Creditors to gain dollars 100m in US deal over BCCI: Investigators promised help as Americans settle row with Abu Dhabi

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The Independent Online
THE US government and the state of Abu Dhabi, BCCI's majority shareholder, have healed a damaging rift in their competing attempts to sort out the corrupt bank's affairs. A wide-ranging agreement will make an extra dollars 100m available to creditors and scrap a dollars 1.4bn legal action against the emirate.

A spokesman for Abu Dhabi said: 'We have agreed that if we help the US authorities, they will help us.'

Under the agreement Abu Dhabi will make available to the UK liquidator of BCCI, Touche Ross, all its BCCI documents not already seen by the British. The documents will be made available at the latest by April, overcoming a big obstacle to the liquidator's work in recovering funds for UK creditors.

The US authorities have agreed to drop any plans to take legal action against Abu Dhabi, which owns 77 per cent of BCCI. In return, Abu Dhabi will help the US authorities in their own investigations.

The deal will strengthen both the emirate in its negotiations over a new compensation plan for creditors, and the American drive to get convictions in the BCCI saga.

For the first time the US will acknowledge Adu Dhabi's claims for dollars 230m in relation to First American Bankshares, a bank that was illegally acquired by BCCI. The US trustees, Albright, will scrap a legal action they launched against Abu Dhabi for dollars 1.4bn concerning First American. In return the emirate will drop its own claim for dollars 230m against First American. This will enhance the value of First American, which is being sold.

The sale should provide dollars 100m for BCCI's creditors worldwide. Ever since BCCI was closed down, Touche Ross has feared that the US authorities would not allow money recovered in the US to benefit creditors in the UK and elsewhere.

Abu Dhabi will hand to the US copies of thousands of files compiled by the former senior BCCI executive Swaleh Naqvi, currently on trial in Abu Dhabi.

The Americans will also get access to Mr Naqvi, who operated a 'bank within a bank' and whose knowledge is vital in investigating BCCI. Mr Naqvi is set to be extradited to the US in four months' time when this trial is finished.

In return, the American authorities will hand over copies of all their files on BCCI, and will help Abu Dhabi to investigate the bank.

The emirate will also drop a claim of dollars 91m it made against First American, representing Abu Dhabi assets held by the bank.

The Abu Dhabi spokesman said: 'The deal is not a plea bargain with the US authorities. We are not having to pay any fines or costs. We're not paying out any new money, just waiving claims. This is the first time creditors worldwide will be able to get money out of the US.'

Three separate BCCI-related criminal trials are set to begin in London this spring. They involve three men who all face charges of false accounting: Nazmu Virani, former chairman of Control Securities; Mohammed Baqi, the former managing director of Attock Oil, client of BCCI; and Imran Imam, a BCCI account officer.