BCCI chief sentenced to eight years

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The Independent Online
A FORMER chief executive of Bank of Credit and Commerce International, who was described by the former Bank of England Governor, Lord Kingsdown, as 'the brains behind the fraud', was jailed for eight years and fined dollars 255.4m ( pounds 163m) by a US federal court yesterday.

Swaleh Naqvi, a 61-year-old British citizen and chief executive of BCCI until eight months before the bank's closure, received the maximum sentence under a plea- bargain with the US Department of Justice.

Naqvi pleaded guilty in July to three counts of bank fraud that involved conspiracy, wire fraud and racketeering. He was extradited from Abu Dhabi, which owns 77 per cent of BCCI, in February. He had been held in the emirate under house arrest since regulators closed BCCI in July 1991.

After he has served his sentence in the US Naqvi will be returned to Abu Dhabi where he faces a further eight years in prison on separate charges.

The US authorities agreed to drop any legal actions against Abu Dhabi in exchange for Naqvi and some of his 6,000 secret BCCI files.

Naqvi told US District Judge Joyce Hens Green that he intended to continue to co-operate with prosecutors under the plea agreement. Judge Green, in handing down the sentence, cited Naqvi's high profile within BCCI and the threat that the bank's activities posed to the integrity of the US banking system.

'Without your leadership, without your continuing criminal activity, the loss wouldn't have been as large,' the judge told Naqvi. Losses from the international bank scandal are estimated to exceed dollars 10bn and the Justice Department said it was prepared to prove that Naqvi's actions caused losses of dollars 255m to regulators and several US banks.

Naqvi's lawyers describe the banker as destitute, so his ability to pay the fine is in doubt.

Total claims by creditors and depositors exceed dollars 10bn. Some 250,000 people have yet to get their money back.

Prosecutors say Naqvi was intimately involved with BCCI's secret infiltration of four US banks, including the former First American Bankshares Inc, once the largest bank in the nation's capital.

Later this week, Naqvi faces arraignment on separate charges in a state court in New York city, where the Manhattan District Attorney's Office has aggressively prosecuted the BCCI affair.

Meanwhile, BCCI creditors have agreed to accept dollars 1.8bn in compensation from Abu Dhabi, in a deal to be announced soon, a creditors' spokesman said. The package will have to be approved by courts in Britain, Luxembourg and the Cayman Islands.

(Photograph omitted)