Robert Mazur Corrects the International NY Times

Yesterday, The International New York Times published an inaccurate article written by Saad Hasan of The Express Tribune. The article incorrectly reports statements I allegedly made, as well as facts concerning the BCCI scandal. The one point Mr. Hasan did get right is that, in my view, U.S. authorities have failed to properly prosecute recent “BCCI like conduct” by banks based in other parts of the world.

Mr. Hasan reported that I only dealt in an undercover capacity with one senior BCCI officer, Nazir Chinoy, along with 5 other low to mid-level BCCI officials that were collectively stationed in 3 offices. In fact, I recorded undercover conversations with a dozen former BCCI officers. These officers were stationed in 7 different locations, including Miami, London, The Bahamas, Los Angeles, Tampa, Panama, and Paris. These recordings confirmed that BCCI’s senior management promoted an institutional wide criminal enterprise.

Editor’s note: BCCI was Bank of Credit and Commerce International, a major international bank founded in 1972 by Pakistani financier, Agha Hasan Abedi. It was shut down in 1991.

Mr. Hasan ignored the fact that I dealt extensively with Amjad Awan, a person of power within BCCI who was touted to become BCCI President Agha Hasan Abedi’s successor, until Mr. Abedi’s heart attack. While he ran the Panama Branch, Awan became the personal financial adviser to corrupt Panamanian General Manuel Noriega. He ushered tens of millions in cash deposits for Noriega into BCCI accounts and managed accounts of heads of State, including former Pakistani President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. Awan also solicited deposits from Colombian traffickers and money launderers. Mr. Awan’s power within the bank was enhanced by the fact that his father was the former head of the Pakistani national police and his father-in-law was formerly the head of the Pakistani Air Force.

Mr. Hasan makes no mention of the recorded undercover conversations I had with Z.A. Akbar, the former Treasurer of BCCI responsible for helping BCCI senior executives create a black hole in the bank’s treasury that led to the pilfering of at least $200 million of honest accountholder deposits through phony loans. This theft contributed to the decision by BCCI’s most senior management that deposits, no matter how dirty or bloody, were in the best interests of covering up their theft of funds from honest customers. Z.A. Akbar was a significant player within BCCI.

I recorded many conversations with Akbar Bilgrami, the son of a Pakistani General and an important officer at BCCI who was, for a considerable time, a personal assistant to Agha Hassan Abedi. Mr. Bilgrami admitted after his conviction that he and other BCCI personnel were directed to travel to South America by Mr. Abedi to evaluate the potential of soliciting U.S. dollar deposits from residents of Latin American countries. He and other bank staff prepared a written report for Abedi that identified drug proceeds as the most readily available source of U.S. dollar deposits in Colombia. With that understanding, Abedi, with Bilgrami’s help, embarked on a business plan that resulted in BCCI purchasing a Colombian bank that had hundreds of branches. According to Bilgrami, it was Abedi’s hope to capture at least $1 billion in U.S. dollar deposits from Colombian accountholders.

Not one BCCI officer ever asked me for a personal payment in return for laundering money. Conversely, they made it very clear that there was only one condition for their laundering – I needed to deposit funds in accounts to improve their balance sheet. In particular, they wanted huge deposits in place on June 30th and December 31st of each year. Those were the days on which auditors prepared BCCI’s semi-annual financial statements. That’s what it was all about – their crimes in exchange for deposits, which increased their assets and power within the international banking community.

The reality is that search warrants executed at various BCCI offices unearthed the bank’s longtime relationship with some of the world’s most notorious criminals. Had Mr. Hasan researched these issues and thoroughly read my book, he would have discovered that drug barons like Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha, a senior member of the Medellin Cartel, had accounts containing more than $60 million in drug money seized after BCCI officers were arrested. BCCI had a separate relationship with Gerardo Moncada, the most senior manager of Pablo Escobar who was responsible for the distribution of 60% of Pablo Escobar’s cocaine. The bank’s relationship with Rodriguez Gacha, Moncada and many other criminals were independently established by BCCI officers. I had nothing to do with bringing these drug barons and BCCI together.

When Mr. Hasan interviewed me, I encouraged him to read the extensive testimony of former BCCI board member Nazir Chinoy and other BCCI officials before a U.S. Senate Subcommittee. He apparently didn’t heed that advice.

Mr. Chinoy admitted that, with the knowledge of Abedi and/or other senior BCCI officials, he participated in extensive criminal activity, including:

  • The laundering of proceeds of crime
  • Assisting clients to evade income taxes in many countries
  • Helping countries to evade World Bank regulations
  • Facilitating sales of U.S. arms through Israel to Iran with Adnan Khashoggi
  • Providing services to Iran Contra arms salesman Manuchar Ghorbanifar
  • The procurement of prostitutes for the families of Middle Eastern rulers as part of being a “full service bank”
  • Making payoffs to officials in Africa in order to establish banking relationships with their respective nations
  • Secretly and illegally acquiring ownership of First American bank in Washington DC and the National Bank of Georgia

    The unfortunate crimes of BCCI can’t be justified, but neither can the similar acts of other international banks that have recently moved thousands of tons of U.S. currency for Mexican and Colombian drug cartels that now work closely with known terrorist organizations. Somehow, our country has decided that the same acts that warranted long prison sentences for BCCI officers should now only result in fines levied against the banks that employ dirty bankers. This is unconscionable.

    To contact Robert Mazur e-mail [email protected]

    ROBERT MAZUR spent five years undercover infiltrating the criminal hierarchy of Colombia’s drug cartels. The dirty bankers and businessmen he befriended-some of whom still shape power across the globe-knew him as Bob Musella, a wealthy, mob-connected big shot living the good life. Together they partied in $1,000-per-night hotel suites, drank bottles of the world’s finest champagne, drove Rolls-Royce convertibles, and flew in private jets. But under Mazur’s Armani suits and in his Renwick briefcase, recorders whirred quietly, capturing the damning evidence of their crimes. Then, at a staged wedding, he led a dramatic takedown that shook the underworld. In the end, more than eighty men and women were charged worldwide. Operation C-Chase became one of the most successful undercover operations in the history of U.S. law enforcement, and evidence gathered during the bust proved critical to the conviction of General Manuel Noriega.