Comentary: Crucial gap in BCCI draft

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

Lord Justice Bingham's already much-leaked report on the supervision of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International is, we understand, likely to be guilty of a sin of omission. Capcom Financial Services, the futures company run until his imprisonment for money laundering by BCCI's former head of treasury, Syed Ziauddin Ali Akbar, merits no more than two mentions and a paragraph of analysis in the latest draft of the report.

His lordship can, no doubt, make a reasonable case for not including in his report details about the relationship between BCCI and the mysterious company, which included among its shareholders the former Saudi intelligence chief Kamal Adham, at least one other Saudi intelligence figure and several prominent American businessmen. He can choose to ignore the fact that Akbar was head of treasury at BCCI at the time of its greatest losses in 1984 and 1985.

He can let it pass that the cosmetic removal of Akbar (he hung around Leadenhall Street for a year after his dismissal from the bank) and the subsequent banishment of BCCI's treasury operation to Abu Dhabi, following a six- month investigation by the auditors Price Waterhouse, allowed many of the bank's frauds to occur out of sight of regulators. He can even consider it a detail that BCCI passed at least dollars 200m to Capcom over two years. As yet, no one has offered any explanation.

Alternatively, if it is not already too late, his lordship could change tack and ask a number of pertinent questions that go right to the heart of the whole affair. Why did no one at the Bank of England notice or appear to care when BCCI was trading such huge volumes of futures in 1984-85? At one time it was doing 40 per cent of the business on Liffe. Who authorised the transfer of BCCI's treasury to Abu Dhabi in 1987?

Perhaps the Bingham report will also clarify why two of America's most influential cable television executives, senior executives of the cable giant TCI - Bob Magness and Larry Romrell - came to be on the board of Capcom.

To date, Akbar is the most senior BCCI official to have faced jail. He is now in France awaiting extradition, following an attempt to flee Britain last September. If things go according to plan he will be returned here to serve the rest of his sentence and to face further charges. Far from being an incidental character and a sideshow, Akbar and Capcom are the best leads we have into the criminal subculture that existed within the bank. If the report has reduced all this to a few paragraphs, an opportunity to answer some of the real questions may have been lost.

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