Clifford to be charged over his BCCI role

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The Independent Online
CLARK CLIFFORD, the veteran Washington insider employed by the Bank of Credit and Commerce International to win control of a leading US bank, is to be charged tomorrow over his role in the international banking scandal, sources close to New York prosecutors said.

Mr Clifford and his law partner, Robert Altman, will be charged with lying to US bank regulators about the ownership of First American Bancshares, the Washington-based bank they ran during much of the 1980s. Despite their representations to the contrary, First American was in fact controlled by BCCI, the Gulf bank that collapsed last July amid evidence of fraud, bribery and money-laundering.

Mr Clifford, First American's former chairman, and Mr Altman, its president, will be charged by Robert Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney who led the initial investigation of BCCI last summer, prompting claims that American and British authorities and regulators had dragged their heels. In the US, BCCI has settled with Mr Morgenthau's office, pleading guilty to criminal charges and disgorging dollars 550m (pounds 290m).

A source close to Mr Morgenthau's investigation said yesterday that other indictments could be expected soon, including several against executives of a large American bank that similarly helped to bolster BCCI's reputation in the US.

In testimony before a congressional committee last autumn, Mr Clifford and Mr Altman claimed they were unaware of BCCI's role in First American, and no evidence has emerged to prove their complicity in the takeover. But both served as BCCI lawyers in Washington during their tenure and accepted loans from BCCI to buy First American shares, the sale of which resulted in a personal profit of dollars 10m.