Former BCCI directors claim Sheikh's family behind fraud

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The Independent Online
THREE former directors of Bank of Credit and Commerce International are suing the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi and other members of the Gulf state's royal family for dollars 100m, alleging that the family were the prime movers behind the bank's dollars 20bn frauds.

The lawsuit, launched in New York, claims that the family members, as the bank's majority shareholders, 'secretly and wilfully conspired to control the bank through a pattern of illegal racketeering and to conceal their conspiracy from BCCI's outside directors, auditors, government regulators and the public'.

The writ cites a series of 'specific fraudulent transactions, fictitious loans, unrecorded deposits, money laundering and other illegal acts'.

The suit also names as defendants the sheikh's son, Sheikh Khalifa; one of the royal family's chief financial advisers, Ghanim Faris Al-Mazrui, and Swaleh Naqvi, a former head of BCCI.

A spokesman for Abu Dhabi said: 'Many of these old allegations from ex-directors of BCCI, who are themselves being sued by the bank's liquidators, were made and dismissed before in the California racketeering action which failed in 1991.'

The liquidators are considering extending their legal action against the ex-directors to the UK.

One of the three behind the legal action, Alfred Hartmann, a senior Swiss banker, sat on various BCCI boards from 1982 to 1991. The others are Yves Lamarche, an American living in France, who served from 1976 to 1991, and Johan Van Oenen, a Dutchman living in Surrey, from 1978 until 1992.

Dr Hartmann resigned from his chairmanship of Banca Nazionale del Lavoro's Swiss arm in September 1991, and also his chairmanship of the troubled Swiss bank Rothschild at the end of 1992.

He helped to negotiate the swift sale of BCCI's Banque de Commerce & de Placement to the Turkish group Cukurova in July 1991, just over two weeks after BCCI was closed by bank regulators worldwide.

Lawyers for both sides in the BCCI case have appealed against an Abu Dhabi court judgment which handed down jail terms for 12 former bank officials for their role in the bank's collapse and found one official not guilty.

Ibrahim Anwar, the public prosecutor's spokesman, said that lawyers for 10 BCCI officials had appealed against the verdict in which they were also ordered to pay dollars 9bn in civil damages.

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