealings have been thoroughly investigated and he has to date been convicted of no crime, the Subcommittee has concluded that from the beginning Lance traded on his time in public office for personal gain. In short, while his dealings with BCCI may not have been criminal, they can only be characterized as corrupt.
Former President Carter demonstrated an astounding lack of curiosity about a man with whom he travelled around the world and who funded his charities. While someone in the US government should have alerted the former President to the criminal nature of BCCI before 1986, President Carter never asked. Moreover, the former President demonstrated some insensitivity to the appearances of impropriety in accepting money from Sheik Zayed, the owner of BCCI, after the 1988 indictment, even though BCCI had been identified as having a corporate policy of soliciting drug money.
Andrew Young did not have as extensive relationship with BCCI as his former colleague Bert Lance, but he seems to have been equally willing to profit by that relationship. While Young may not have broken any criminal laws, he showed poor ethical judgment in performing services for a foreign bank while he was Mayor of Atlanta. Mayor Young's actions could be more easily characterized as business and economic development were it not for the $50,000 he received in consulting fees and the nearly $200,000 his consulting firm borrowed.
What is perhaps most surprising about the actions of former President Carter and former Mayor Young is that they established a relationship with BCCI or Abedi at all given that they knew Bert Lance was intimately involved with the bank and had, in fact, been bailed out by the bank. Lance has a history of showing poor judgment concerning his personal and business finances and his recommendation of BCCI, instead of providing comfort, should have raised red flags.
1. It is important to note that President Carter never personally profited from his relationship with either Abedi or BCCI.
2. S. Hrg. 102-350. Pt.3, p.16.
3. "Saudi to Acquire Lance Stock," by John Berry and Art Harris, The Washington Post, December 21, 1977.
4. S. Hrg. 102-350, pt. 3, p.5.
5. "Arab Investors Want Lance to Manage Funds," by Art Harris and John Berry, The Washington Post, December 18, 1977. p.A1.
6. Id. In 1979 the Justice Department brought a civil suit against Holly and an associate in 1979 claiming that they had sought to bribe an official of Quatar with a $1.5 million cash payment in order to get renewal of oil concessions that were worth millions of dollars. The department also said that Lance was instrumental in arranging the meeting between the businessmen and a State Department official in 1978, after he had left government, that were intended to pave the way for a bribe offer to an official of Qatar. Holly entered a consent order in which he agreed no to bribe officials in the officials. The Associated Press, by James Rubin, April 9, 1979.
9. Id. p.6.
11. Id. p.7
12. Id. p.7
13. "Is Bert Lance Back," By Gretchen Morgenson, Forbes Magazine, june 13, 1988, p.12.
14. Id. p.17.
15. S. Hrg. 102-350. pt.3, p.8.
16. "SEC Charges Lance," by John F. Berry and Jerry Knight, The Washington Post, March 18, 1978, p. A1.
17. Lance Sells Stock, by Michael Doan, Associated Press, December 20, 1977.
18. Id. p. 11.
19. Berry and Harris, Id. p.3.
20. Lance Stock Sale, by Robert Furlow, The Associated Press, December 27, 1977.
22. S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 3, p.11.
23. Id. p.12.
24. Id. p.13.
25. Id. p.16.
26. Id. p.15.
27. Id. p.37
28. "$3.5 Million Lance Loan An Issue In Takeover Suit," by Jerry Knight and John F. Berry, The Washington Post, March 23, 1978.
29. Id. p.20.
30. "Lance Tied to Bank's Takeover," By John Berry, The Washington Post, February 12, 1978.
31. By Michael Sniffen, The Associated Press, March 27, 1978.
32. Id. p.28.
33. see Sami memo, Id. p.25.
34. Id. p.28.
35. Id. p.19.
36. Id. p. 33.
37. Id. p.34.
38. Id. p.34.
40. Id. p.40
41. Id. p.43.
42. Memorandum, Application to Strike from Listing and Registration, "In the matter of Maxpharma, February 8, 1989, The American Stock Exchange.
43. Letter from Subcommittee source, August 14, 1991.
44. On April 18, 1984, Presad wrote to Marvin Klapp, the southeast regional chief for the SBA, and thanked him for his assistance. He also wrote:
45. memorandum from Assistant Inspector general for Audit to the Associate Administrator for Finance and Investment, US Small Business Administration, March 8, 1988, p5-6.
46. Morgenson, p.12.
47. "The President's Saudi Windmill," by Jack Anderson, The Washington Post, July 29, 1980.
50. S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt.3, p.38.
51. "Jimmy Carter's Relationship With BCCI," ABC News Nightline, show #2664, August 8, 1991.
52. Id. p.38.
53. Fritz, p.1.
55. "BCCI Adept at Courting the Powerful and Rich," by Stuart Auerbach, The Washington Post, August 7, 1991, p.A1.
56. According to U.S. News and World Report, "Most of the Abedi money -- representing less than 3 percent of the 350 million the nonprofit Carter center has raised since its founding in 1982 -- went for eradication of Guinea worm disease, an intestinal disorder affecting millions in Asia and Africa." se "the Atlanta Connection," by Gloria Borger and Matthew Cooper, August 12, 1991, p.30.
57. "Carter Travels to Sudan to visit Grain Experiments," by Carolyn S. Carlson, the Associated Press, October 26, 1986
58. Carter also travelled to Ghana and Nigeria with Abedi where he attended conferences on eradication of Guinea worm disease. see "Nigeria:New Efforts to Eliminate Guinea Worm Disease," Inter Press Service, March 14, 1988.
59. The Los Angeles Times reported, "On June 21, 1987, former President Jimmy Carter was the star attraction at a ceremony dedicating a rehabilitation center for former prostitutes near Bangkok. By his side was Aga Hasan Abedi..." "How the BCCI Gained Friends in High Places," by Sarah Fritz, the Los Angeles Times, July 28, 1991, p.1.
Ironically, Nazir Chinoy testified that BCCI provided prostitutes to its best customers in the Middle East.
60. Nightline, Id.
61. Fritz, p.1. The article indicates that Abedi was excluded during these meetings.
63. Pharaon acquired 20% of Centrust in 1987.
64. Fritz, p.1.
66. "Carter Donors: Questionable Givers?" by Elizabeth Kurylo, The Atlanta Constitution, April 14, 1991, p.1.
67. Atlanta Constitution, August 26, 1992, "Former Carter Center chief indicted in fraud."
68. "Young Disturbed by Charges Against BCCI," by Elizabeth Kurylo, The Atlanta Constitution, July 20, 1991, p.1.
71. NBG Loan Review Memorandum, Andrew Young Associates, 10/17/83.
73. NBG Loan Review Document, p.2.
74. "Seized Bank Helped Atlanta's Ex-Mayor and Carter Charities," by Ronald Smothers, The New York Times, July 15, 1992, p.1.
75. In a memorandum, dated March 25, 1988, from SM Shafi, BCCI LACRO to Akbar Bilgrami, BCCI Panama, Shafi writes, "We have been advised that Mr. Andrew Young will repay the loan of the company by December 31, 1988."
76. letter to Bande Hasan from Asif Mujtaba, October 10, 1989.
77. Smothers, p.1.
78. letter from Tariq Jamil to S.M. Shafi, February 24, 1988.
79. memorandum from S.M. Shafi to Ameer Siddiki, BCCI London, May 1(3?)m 1987. p.1.
81. letter from Tariq Jamil, BCCI London to S.M. Shafi, BCCI, LACRO, September 18, 1987
82. letter from Stony Cooks to Tariq Jamil, BCCI London, July 15, 1987.
83. National bank of Georgia, Loan Memorandum, Andrew Young Associates Inc., 8/9/84.
84. staff telephone interview with R.P. Carlson, July 10, 1991.
85. "Hatch Adds Partisan Spice to BCCI Stew," by Edward T.
Pound, The Wall Street Journal, August 6, 1991, p.A8.