BCCI chief sentenced to eight years: 'The brains behind the fraud'

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SWALEH NAQVI, chief executive of BCCI until nine months before the bank was shut down, was described by Lord Kingsdown, the former Bank of England Governor, as the brains behind the fraud.

BCCI was the biggest fraud in history, with at least dollars 10bn ( pounds 6.4bn) going astray in what the Bank of England called a 'criminal culture'.

Many US investigators have been concerned that the plea bargain negotiated with Naqvi might be too lenient.

One London observer said yesterday: 'The Americans have this idea that you should do deals with the small fish in order to catch the big fish. The trouble is they're doing deals with the big fish.'

Naqvi was born in Pakistan and helped BCCI's founder, Hassan Abedi, to build it into the biggest Third World bank, backed by Arab money. Naqvi took British nationality and lived in a pounds 500,000 house in north-west London in the late 1980s.

Naqvi amassed a huge number of secret files and ran what the Bank of England described as 'a bank within a bank'. In January 1991 BCCI's auditors, Price Waterhouse, found out about the secret files, and when the Bank of England asked the auditors to investigate the bank later that year it was the information in those files that prompted worldwide banking regulators to close BCCI.

The day after BCCI's shutdown the Abu Dhabi authorities arrested Naqvi and 13 other senior BCCI executives. Naqvi hired Kingsley Napley, an expensive firm of lawyers, to defend him, despite claims of being penniless.