Fraud Office confirms Bank 'bribe' inquiry

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The Independent Online
The Serious Fraud Office confirmed yesterday it was investigating allegations that Bank of England officials took bribes from senior executives at the failed Bank of Credit and Commerce International.

The claims were in sworn evidence to an inquiry chaired by Lord Justice Bingham into the Bank of England's supervision of BCCI.

They were made in September 1991 by an accountant who was formerly a Pakistan military intelligence officer. The Bank itself investigated the claims before passing the files to the SFO.

A Bank spokesman said: 'We did our investigation. We found absolutely nothing at all to support the claims. But because of the nature of the allegations and because the SFO was already investigating BCCI, it would have been wrong not to have let the SFO know these allegations were around and give them an opportunity to look into them if they wanted to.'

Following a report in the Independent on Sunday, the SFO said: 'We can confirm we are investigating this in connection with the BCCI inquiry, but we aren't prepared to go into any more specifics.'

The files went to the SFO several months ago, but since the allegations relate to events going back to 1980, it has not yet been able to complete its investigations.

In the mid 1980s, the same accountant made a number of allegations against the Bank of England and its officials concerning its role during and after the Johnson Matthey Bankers collapse in 1984. But no action was taken. Information originating from the accountant also emerged during House of Commons debates at the time.

The accountant is described by Lord Justice Bingham as 'Mr X', but his identity is known to the Bank.

He claimed that at a BCCI party in 1990 he saw Agha Hasan Abedi, its founder, hand over a briefcase full of dollars 100 bills to a colleague, who then passed it to two Bank officials. Later, under questioning from Lord Justice Bingham, he named four Bank officials as having attended BCCI parties.

It is known that Bank officials attended BCCI receptions over the past two decades. In earlier years, BCCI hosted lavish business events with hundreds of guests from politics, industry and the City. One source said: 'People from the Bank would have gone to BCCI receptions just as they went to Japanese bank receptions. It is difficult for the Bank of England to refuse invitations from banks it supervises.'

BCCI also gave big parties at the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund.

An early day Commons motion published on Saturday by Brian Sedgemore, the Labour MP, said Mr X identified three occasions on which Bank officials accepted briefcases from BCCI executives.

Mr X has attended interviews with senior detectives from the SFO, during which he picked out two individuals who he said received the briefcases from among 36 photographs of Bank employees. He has also been interviewed by the New York District Attorney's office, to which he sent his claims about bribery.