$1.16bn BCCI damages

THE LIQUIDATORS of BCCI, the bank which collapsed after massive fraud in 1991, yesterday won a billion-dollar damages claim against a wealthy Arablinked with the organisation.

Abdul Raouf Khalil, a former chief of Saudi Arabian intelligence, was found by a Washington court to have participated in a fraudulent conspiracy with officials of the bank and damages of $1.16bnwere awarded against him.

The victory means that former BCCI investors may stand to recover more of the cash which they lost when the bank went under. "We intend to enforce this judgement aggressively so that additional funds can be repaid to the innocent victims of BCCI," said Stephen Akers of the BCCI liquidators.

The victory will also once again raise questions about the involvement of western intelligence agencies in BCCI.

The case centred on BCCI's covert takeover of First American Bank, the largest bank in the Washington area. BCCI hid its dealings through a network of nominee investors, of whom Mr Khalil was one. The takeover was known about by US intelligence but they neither intervened nor informed US banking authorities, a Congressional inquiry found.

Mr Khalil lives in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and did not appear in person in court because of health concerns. Despite this the American lawyers for the liquidators said they had high hopes of recovering the cash. "We are confident that Mr Khalil will not be permitted to flout the judgement of a United States court," said Eric Lewis. His colleague, Jeff Robinson said simply: "we expect to collect."