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Complete 911 Timeline

BCCI

Project: Complete 911 Timeline
Open-Content project managed by matt, Paul, KJF, mtuck, paxvector

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Founded in 1976, Faisal Islamic Bank of Egypt (FIBE) is part of the banking empire built by Saudi Prince Mohammed al-Faisal. Several of the founding members are leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. The growth of Islamic banking directly funds the political growth of the Islamist movement and allows the Saudis to pressure poorer Islamic nations, like Egypt, to shift their policies to the right. The Islamic banking boom is closely associated with the neoliberal free-trade philosophy of the Chicago School of Economics, with the free-trade prescriptions of the International Monetary Fund, and with conservative think-tanks like the Virginia-based Islamic Free Market Institute. FIBE is also closely associated with the infamous Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which will be found to be deeply implicated in the illegal arms and narcotics trades, and with the funding of terrorist organizations when it collapses in 1991. Investigators will also find that BCCI held $589 million in “unrecorded deposits,” $245 million of which were placed with FIBE. [Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 164 - 175]

Entity Tags: Operation Bright Star, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Mohammed al-Faisal al-Saud, Chicago School of Economics, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Faisal Islamic Bank of Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood

Category Tags: Terrorism Financing, BCCI

Agha Hasan Abedi.Agha Hasan Abedi. [Source: Terry Kirk / Financial Times]Investigative journalist Joseph Trento will later report that in 1976, the Safari Club, a newly formed secret cabal of intelligence agencies (see September 1, 1976-Early 1980s), decides it needs a network of banks to help finance its intelligence operations. Saudi Intelligence Minister Kamal Adham is given the task. “With the official blessing of George H. W. Bush as the head of the CIA, Adham transformed a small Pakistani merchant bank, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), into a world-wide money-laundering machine, buying banks around the world to create the biggest clandestine money network in history.” BCCI was founded in 1972 by a Pakistani named Agha Hasan Abedi, who was an associate of Adham’s. Bush himself has an account at BCCI established while still director of the CIA. French customs will later raid the Paris BCCI branch and discover the account in Bush’s name. [Trento, 2005, pp. 104] Bush, Adham, and other intelligence heads work with Abedi to contrive “a plan that seemed too good to be true. The bank would solicit the business of every major terrorist, rebel, and underground organization in the world. The intelligence thus gained would be shared with ‘friends’ of BCCI.” CIA operative Raymond Close works closely with Adham on this. BCCI taps “into the CIA’s stockpile of misfits and malcontents to help man a 1,500-strong group of assassins and enforcers.” [Trento, 2005, pp. 104] Soon, BCCI becomes the fastest growing bank in the world. Time magazine will later describe BCCI as not just a bank, but also “a global intelligence operation and a Mafia-like enforcement squad. Operating primarily out of the bank’s offices in Karachi, Pakistan, the 1,500-employee black network has used sophisticated spy equipment and techniques, along with bribery, extortion, kidnapping and even, by some accounts, murder. The black network—so named by its own members—stops at almost nothing to further the bank’s aims the world over.” [Time, 7/22/1991]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Safari Club, Agha Hasan Abedi, George Herbert Walker Bush, Raymond Close, Kamal Adham

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War, Pakistan and the ISI, Saudi Arabia, Terrorism Financing, BCCI

Alexandre de Marenches.Alexandre de Marenches. [Source: Thierry Orban/ Corbis Sygma]Prince Turki al-Faisal, head of Saudi intelligence from 1979, will say in a 2002 speech in the US, “In 1976, after the Watergate matters took place here, your intelligence community was literally tied up by Congress. It could not do anything. It could not send spies, it could not write reports, and it could not pay money. In order to compensate for that, a group of countries got together in the hope of fighting Communism and established what was called the Safari Club. The Safari Club included France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Iran.” [Scott, 2007, pp. 62] An Egyptian reporter digging through Iranian government archives will later discover that the Safari Club was officially founded on September 1, 1976. Alexandre de Marenches, head of the French external intelligence service SDECE, was the chief instigator of the group. Millions are spent to create staff, offices, communications, and operational capability. Periodic secret conferences are held in Saudi Arabia, France, and Egypt. This group plays a secret role in political intrigues in many countries, mostly in Africa and the Middle East. For instance, a rebellion in Zaire is put down by Moroccan and Egyptian troops, using French air support. It also plays a role in the US-Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of 1979. [Cooley, 2002, pp. 15-17] Author Joe Trento will later allege that the Safari Club, and especially the Saudi intelligence agency led by Kamal Adham and then his nephew Prince Turki from 1979 onwards, fund off-the-books covert operations for the CIA. But rather than working with the CIA as it is being reformed during the Carter administration, this group prefers to work with a private CIA made up of fired agents close to ex-CIA Director George Bush Sr. and Theodore Shackley, who Trento alleges is at the center of a “private, shadow spy organization within” the CIA until he is fired in 1979. The Safari Club and rogue CIA will play a major role in supporting the mujaheddin in Afghanistan. [Scott, 2007, pp. 63-64, 111] It is not clear when the Safari Club disbands, but it existence was exposed not long after the shah was deposed in Iran in 1979, and it seems to have disappeared by the time de Marenches stepped down from being head of French intelligence in 1982. [Cooley, 2002, pp. 15-17]

Entity Tags: Theodore Shackley, Kamal Adham, George Herbert Walker Bush, Alexandre de Marenches, Safari Club, Turki al-Faisal

Category Tags: US Dominance, BCCI

Kamal Adham.Kamal Adham. [Source: Adham Center]Beginning in 1978, a group of foreign investors attempt to buy First American Bankshares, the biggest bank in the Washington, D.C., area. This group is fronted by Kamal Adham, the longtime Saudi intelligence minister until 1979. In 1981, the Federal Reserve asks the CIA for information about the investors, but the CIA holds back everything they know, including the obvious fact that Adham was intelligence minister. As a result, the sale goes through in 1982. It turns outs that Adham and his group were secretly acting on behalf of the criminal Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), and BCCI takes over the bank. [Washington Post, 7/30/1991; US Congress, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, 12/1992] Time magazine will later report that “the CIA kept some accounts in First American Bank, BCCI’s Washington arm.” But additionally, “Government investigators now have proof that First American had long been the CIA’s principal banker. Some of the more than 50 agency accounts uncovered at the bank date back to the 1950s. BCCI owned the CIA’s bank for a decade.” [Time, 3/9/1992] The CIA soon learns that BCCI secretly controls the bank, if the CIA didn’t already know this from the very beginning. By 1985, the CIA will secretly inform the Treasury Department on the bank’s control by BCCI, which would be illegal. But no action is taken then or later, until BCCI is shut down. Sen. John Kerry’s BCCI investigation will later conclude, “even when the CIA knew that BCCI was as an institution a fundamentally corrupt criminal enterprise, it used both BCCI and First American, BCCI’s secretly held US subsidiary, for CIA operations. In the latter case, some First American officials actually knew of this use.” [US Congress, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, 12/1992]

Entity Tags: US Federal Reserve, First American Bankshares, Central Intelligence Agency, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Kamal Adham, US Department of the Treasury

Category Tags: Terrorism Financing, BCCI

By 1979, Pakistan’s economy is on the brink of collapse. Pakistan owes large debts to international organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but lacks the money to pay off its loans. The criminal BCCI bank led by Agha Hasan Abedi comes up with a scheme to save Pakistan’s economy. In 1979, the IMF says that if Pakistan increases its hard currency reserves by at least $50 million for 90 days, Pakistan’s State Bank can raise the lending limits for commercial banks. With banks able to make more loans, the economy will be able to perform better. BCCI secretly loans the State Bank the hard currency until the 90 days are over and then takes it back. Having established this system, BCCI helps Pakistan’s State Bank numerous times in subsequent years to avoid financial limitations placed on Pakistan. BCCI will finally collapse in 1991 (see July 5, 1991). [Beaty and Gwynne, 1993, pp. 292-293]

Entity Tags: Bank of Credit and Commerce International, International Monetary Fund, Pakistan State Bank, World Bank

Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, BCCI

According to a 1992 Congressional investigation led by Congressman Charles Schumer (D-NY), between 1979 and 1991, federal law enforcement agencies receive more than 700 tips about BCCI’s criminal activities. The criminal BCCI bank will finally be shut down in 1991 (see July 5, 1991). The tips include BCCI involvement in:
bullet Promoting political unrest in Pakistan.
bullet Smuggling arms to various countries, including Syria, Libya, and Iran.
bullet Financing terrorist groups.
bullet Links to organized crime in the US and Italy.
Time magazine reporters Jonathan Beaty and S.C. Gwynne will later comment in a book: “Too many people knew too much about BCCI, and they knew it long before the bank spun itself into bankruptcy and scandal.… That [CIA Deputy Director] Robert Gates could jokingly refer to it in a conversation with Customs chief William von Raab as the “bank of crooks and criminals” three years before the scandal broke merely reflects the run of knowledge around Washington. Indeed, it would probably have been difficult to find very many people with real power who did not know about the bank, based on the wide distribution of CIA reports.” Schumer will later conclude: “At the very least, there was nobody putting together all the pieces.… You could make a credible case that somebody told them not to do anything about BCCI.” [Beaty and Gwynne, 1993, pp. 346]

Entity Tags: William von Raab, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Charles Schumer, Robert M. Gates

Category Tags: BCCI

Much of the billions of dollars in aid from Saudi Arabia and the CIA to the Afghan mujaheddin actually gets siphoned off by the Pakistani ISI. Melvin Goodman, a CIA analyst in the 1980s, will later say, “They were funding the wrong groups, and had little idea where the money was going or how it was being spent.” Sarkis Soghanalian, a middleman profiting from the aid, will later say, “The US did not want to get its hands dirty. So the Saudis’ money and the US money was handled by the ISI. I can tell you that more than three quarters of the money was skimmed off the top. What went to buy weapons for the Afghan fighters was peanuts.” Sognhanalian claims that most of the money went through various accounts held at the notoriously corrupt BCCI bank, then was distributed to the ISI and the A. Q. Khan nuclear network. [Trento, 2005, pp. 318] Robert Crowley, a CIA associate director from the 1960s until the 1980s, will also refer to the aid money going to Khan’s network, commenting, “Unfortunately, the Pakistanis knew exactly where their cut of the money was to go.” An early 1990s congressional investigation led by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) will also come to the same conclusion. [Trento, 2005, pp. 314, 384]

Entity Tags: Robert Crowley, Saudi Arabia, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Central Intelligence Agency, Melvin A. Goodman, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Sarkis Soghanalian

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network, War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War, Pakistan and the ISI, Pakistani Nukes & Islamic Militancy, BCCI

In 1991, the Guardian will report that for at least the past ten years, the CIA has secretly had nearly 500 Britons on its payroll and has been paying them through accounts at the criminal BCCI bank. Some are in senior positions, although no specific individuals are named. Some of these informants have told the CIA details about British arms sales and other overseas business deals, sometimes before the contracts are finalized. According to intelligence sources, the informants include:
bullet 124 people in government or politics.
bullet 53 in commerce, industry, and banking.
bullet 75 in academia.
bullet 24 scientists.
bullet 124 in communications.
bullet 90 in the media. [Guardian, 7/26/1991]
There will be no report of these informant contacts stopping after the BCCI scandal in 1991.

Entity Tags: Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: BCCI

Norman Bailey, a member of the National Security Council (NSC) whose specialty is monitoring terrorism by tracking finances, will later reveal that in the early 1980s the NSC learns that BCCI is not just a bank but is engaged in widespread criminal activity. “We were aware that BCCI was involved in drug-money transactions,” he will later say. “We were also aware that BCCI was involved with terrorists, technology transfers—including the unapproved transfer of US technology to the Soviet bloc—weapons dealing, the manipulation of financial markets, and other activities.” The main source for the NSC about this are reports from the CIA. From 1981 on, the NSC learns of BCCI’s role in illegal technology deals for Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Iran, and other countries. A clear picture has emerged by the start of 1984. But neither the CIA nor the NSC take any action against the bank. [Beaty and Gwynne, 1993, pp. 291, 315]

Entity Tags: Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Norman Bailey, National Security Council, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War, BCCI, Drugs

Pakistani finance minister Ghulam Ishaq Khan (left) and A. Q. Khan.Pakistani finance minister Ghulam Ishaq Khan (left) and A. Q. Khan. [Source: Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clarke]In 1981, the criminal BCCI bank sets up a charity called the BCCI Foundation. Pakistani Finance Minister Ghulam Ishaq Khan grants it tax-free status, and it supposedly spends millions on charitable purposes. Khan serves as the chairman of the foundation while also running the books for A. Q. Khan’s Kahuta Research Laboratories. Ghulam Ishaq Khan will be president of Pakistan from 1988 to 1993. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 126-127] BCCI founder Agha Hasan Abedi announces that he will donate up to 90% of BCCI’s profits to charity through the foundation, and he develops a positive reputation from a few well-publicized charitable donations. But the charity is actually used to shelter BCCI profits. Most of the money it raises goes to A. Q. Khan’s nuclear program and not to charitable causes. For instance, in 1987 it gives a single $10 million donation to an institute headed by A. Q. Khan. Millions more go to investments in a front company owned by BCCI figure Ghaith Pharaon. [Beaty and Gwynne, 1993, pp. 290-291] An investigation by the Los Angeles Times will reveal that less than 10% of the money went to charity. [Los Angeles Times, 8/9/1991] BCCI uses other means to funnel even more money into A. Q. Khan’s nuclear program (see 1980s).

Entity Tags: Ghaith Pharaon, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Kahuta Research Laboratories, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Abdul Qadeer Khan, Agha Hasan Abedi, BCCI Foundation

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, Pakistani Nukes & Islamic Militancy, BCCI

CIA covert weapons shipments are sent by the Pakistani army and the ISI to rebel camps in the North West Frontier province near the Afghanistan border. The governor of the province is Lieutenant General Fazle Haq, who author Alfred McCoy calls Pakistani President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq’s “closest confidant and the de facto overlord of the mujaheddin guerrillas.” Haq allows hundreds of heroin refineries to set up in his province. Beginning around 1982, Pakistani army trucks carrying CIA weapons from Karachi often pick up heroin in Haq’s province and return loaded with heroin. They are protected from police search by ISI papers. [McCoy, 2003, pp. 477] By 1982, Haq is listed with Interpol as an international drug trafficker. But Haq also becomes known as a CIA asset. Despite his worsening reputation, visiting US politicians such as CIA Director William Casey and Vice President George H. W. Bush continue to meet with him when they visit Pakistan. Haq then moves his heroin money through the criminal Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). A highly placed US official will later say that Haq “was our man… everybody knew that Haq was also running the drug trade” and that “BCCI was completely involved.” [Scott, 2007, pp. 73-75] Both European and Pakistani police complain that investigations of heroin trafficking in the province are “aborted at the highest level.” [McCoy, 2003, pp. 477] In 1989, shortly after Benazir Bhutto takes over as the new ruler of Pakistan, Pakistani police arrest Haq and charge him with murder. He is considered a multi-billionaire by this time. But Haq will be gunned down and killed in 1991, apparently before he is tried. [McCoy, 2003, pp. 483] Even President Zia is implied in the drug trade. In 1985, a Norwegian government investigation will lead to the arrest of a Pakistani drug dealer who also is President Zia’s personal finance manager. When arrested, his briefcase contains Zia’s personal banking records. The manager will be sentenced to a long prison term. [McCoy, 2003, pp. 481-482]

Entity Tags: Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, Central Intelligence Agency, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Fazle Haq, William Casey, George Herbert Walker Bush, Pakistani Army

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War, Pakistan and the ISI, BCCI, Drugs

CIA Director William Casey gets a legal exemption sparing the CIA for a requirement that they report on drug smuggling by CIA officers, agents, or assets. Attorney General William French Smith grants the exemption in a secret memorandum. On March 2, Casey thanks Smith for the exemption, saying it will help protect intelligence sources and methods. [Cooley, 2002, pp. 110-111] There are allegations that in 1981 President Reagan approved a covert program to weaken Soviet soldiers fighting in Afghanistan by addicting them to illegal drugs (see February 1981 and After). A book cowritten by two Time magazine reporters will even allege that “a few American intelligence operatives were deeply emeshed in the drug trade” during the war. [Scott, 2007, pp. 124-125] President Clinton will rescind the exemption in 1995. [Cooley, 2002, pp. 111]

Entity Tags: William French Smith, Central Intelligence Agency, William Casey

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War, Pakistan and the ISI, BCCI, Drugs

According to Alfred W. McCoy, author of The Politics of Heroin, in 1983 Pakistani President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq allows Pakistani drug traffickers to deposit their drug profits in the BCCI bank without getting punished. The criminal BCCI bank has close ties to the Pakistani government and the US funding of the Afghan war. It will be shut down in 1991. BCCI also plays a critical role in facilitating the movement of Pakistan’s heroin money. By 1989, Pakistan’s heroin trade will be valued at $4 billion a year, more than all of Pakistan’s legal exports. [McCoy, 2003, pp. 480]

Entity Tags: Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, Alfred McCoy, Bank of Credit and Commerce International

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War, Pakistan and the ISI, BCCI, Drugs

Paula Hawkins.Paula Hawkins. [Source: Public domain]In 1984, Senator Paula Hawkins (R-FL) meets with Pakistani President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq in Pakistan. During the meeting, she mentions that she is concerned about a Pakistani bank that is laundering money out of the Cayman Islands. Her staff later clarifies to Zia that she was referring to BCCI (which technically is not a Pakistani bank, but almost all of its top officials are Pakistani). As a result, Abdur Sakhia, the top BCCI official in the US, meets with Hawkins in the US a short time later and assures her that BCCI is not laundering money out of the Cayman Islands. Then officials from the Justice Department, State Department, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) meet with Hawkins’s staffers and assure them that BCCI is not the subject of any investigation. Weeks later, the State Department formally notifies the Pakistani government that BCCI is not under investigation. As a result, Hawkins drops her brief interest in BCCI. However, by this time the State Department, Justice Department, and DEA have all been briefed by the CIA about BCCI’s many criminal activities. Apparently, this information is deliberately kept from the senator. [Beaty and Gwynne, 1993, pp. 324-325]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, Paula Hawkins, Abdur Sakhia, US Department of State, Bank of Credit and Commerce International

Category Tags: BCCI

The CIA sends a report on the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) and its drug-related activities to other US government departments. It follows up with a report about BCCI’s links to notorious terrorists such as Abu Nidal, the most wanted man in the world at the time. Similar reports follow in 1986. However, the Justice Department, Treasury Department, and other departments keep silent about what they know and no action is taken against the bank. [US Congress, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, 12/1992; Cooley, 2002, pp. 93]

Entity Tags: US Department of the Treasury, US Department of Justice, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: Terrorism Financing, BCCI

An ailing Agha Hasan Abedi in 1991.An ailing Agha Hasan Abedi in 1991. [Source: Associated Press]NBC News later reports that CIA Director William Casey secretly meets with the head of the criminal Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) from 1984 until 1986, shortly before Casey’s death. The NBC report, quoting unnamed BCCI sources, will claim that Casey met with BCCI head Agha Hasan Abedi every few months in a luxury suite at the Madison Hotel in Washington. The two men allegedly discussed the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages transactions and CIA weapons shipments to the mujaheddin in Afghanistan. The CIA denies all the allegations. [Associated Press, 2/21/1992] But books by Time magazine and Wall Street Journal reporters will corroborate that Casey repeatedly met with Abedi. [Scott, 2007, pp. 116] Casey also meets with Asaf Ali, a BCCI-connected arms dealer, in Washington, DC, and in Pakistan. On one occasion, Casey has a meeting in Washington with Abedi, Ali, and Pakistani President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq. [Beaty and Gwynne, 1993, pp. 308]

Entity Tags: Asaf Ali, Central Intelligence Agency, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Agha Hasan Abedi, Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, William Casey

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair, War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War, Terrorism Financing, US Intel Links to Islamic Militancy, BCCI

Abu Ndal circa 1982.Abu Ndal circa 1982. [Source: Reuters / Corbis]The BBC will later suggest that US intelligence actually becomes aware of specific Abu Nidal accounts held in the criminal BCCI bank in 1984. This is because the FBI busts an illegal arms deal in New York City that involved Nidal’s BCCI accounts in London and a Nidal front company in Poland called SAS Trade at this time. [Herald Sun (Melbourne), 8/2/1991] In the 1980s, Nidal is considered the world’s most wanted terrorist. In December 1985, for instance, his network launches simultaneous attacks in Rome and Vienna, killing or wounding dozens. In 1986, the CIA tells the State Department in detail about the criminal BCCI bank’s links with Nidal and his terrorist network. They reveal that Nidal has multiple accounts at BCCI branches in Europe. [Beaty and Gwynne, 1993, pp. 328] In July 1987, Ghassan Qassem, manager of one of BCCI’s London branches, is contacted by the British intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6. They tell him that they know SAS Trade has many millions of dollars worth of accounts in his branch and that the company is an Abu Nidal front. Qassem agrees to be an informant. [Observer, 1/18/2004] Nidal first opened a BCCI account in London in 1980, depositing $50 million using an alias. In addition to being a terrorist, Nidal is an illegal arms dealer and BCCI helps him buy and sell weapons, oftentimes involving British companies. [Los Angeles Times, 9/30/1991] Qassem will later claim that he saw Nidal in Britain on three separate occasions and went shopping with him. In 1983, Nidal was interviewed by police, who took him straight to the airport and put him on a plane to leave the country. [Guardian, 7/30/1991; Observer, 1/18/2004] Qassem recognizes Nidal as a terrorist from a photograph in a magazine in 1987 and tells this to his BCCI superior, but he is told to keep quiet. The CIA and British intelligence use their knowledge of Nidal’s BCCI accounts to force SAS Trade to shut down in 1986, but usually they merely monitor terrorist activity. For instance, Nidal’s group teaches urban terrorist tactics to Peru’s Maoist Shining Path guerrillas in 1988. Shining Path pays Nidal $4 million for this work through his BCCI account and then attempts to bomb the US embassy in Lima later that year. Intelligence agencies also merely watch as Middle Eastern governments give tens of millions to Nidal through his BCCI accounts (see 1987-1990). In December 1989, Qassem tells his BCCI superiors that he is working with British intelligence. He is quickly fired. [Los Angeles Times, 9/30/1991] Nidal learns of the surveillance and empties the accounts before they can be frozen. [Guardian, 7/30/1991; Observer, 1/18/2004]

Entity Tags: UK Security Service (MI5), SAS Trade, Abu Nidal Organization, Central Intelligence Agency, US Department of State, Abu Nidal, UK Secret Intelligence Service (MI6)

Category Tags: BCCI

By 1984, huge amounts of arms and ammunition for the mujaheddin fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan are pouring into Pakistan. These weapons are funded by the CIA and Saudi government, and generally come into the port of Karachi. The criminal BCCI bank has an enforcement arm nicknamed the “Black Network.” Time magazine reporters Jonathan Beaty and S.C. Gwynne will later describe it as “a Karachi-based cadre of bank operatives, paramilitary units, spies, and enforcers who handled BCCI’s darkest operations around the globe and trafficked in bribery and corruption.” By 1984, BCCI and its Black Network takes effective control of Karachi’s port, dominating Pakistan’s customs service there with bribery and intimidation. BCCI is thus in a position to dominate the flow of supplies to the mujaheddin. Pakistan’s military handles the flow of weapons from Karachi to the Afghan border, but once there the supplies have to be carried by mules to reach the mujaheddin fighting in remote Afghan mountain ranges. BCCI controls this part of the supply chain as well. Sometimes BCCI personnel simply transport the supplies across Afghanistan to Iran and then sell them there for a profit. [Beaty and Gwynne, 1993, pp. 66, 315-316] The US government is aware of BCCI’s support role and cooperates with it. For instance, in 1987 USAID asks BCCI to buy 1,000 more mules to help the mujaheddin. [Los Angeles Times, 9/3/1991] At almost every step of the way, BCCI takes a cut of the profits and often steals some of the supplies. [Beaty and Gwynne, 1993, pp. 66, 315-316]

Entity Tags: Black Network, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Central Intelligence Agency, USAID

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War, Pakistan and the ISI, BCCI

In January 1985, the CIA delivers a secret report about the criminal BCCI back to the Treasury Department. In an extraordinary departure from standard procedure, the report is hand-delivered by a CIA agent and printed on plain paper with no markings to indicate it came from the CIA. The report is given to Douglas Mulholland, a Treasury official serving as the CIA’s main link to that department. Mulholland then hand-delivers the report to Treasury Secretary Donald Regan, and calls its contents “dynamite.” It is not known what is in the report, but the Treasury Department sends back word that it wants to know more. However, as Time magazine reporters Jonathan Beaty and S. C. Gwynne will later relate: “Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, Treasury lost all interest in BCCI.… Someone had… gotten to Regan and Mulholland, and the message had been unambiguous: back off.” The Treasury Department takes no action against BCCI, even though the evidence of the bank’s involvement in money laundering by this time is overwhelming. [Beaty and Gwynne, 1993, pp. 325-328]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Douglas Mulholland, US Department of the Treasury, Donald Regan

Category Tags: BCCI

Wreckage from the Gander crash.Wreckage from the Gander crash. [Source: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation]On December 12, 1985, shortly after takeoff from Gander, Newfoundland, Arrow Air Flight 1285 stalls and crashes about half a mile from the runway. All 256 passengers and crew on board are killed, including 248 US soldiers. The plane was coming from Egypt and refueling in Newfoundland before continuing on to the US. At the time, the crash is widely reported to be an accident, caused by icing on the airplane wings. Official US and Canadian investigations will also support that conclusion. However, information will later come out suggesting the crash was not an accident:
bullet Members of Islamic Jihad, a branch of the Hezbollah militant group (and not to be confused with the Islamic Jihad group headed by Ayman al-Zawahiri), immediately take credit for the crash. In one call to the Reuters news agency in Beirut, the caller knows details of the plane flight not yet mentioned in the press.
bullet Within hours of the crash, Maj. Gen. John Crosby arrives at the crash site and reportedly tells maintenance workers he wants to “bulldoze over the crash site immediately.” The White House also quickly publicly claims there is “no evidence of sabotage or an explosion in flight,” despite the fact that Hezbollah had just taken credit for the crash and the investigation is just beginning. While the site is not bulldozed, there is no effort to meticulously sift the wreckage for clues, which is standard procedure for such air crashes.
bullet An FBI forensic team flies to Newfoundland within hours of the crash, but then merely sits in a hotel room. After 36 hours, the team accepts a declaration that terrorism was not involved and returns home. The FBI will later claim the Canadian government did not allow their team to visit the site. [Time, 4/27/1992]
bullet In 1988, the nine-member Canadian Aviation Safety Board will issue a split verdict. Five members will attribute the crash to ice formation, and four members claim it was an explosion. A former Canadian supreme court justice is appointed to decide if there should be a new investigation. He concludes that the available evidence does not support ice on the wings as being a cause, let alone a probable cause, of the crash. But he also rules against a new investigation, saying it would cause more pain to the victims’ families. [Time, 4/27/1992; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 12/12/2005]
bullet Later declassified autopsy reports show that soldiers had inhaled smoke in the moments before they died, indicating there had been a fire on board before the plane hit the ground. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 12/12/2005]
bullet Five witnesses in the remote location where the plane crash will sign sworn statements that they saw the plane burning before it fell.
bullet An examination of the fuselage will show outward holes, indicating an explosion from within.
bullet Four members of the refueling crew will later assert there was no icing problem before the plane took off. The plane crashed about one minute after take off.
bullet Six heavy crates had been loaded into the plane’s cargo bay in Egypt without military customs clearance. Witnesses will later claim that weapons, including TOW antitank missiles, were being stockpiled in Egypt near where the plane took off. At the time, the US was secretly selling these types of missiles to Iran as part of an arms for hostages deal.
bullet In the wake of public exposure of the Iran-Contra Affair, it will be revealed that Arrow Air is a CIA front company and was regularly used by Lt. Col. Oliver North to ship arms.
bullet Most of the crash victims were US Airborne troops returning from multinational peacekeeping duties in Egypt, but more than 20 Special Forces personnel were also on board. They were from elite counterterrorist units often used on hostage rescue missions.
bullet Just days before the crash, Iranian officials threatened to retaliate after North sent them a shipment of the wrong missiles. North wrote three days earlier that he was determined to continue to arms shipments. “To stop now in midstream, would ignite Iranian fire. Hostages would be our minimum losses.” One theory is that Iran used militant surrogates connected to Hezbollah to punish North for sending the wrong missiles. [Time, 4/27/1992]
bullet Gene Wheaton, a private investigator hired by victims’ relatives unsatisfied with the official explanation, later claims that a duffel bag stuffed with US currency was found in the wreckage. Two men in civilian clothes, who other personnel at the crash cite believe were from the CIA, took custody of the money. Neither the money nor the heavy crates will be mentioned by the official investigation.
bullet In the early 1990s, two Time magazine reporters will be writing a book about the BCCI bank scandal. They will develop a reliable source, a private arms dealer using the alias Heinrich. Heinrich tells the reporters that a large amount of cash was on the Gander flight, and he tells them this before any accounts of cash being on the plane are reported in the media. Heinrich, who takes part in numerous arms deals with high-level BCCI officials, will tell the reporters: “This money on the plane was money that [BCCI founder Agha Hasan] Abedi, money that the bank had provided US intelligence for covert operations. The money was being used by the American military. I have no idea what for. You don’t ask these kinds of questions of these people.…. One of the bank men—perhaps I should call him an associate of the bank men—was a little angry about this money. He believed it was being, ah, appropriated, by some of the special forces soldiers. Someone else thought perhaps it was being diverted to another operation. I only know that the subject of the Gander crash came up, and these people talked about BCCI money going down with it.” [Beaty and Gwynne, 1993, pp. 231-233]

Entity Tags: Oliver North, John Crosby, “Heinrich”, Gene Wheaton, Agha Hasan Abedi, Hezbollah, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, Islamic Jihad Organization

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

Category Tags: US Intel Links to Islamic Militancy, BCCI

By 1987, Abu Nidal is the world’s most well-known terrorist. His group has killed over 300 people. But in 1987 his attacks generally come to a halt. A French intelligence report in 1988 explains this is because Middle Eastern governments begin paying large sums of protection money in order not to be attacked. For instance, the government of Kuwait deposits $80 million into Nidal’s BCCI bank account in London in 1987. Kuwait will later deny the payments took place, but counterterrorism experts will dismiss the denials and say that such payments to Nidal were common. In 1988, the Defense Department will conclude that one third of Nidal’s money comes from his own businesses (he is an illegal arms dealer), one third from Arab governments, and one third from various blackmail schemes. Most of these transactions, including Nidal’s arms dealing transactions, are made through Nidal’s BCCI bank account in London, and US and British intelligence has been monitoring his account there since at least 1986 (see 1984 and After). But apparently they merely gather information and make little attempt to shut down Nidal or his finances. Nidal will eventually close out his London accounts in 1990. [Wall Street Journal, 8/9/1991; Los Angeles Times, 9/30/1991] Nidal will finally be murdered in mysterious circumstances in Iraq in August 2002. He will apparently stop his attacks around 1994. [Guardian, 8/20/2002]

Entity Tags: UK Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), UK Security Service (MI5), Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Abu Nidal, Abu Nidal Organization, Central Intelligence Agency, Kuwait

Category Tags: Terrorism Financing, BCCI, Londonistan - UK Counterterrorism, US Intel Links to Islamic Militancy

1988: Bin Ladens Bail Out George W. Bush?

Bush during his Harken days.Bush during his Harken days. [Source: Lions Gate Films]Prior to this year, President George W. Bush is a failed oilman. Three times, friends and investors have bailed him out to keep his business from going bankrupt. However, in 1988, the same year his father becomes president, some Saudis buy a portion of his small company, Harken, which has never performed work outside of Texas. Later in the year, Harken wins a contract in the Persian Gulf and starts doing well financially. These transactions seem so suspicious that the Wall Street Journal in 1991 states it “raises the question of… an effort to cozy up to a presidential son.” Two major investors in Bush’s company during this time are Salem bin Laden and Khalid bin Mahfouz. Salem bin Laden dies in a plane crash in Texas in 1988. [Intelligence Newsletter, 3/2/2000; Salon, 11/19/2001] Salem bin Laden is Osama’s oldest brother; Khalid bin Mahfouz is a Saudi banker with a 20 percent stake in BCCI. The bank will be shut down a few years later and bin Mahfouz will have to pay a $225 million fine (while admitting no wrongdoing) (see October 10, 2001)). [Forbes, 3/18/2002]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Salem bin Laden, Khalid bin Mahfouz, Harken

Category Tags: Saudi Arabia, Terrorism Financing, Bin Laden Family, BCCI

US Justice Department headquarters.US Justice Department headquarters. [Source: GlobeXplorer]Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) stumbles across the criminality of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) while investigating international drug trafficking as part of a congressional oversight committee. He soon starts a vigorous congressional investigation of BCCI, and New York district attorney Robert Morgenthau launches a vigorous investigation as well. [New York Times, 7/29/1991] However, Kerry’s and Morgenthau’s investigations are consistently stifled. Kerry will later say that, “with the key exception of the Federal Reserve, there was almost [no]… information or cooperation provided by other government agencies.” [US Congress, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, 12/1992] Kerry will later conclude that the Justice Department in particular went to great lengths to block his and Morgenthau’s investigations “through a variety of mechanisms, ranging from not making witnesses available, to not returning phone calls, to claiming that every aspect of the case was under investigation in a period when little, if anything was being done.” After the Bank of England shuts down BCCI in July 1991 (see July 5, 1991), making big headlines, Under Assistant Attorney General Robert Mueller takes over Justice Department efforts on BCCI and assigns many new attorneys to the case. But Kerry will ultimately conclude that the indictments the Justice Department brings forth against BCCI after that time were narrower and less detailed than those of Morgenthau’s, and often seemed to be in response to what Morgenthau was doing. [US Congress, 12/1992] Kerry submits his report on BCCI in December 1992, and after that investigations into BCCI peter out. President Bush will appoint Mueller to be director of the FBI shortly before 9/11 (see September 4, 2001).

Entity Tags: Robert Morgenthau, John Kerry, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Robert S. Mueller III, US Department of Justice

Category Tags: Terrorism Financing, BCCI

William von Raab.William von Raab. [Source: Sobran.com]In 1991, the Financial Times will report, “[T]here are persistent allegations that slush funds [at the criminal BCCI bank] were used for illegal, covert CIA operations.” US Customs Commissioner William von Raab will later allege that in the autumn of 1988, as he is preparing arrests regarding drug money laundering charges against a BCCI subsidiary in Florida, he approaches CIA Deputy Director Robert Gates for help. Gates does give Raab a CIA document about BCCI. But, according to the Times, “Gates failed to disclose the CIA’s own use of BCCI to channel payments for covert operations, which the customs chief learned about only later—and thanks to documents supplied to him by British customs agents in London.” The Times will cite the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal as one example of how the CIA used BCCI for covert operations. [Financial Times, 8/10/1991]

Entity Tags: William von Raab, Central Intelligence Agency, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Robert M. Gates

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War, BCCI

Khalid bin Mahfouz.Khalid bin Mahfouz. [Source: CBC]Shortly after 9/11, the London Times will report that Osama bin Laden stayed at the London estate of Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz. “Sources close to the bin Mahfouz family say that about 10 years ago, when bin Laden was widely regarded as a religious visionary and defender of the Muslim faith, he visited the property and spent ‘two or three days’ on the estate, relaxing in its open-air swimming pool, walking in the grounds and talking to bin Mahfouz. What the men discussed remains a mystery.” Bin Mahfouz was a major investor in the criminal Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which is closed down around this time (see July 5, 1991). [London Times, 9/23/2001] Bin Laden was also heavily invested in BCCI at the time (see July 1991). There are other reports of bin Laden visiting London around this time (see Early 1990s-Late 1996), and even briefly living there (see Early 1994). The name “bin Mahfouz” appears on the “Golden Chain,” a list of early al-Qaeda financial supporters (see 1988-1989). Bin Mahfouz denies any terrorist link to bin Laden.

Entity Tags: Khalid bin Mahfouz, Osama bin Laden, Bank of Credit and Commerce International

Category Tags: Osama Bin Laden, Terrorism Financing, BCCI

In March 1991, Sen. John Kerry’s Senate investigation of the criminal Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) investigation hears about a secret CIA report on BCCI that was given to the Customs Service. Kerry’s office asks the CIA for a copy, but is told the report does not exist. After months of wrangling, more and more information about the CIA’s ties to BCCI comes out, and the CIA eventually gives Kerry that report and many other reports relating to BCCI. But crucially, the CIA does not share documents on CIA operations using the bank. Kerry’s public report will conclude, “Key questions about the relationship between US intelligence and BCCI cannot be answered at this time, and may never be.” [Nation, 10/26/1992; US Congress, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, 12/1992]

Entity Tags: Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Central Intelligence Agency, John Kerry

Category Tags: Terrorism Financing, BCCI

BCCI logo.BCCI logo. [Source: BCCI]In early 2001, anonymous US officials will say that when the notorious Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) is shut down in July 1991 (see July 5, 1991), Osama bin Laden suffers a heavy blow because he has put much of his money in the bank and he loses everything he invested there. As a result, he begins to launder money from the drug trade to make up for the lost revenue. He cooperates with Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is already diverting profits from the Afghan drug trade to help finance Islamic terrorist movements. Others claim bin Laden begins his involvement with the drug trade several years later. [United Press International, 3/1/2001] It also seems that bin Laden’s financial network eventually grows to at least partly replace the role of BCCI for Islamist militant financing (see After July 1991).

Entity Tags: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Osama bin Laden, Bank of Credit and Commerce International

Category Tags: Osama Bin Laden, Terrorism Financing, BCCI, Drugs

July 5, 1991: Criminal BCCI Bank Is Shut Down

A Time magazine cover story on BCCI.A Time magazine cover story on BCCI. [Source: Time Magazine]The Bank of England shuts down Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), the largest Islamic bank in the world. Based in Pakistan, this bank financed numerous militant organizations and laundered money generated by illicit drug trafficking and other illegal activities, including arms trafficking. Bin Laden and many other militants had accounts there (see July 1991). [Detroit News, 9/30/2001] One money-laundering expert later claims, “BCCI did dirty work for every major terrorist service in the world.” [Los Angeles Times, 1/20/2002] Regulators shut down BCCI offices in dozens of countries and seize about $2 billion of the bank’s $20 billion in assets. BCCI is the seventh largest bank in the world. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), owns 77% of the bank at the time of its closing. He and the UAE government will end up losing about $8 billion. About 1.4 million people had deposits in the bank and will end up losing most of their money. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 98-99] American and British governments were aware of its activities yet allowed the bank to operate for years. The Pakistani ISI had major connections to the bank. [Detroit News, 9/30/2001] The Bank of England is forced to close BCCI largely because of outside pressure. Beginning in February 1991, the mainstream media began reporting on BCCI’s criminal activities as more and more whistleblowers came forward. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 95] However, as later State Department reports indicate, Pakistan remains a major drug trafficking and money-laundering center despite the bank’s closing. [Detroit News, 9/30/2001] Most of the bank’s top officials will escape prosecution, and remnants of the bank will continue operating in some countries under new names (see August 1991). A French intelligence report in 2001 will suggest the that Osama bin Laden will later build his financial network on the ruins of the BCCI network, oftentimes using former BCCI officials (see October 10, 2001). [Washington Post, 2/17/2002]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Bank of England, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan

Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, BCCI, Drugs

On July 11, 1991, retired Pakistani Brigadier General Inam ul-Haq is arrested by German authorities in Frankfurt. His arrest sheds light on the links between the criminal BCCI bank, the Pakistani government, and the A. Q. Khan nuclear network. In 1987, US intelligence attempted to arrest ul-Haq in the US for buying nuclear components there meant for Pakistan’s nuclear program, but some US officials tipped off the Pakistani government about the sting and only a low-level associate of ul-Haq’s was caught (see Before July 1987). [Wall Street Journal, 8/5/1991] The CIA had long known that ul-Haq was one of A. Q. Khan’s key procurement agents, in addition to being close to the Pakistani ISI. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 161] Ul-Haq’s arrest comes just one week after BCCI was shut down worldwide, and he seems linked to that bank as well. In the sting four years before, the Luxembourg and London branches of BCCI helped finance a shipment of nuclear materials out of the US. Shortly after his arrest, Senator John Glenn (D-OH) says that BCCI involvement in his could be a “smoking gun” for US investigators to learn how Pakistan’s nuclear program was financed. [Wall Street Journal, 8/5/1991] Ul-Haq is extradited to the US and convicted in 1992 of attempting to export nuclear related materials to Pakistan. He could have been sentenced to 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, but the judge merely sentences him to time served (several months in prison) and a $10,000 fine. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 228]

Entity Tags: Inam ul-Haq, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Abdul Qadeer Khan, Central Intelligence Agency, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, Pakistani Nukes & Islamic Militancy, BCCI

Ghaith Pharaon.Ghaith Pharaon. [Source: Mike Stephens / Getty Images]In the wake of the July 1991 shutdown of the criminal BCCI bank (see July 5, 1991), the Pakistani government indicates that it is willing to shelter BCCI figures wanted in other countries. For instance, an international arrest warrant is issued for BCCI front man Ghaith Pharaon, and Pakistan has signed an extradition treaty with the US and other countries. But in August 1991, Pakistani Interior Minister Shujaat Hussain, who has authority to block extraditions, states flatly that Pharaon is his friend and he will give him citizenship, protection from extradition, and even immunity from local prosecution. Furthermore, the Los Angeles Times reports that some other senior and mid-level BCCI managers being investigated in the US have already fled to Pakistan. Technically, BCCI is not a Pakistani bank, but 10,000 out of BCCI’s estimated 12,000 employees are Pakistani. The Times reports that Hussain has made clear that “BCCI’s blameless and blamed alike can find shelter from investigations into the bank’s conduct in any of the more than 70 countries where it operated.” Asked if Pakistan would extradite BCCI founder Agha Hasan Abedi, Hussein flatly states, “We will not allow it.” Furthermore, BCCI’s offices remain open in Pakistan and the government has stated that it will not investigate the bank. [Los Angeles Times, 8/12/1991] A majority of the bank is owned by Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan, President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the UAE similarly indicates that it will not extradite any of the 18 top BCCI managers living there. The UAE is also sitting on most of BCCI’s financial records. [Time, 8/3/1992] BCCI branches in the UAE are not shut down either, but are simply renamed to become the National Union Bank. [BBC, 8/5/1991] Many years later, Pakistan will still be protecting BCCI figures such as Pharaon (see June 8-August 10, 2006 and June 8-August 10, 2006).

Entity Tags: Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Shujaat Hussain, Agha Hasan Abedi, Ghaith Pharaon

Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, BCCI

In July 1991, the criminal BCCI bank is shut down (see July 5, 1991), and Osama bin Laden apparently loses some of his fortune held in BCCI accounts as a result (see July 1991). But while bin Laden loses money, he and his future second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri gain influence. Other Islamist militants have been heavily relying on BCCI for their finances, and in the wake of BCCI’s collapse they are forced to bank elsewhere. Author Roland Jacquard will later claim that “following [the bank’s closure], funds [are] transferred from BCCI to banks in Dubai, Jordan, and Sudan controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood. Some of the money [is] handed back to organizations such as the FIS [a political party in Algeria]. Another portion [is] transferred by Ayman al-Zawahiri to Switzerland, the Netherlands, London, Antwerp, and Malaysia.” [Jacquard, 2002, pp. 129] Author Adam Robinson will come to similar conclusions, noting that when BCCI collapses bin Laden has just moved to Sudan, which is ruled by Hassan al-Turabi, who has similar Islamist views to bin Laden. Robinson writes, “Without a system by which money could be transferred around the world invisibly, it would be relatively simple for terrorist funds to be traced. Dealing with this crisis fell to al-Turabi. In desperation he turned to Osama.… The future of the struggle could come to rest on Osama’s shoulders.” Over the next several months, bin Laden and a small team of financial experts work on a plan to replace the functions of BCCI. Bin Laden already knows many of the main Islamist backers from his experience in the Afghan war. “During the summer of 1991 he discreetly made contact with many of the wealthiest of these individuals, especially those with an international network of companies.… Within months, Osama unveiled before an astonished al-Turabi what he called ‘the Brotherhood Group.’” This is apparently a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood. Robinson says this group is made up of 134 Arab businessmen with a collective wealth of many billions of dollars. The network will effectively replace BCCI for Islamist militants. [Robinson, 2001, pp. 138-139] A French report shortly after 9/11 will confirm that bin Laden’s network largely replaces BCCI (see October 10, 2001). Right around this time, bin Laden is seen at the London estate of Khalid bin Mahfouz, one of the major investors in BCCI (see (1991)).

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Hassan al-Turabi, Islamic Salvation Front, Muslim Brotherhood

Category Tags: Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Osama Bin Laden, Terrorism Financing, BCCI

French intelligence secretly monitors a meeting of Saudi billionaires at the Hotel Royale Monceau in Paris this month with the financial representative of al-Qaeda. “The Saudis, including a key Saudi prince joined by Muslim and non-Muslim gun traffickers, [meet] to determine who would pay how much to Osama. This [is] not so much an act of support but of protection—a payoff to keep the mad bomber away from Saudi Arabia.” [Palast, 2002, pp. 100] Participants also agree that bin Laden should be rewarded for promoting Wahhabism (an austere form of Islam that requires literal interpretation of the Koran) in Chechnya, Kashmir, Bosnia, and other places. [Fifth Estate, 10/29/2003 pdf file] This extends an alleged secret deal first made between the Saudi government and bin Laden in 1991. Later, 9/11 victims’ relatives will rely on the “nonpublished French intelligence report” of this meeting in their lawsuit against important Saudis. [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 8/16/2002] According to French counterterrorism expert Jean-Charles Brisard and/or reporter Greg Palast, there are about 20 people at the meeting, including Saudi intelligence head Prince Turki al-Faisal, an unnamed brother of bin Laden and an unnamed representative from the Saudi Defense Ministry. [Fifth Estate, 10/29/2003 pdf file; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 10/29/2003] Palast claims that Saudi businessman Abdullah Taha Bakhsh attends the meeting. Bakhsh also saved Bush Jr.‘s Harken Oil from bankruptcy around 1990. Palast claims the notorious Saudi billionaire Adnan Khashoggi also attends the meeting. [Democracy Now!, 3/4/2003; Santa Fe New Mexican, 3/20/2003] In a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner, Slate has claimed that Khashoggi is a “shadowy international arms merchant” who is “connected to every scandal of the past 40 years.” Amongst other things, he was a major investor in BCCI and a key player in the Iran-Contra affair. [Slate, 12/4/00, Slate, 11/14/01, Slate, 3/12/03] [Slate, 12/4/2000; Slate, 11/14/2001; Slate, 3/12/2003] Palast, noting that the French monitored the meeting, asks, “Since US intelligence was thus likely informed, the question becomes why didn’t the government immediately move against the Saudis?” [Palast, 2002, pp. 100]

Entity Tags: Adnan Khashoggi, Abdullah Bakhsh, Al-Qaeda, France, Greg Palast, Turki al-Faisal

Category Tags: Saudi Arabia, Terrorism Financing, BCCI, Bin Laden Family

Robert Mueller assumes the job of FBI Director. He had been nominated for the job in July 2001 after Louis Freeh’s unexpected and sudden resignation (see May 1, 2001). Thomas Pickard was interim director for three months. Mueller held a variety of jobs in the Justice Department for over a decade prior to his nomination. Most notably, he led Justice Department investigations into the 1991 collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) (see July 5, 1991) and the 1988 bombing of Pan-Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. [BBC, 7/5/2001; CNN, 9/5/2001] Mueller was heavily criticized for his role in the BCCI investigation (see February 1988-December 1992). For instance, a bipartisan Congressional BCCI investigation led by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Hank Brown (R-CO) stated, “Unfortunately, as time has passed it has become increasingly clear that the Justice Department did indeed make critical errors in its handling of BCCI… and moreover masked inactivity in prosecuting and investigating the bank by advising critics that matters pertaining to BCCI were ‘under investigation,’ when in fact they were not” and also “[hindered] other legitimate investigative efforts, and [failed] to admit that it had made any of these mistakes.” [US Congress, 12/1992] Mueller himself noted in 1991 that there was an “appearance of, one, foot-dragging; two, perhaps a cover-up,” but denied the cover-up claims. A Wall Street Journal editorial notes that “Even George W. Bush bumped up against the outer fringes of the BCCI crowd during his tenure with Harken Energy and in his friendship with Texas entrepreneur James Bath,” and opines, “On general principles, our view is that it would be a mistake to appoint as FBI head anyone who had any role in the failed BCCI probe. Too many important questions remain unanswered…” [Wall Street Journal, 6/26/2001]

Entity Tags: Thomas Pickard, Louis J. Freeh, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert S. Mueller III

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, BCCI

Ghaith Pharaon shaking hands with Alexander Haig.Ghaith Pharaon shaking hands with Alexander Haig. [Source: Bob Morris / Sygma]Shortly after 9/11, the Guardian will report that Ghaith Pharon is “directly linked to bin Laden through banks, holding companies, and charities.” This information is said to come from a French intelligence report (see October 10, 2001). [Guardian, 10/10/2001] Pharon was a pivotal figure in the criminal BCCI bank. A Saudi, he built up a Saudi construction firm called REDEC that had over $1 billion in revenues by the mid-1970s. He lives an extremely opulent lifestyle and moves easily in high-powered circles in Western countries. But in the 1980s his businesses began failing and he became a BCCI front man. BCCI used his charm and his connections in Saudi Arabia and the US to buy banks in the US, such as the First American Bank. He threw lavish parties and became friends with many influential Americans, such as former President Jimmy Carter. Meanwhile, he stole at least $500 million of the money invested in BCCI. When the BCCI scandal broke in 1991, many of the key figures cut deals with prosecutors, but Pharon did not. An international warrant was issued for his arrest, and in 1997 it was determined that he owes $2 billion for his role in the BCCI scandal. [Beaty and Gwynne, 1993, pp. 168-182; Financial Times, 9/6/1997] But Pharaon continues to run his business empire and live a lavish lifestyle. In 1997, it was reported that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are both refusing to acknowledge the warrant for his arrest. He spends time in both countries, but mostly lives on his large yacht. [Financial Times, 9/6/1997]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Ghaith Pharaon

Category Tags: Terrorism Financing, BCCI

A 70-page French intelligence report claims: “The financial network of [Osama] bin Laden, as well as his network of investments, is similar to the network put in place in the 1980s by BCCI for its fraudulent operations, often with the same people (former directors and cadres of the bank and its affiliates, arms merchants, oil merchants, Saudi investors). The dominant trait of bin Laden’s operations is that of a terrorist network backed up by a vast financial structure.” The BCCI was the largest Islamic bank in the world before it collapsed in July 1991 (see July 5, 1991). A senior US investigator will later say US agencies are looking into the ties outlined by the French because “they just make so much sense, and so few people from BCCI ever went to jail. BCCI was the mother and father of terrorist financing operations.” The report identifies dozens of companies and individuals who were involved with BCCI and were found to be dealing with bin Laden after the bank collapsed. Many went on to work in banks and charities identified by the US and others as supporting al-Qaeda. About six ex-BCCI figures are repeatedly named, including Saudi multi-millionaire Ghaith Pharaon (see October 10, 2001). The role of Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz in supporting bin Laden is emphasized in the report. In 1995, bin Mahfouz paid a $225 million fine in a settlement with US prosecutors for his role in the BCCI scandal. [Washington Post, 2/17/2002] Bin Laden lost money when BCCI was shut down, but may have benefited in the long term as other militants began relying on his financial network instead of BCCI’s (see July 1991 and After July 1991). Representatives of bin Mahfouz will later argue that this report is false and was in fact prepared by Jean-Charles Brisard and not the French intelligence service. Bin Mahfouz has begun libel proceedings against Mr. Brisard, claiming that he has made unfounded and defamatory allegations, and denies that he has ever supported terrorism. [Kendall Freeman, 5/13/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Jean-Charles Brisard, Ghaith Pharaon, Khalid bin Mahfouz, Al-Qaeda, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Osama bin Laden

Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, BCCI

Talat Othman.Talat Othman. [Source: Hanania]In the wake of the Operation Greenquest raid on the SAAR network (see March 20, 2002), disgruntled Muslim-American leaders meet with Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill to complain about the raid. At the time, the Treasury Department had control over the Customs Department, which ran Greenquest. The meeting is arranged by prominent Republican activist Grover Norquist. About a dozen leaders are asked to attend the meeting. O’Neill pledges to look into concerns the leaders have about the raid. [Wall Street Journal, 4/18/2002; Harper's, 3/2004] Those who meet with O’Neill include:
bullet Khaled Saffuri. He is head of the Islamic Institute, a group he co-founded with Norquist to organize conservative Muslims (see 1998-September 2001). The institute accepted $20,000 in donations from the Safa Trust, which was targeted in the raid. The Safa Trust in turn has been funded by Youssef Nada, who had his assets frozen shortly after 9/11 on suspicion on funding al-Qaeda (see November 7, 2001). The institute also received donations from Abdurahman Alamoudi, another target of the raid who will later receive a long prison term (see October 15, 2004). [Wall Street Journal, 4/18/2002; Harper's, 3/2004]
bullet Talat Othman. The Wall Street Journal calls him “a longtime associate and supporter of President Bush’s family who gave a benediction at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in August 2000.” He serves on the board of Amana Mutual Funds Trust, an investment firm founded by Yaqub Mirza, the director of most of the organizations targeted in the raid. Amana was not a target of the raid, but two other organization that were raided held large blocks of shares in Amana’s mutual funds. Othman claims to know Mirza only slightly. Othman is also on the board of Saffuri’s Islamic Institute. Further, Othman served on the board of Harken Energy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, at the same time that President Bush did. At the time, Othman represented Saudi businessman Abdullah Bakhsh on Harken Energy’s board, and the investments through Bakhsh were considered essential in saving Harken from bankruptcy. Bakhsh has indirect connections to the notorious criminal bank BCCI (see July 5, 1991), and in 1996 reputedly attended a secret meeting with al-Qaeda representatives, where the attendees agreed to pay al-Qaeda many millions of dollars of protection money (see May 1996). [Wall Street Journal, 12/6/1991; Wall Street Journal, 4/18/2002] Bakhsh will head a subsidiary of Halliburton, the oil services company formerly run by Vice President Cheney. Othman reportedly remains a friend of Bush. [Harper's, 3/2004] Harper’s magazine will note that “large sums of money from the suspect groups have moved through Amana, [yet] Greenquest agents chose not to raid the firm,” and will hint that political influence from Othman and others may have saved Amana from being raided. [Harper's, 3/2004]

Entity Tags: Talat Othman, Grover Norquist, Khaled Saffuri, SAAR Foundation, Operation Greenquest, Islamic Institute, Paul O’Neill

Category Tags: Terrorism Financing, BCCI, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Ghaith Pharon’s yacht, photographed in 2005.Ghaith Pharon’s yacht, photographed in 2005. [Source: Yachtmati]The FBI and Italian paramilitary police raid a luxury yacht owned by Saudi multimillionaire Ghaith Pharaon, but do not find him. Since 1991, there has been an international arrest warrant for Pharaon due to his prominent role in the criminal BCCI bank. Shortly after 9/11, a French intelligence report linked him to Osama bin Laden (see October 10, 2001). Pharaon’s yacht was raided off the coast of Sicily. The yacht was not seized. Despite being wanted for 15 years, Pharaon has managed to continue to run a large business empire. The FBI describes Pharaon as extremely wealthy with “numerous contacts within governments around the world.” [ndependent, 8/16/2006] On August 10, 2006, the FBI puts out an all points bulletin for Pharaon. [ABC News, 8/10/2006] A Middle Eastern newspaper notes that, “In the past few years, Pharoan’s super yacht—which he named Le Pharaon after himself—has repeatedly been seen moored alongside luxury yachts of the rich and famous.” In June 2005, it was seen moored next to the personal yacht of Saudi King Abdullah in a Greek port. Two years earlier, it was seen parked next to another Saudi royal family super yacht near Beirut. [Khaleej Times, 6/13/2006] But there has been no reported word on him since, and the FBI has taken the webpage about him off their website.

Entity Tags: Ghaith Pharaon, Osama bin Laden, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bank of Credit and Commerce International

Category Tags: BCCI, Counterterrorism Action After 9/11

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Key Day of 9/11 Events (100)Key Hijacker Events (145)Key Warnings (95)

Day of 9/11

All Day of 9/11 Events (1227)Dick Cheney (52)Donald Rumsfeld (33)Flight AA 11 (145)Flight AA 77 (145)Flight UA 175 (87)Flight UA 93 (240)George Bush (114)Passenger Phone Calls (67)Pentagon (117)Richard Clarke (31)Shanksville, Pennsylvania (23)Training Exercises (56)World Trade Center (87)

The Alleged 9/11 Hijackers

Alhazmi and Almihdhar (343)Marwan Alshehhi (134)Mohamed Atta (204)Hani Hanjour (72)Ziad Jarrah (74)Other 9/11 Hijackers (172)Possible Hijacker Associates in US (80)Alleged Hijackers' Flight Training (73)Hijacker Contact w Government in US (33)Possible 9/11 Hijacker Funding (42)Hijacker Visas and Immigration (135)

Alhazmi and Almihdhar: Specific Cases

Bayoumi and Basnan Saudi Connection (51)CIA Hiding Alhazmi & Almihdhar (120)Search for Alhazmi/ Almihdhar in US (39)

Projects and Programs

Al-Qaeda Malaysia Summit (172)Able Danger (60)Sibel Edmonds (61)Phoenix Memo (27)Randy Glass/ Diamondback (8)Robert Wright and Vulgar Betrayal (67)Remote Surveillance (241)Yemen Hub (75)

Before 9/11

Soviet-Afghan War (105)Warning Signs (432)Insider Trading/ Foreknowledge (53)US Air Security (71)Military Exercises (66)Pipeline Politics (67)Other Pre-9/11 Events (55)

Counterterrorism before 9/11

Hunt for Bin Laden (158)Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11 (223)Counterterrorism Policy/Politics (249)

Warning Signs: Specific Cases

Foreign Intelligence Warnings (35)Bush's Aug. 6, 2001 PDB (39)Presidential Level Warnings (31)

The Post-9/11 World

9/11 Investigations (652)9/11 Related Criminal Proceedings (22)9/11 Denials (29)US Government and 9/11 Criticism (67)9/11 Related Lawsuits (24)Media (47)Other Post-9/11 Events (75)

Investigations: Specific Cases

9/11 Commission (257)Role of Philip Zelikow (87)9/11 Congressional Inquiry (41)CIA OIG 9/11 Report (16)FBI 9/11 Investigation (144)WTC Investigation (112)Other 9/11 Investigations (129)

Possible Al-Qaeda-Linked Moles or Informants

Abu Hamza Al-Masri (102)Abu Qatada (36)Ali Mohamed (78)Haroon Rashid Aswat (17)Khalil Deek (20)Luai Sakra (12)Mamoun Darkazanli (36)Nabil Al-Marabh (41)Omar Bakri & Al-Muhajiroun (25)Reda Hassaine (23)Other Possible Moles or Informants (169)

Other Al-Qaeda-Linked Figures

Abu Zubaida (99)Anwar Al-Awlaki (17)Ayman Al-Zawahiri (81)Hambali (39)Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (139)Mohammed Haydar Zammar (44)Mohammed Jamal Khalifa (47)Osama Bin Laden (228)Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh (105)Ramzi Yousef (67)Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (57)Victor Bout (23)Wadih El-Hage (45)Zacarias Moussaoui (159)

Al-Qaeda by Region

"Lackawanna Six" (13)Al-Qaeda in Balkans (168)Al-Qaeda in Germany (189)Al-Qaeda in Italy (55)Al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia (149)Al-Qaeda in Spain (121)Islamist Militancy in Chechnya (50)

Specific Alleged Al-Qaeda Linked Attacks or Plots

1993 WTC Bombing (73)1993 Somalia Fighting (13)1995 Bojinka Plot (78)1998 US Embassy Bombings (121)Millennium Bomb Plots (43)2000 USS Cole Bombing (114)2001 Attempted Shoe Bombing (23)2002 Bali Bombings (36)2004 Madrid Train Bombings (82)2005 7/7 London Bombings (87)

Miscellaneous Al-Qaeda Issues

Alleged Al-Qaeda Linked Attacks (89)Alleged Al-Qaeda Media Statements (102)Key Captures and Deaths (124)

Geopolitics and Islamic Militancy

US Dominance (112)Alleged Iraq-Al-Qaeda Links (255)Iraq War Impact on Counterterrorism (83)Israel (61)Pakistan and the ISI (470)Saudi Arabia (249)Terrorism Financing (312)Londonistan - UK Counterterrorism (322)US Intel Links to Islamic Militancy (69)Algerian Militant Collusion (41)Indonesian Militant Collusion (20)Philippine Militant Collusion (74)Yemeni Militant Collusion (47)Other Government-Militant Collusion (23)

Pakistan / ISI: Specific Cases

Pakistani Nukes & Islamic Militancy (37)Pakistani ISI Links to 9/11 (73)Saeed Sheikh (59)Mahmood Ahmed (30)Haven in Pakistan Tribal Region (179)2008 Kabul Indian Embassy Bombing (10)Hunt for Bin Laden in Pakistan (154)

Terrorism Financing: Specific Cases

Al Taqwa Bank (29)Al-Kifah/MAK (54)BCCI (37)BIF (28)BMI and Ptech (21)Bin Laden Family (62)Drugs (71)

'War on Terrorism' Outside Iraq

Afghanistan (299)Drone Use in Pakistan / Afghanistan (49)Destruction of CIA Tapes (92)Escape From Afghanistan (61)High Value Detainees (179)Terror Alerts (50)Counterterrorism Action After 9/11 (352)Counterterrorism Policy/Politics (432)Internal US Security After 9/11 (125)
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