Thursday, April 26, 2007
It’s Time for Congress to Investigate the Ties Between the Bush Family and Osama bin Laden
How the Bush family's private connection to a dirty offshore bank is
the only link between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
The following is taken from a chapter, "The BCCI Game: Banking on
America, Banking on Jihad," by investigative journalist Lucy Komisar in
the new book "A Game as Old as Empire," just published by
Berrett-Koehler (San Francisco).
Now that the U.S. Congress
is investigating the truth of President George W. Bush's statements
about the Iraq war, they might look into one of his most startling
assertions: that there was a link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin
Critics dismissed that as an invention. They were wrong.
There was a link, but not the one Bush was selling. The link between
Hussein and Bin Laden was their banker, BCCI. But the link went beyond
the dictator and the jihadist -- it passed through Saudi Arabia and
stretched all the way to George W. Bush and his father.
the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, a dirty offshore bank
that then-President Ronald Reagan's Central Intelligence Agency used to
run guns to Hussein, finance Osama bin Laden, move money in the illegal
Iran-Contra operation and carry out other "agency" black ops. The
Bushes also benefited privately; one of the bank's largest Saudi
investors helped bail out George W. Bush's troubled oil investments.
was founded in 1972 by a Pakistani banker, Agha Hasan Abedi, with the
support of Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, ruler of Abu Dhabi and
head of the United Arab Emirates. Its corporate strategy was money
laundering. It became the banker for drug and arms traffickers, corrupt
officials, financial fraudsters, dictators and terrorists.
CIA used BCCI Islamabad and other branches in Pakistan to funnel some
of the $2 billion that Washington sent to Osama bin Laden's Mujahadeen
to help fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. It moved the cash the
Pakistani military and government officials skimmed from U.S. aid to
the Mujahadeen. It also moved money as required by the Saudi
The BCCI operation gave Osama bin Laden an
education in offshore black finance, which he would put to use when he
organized the jihad against the United States. He would move money
through the Al-Taqwa Bank, operating in offshore Nassau and Switzerland
with two Osama siblings as shareholders.
At the same time, BCCI
helped Saddam Hussein, funneling millions of dollars to the Atlanta
branch of the Italian government-owned Banca Nazionale del Lavoro
(BNL), Baghdad's U.S. banker, so that from 1985 to 1989 it could make
$4 billion in secret loans to Iraq to help it buy arms.
congressman Henry Gonzalez held a hearing on BNL in 1992 during which
he quoted from a confidential CIA document that said the agency had
long been aware that the bank's headquarters was involved in the U.S.
branch's Iraqi loans.
Kickbacks from 15 percent commissions on
BNL-sponsored loans were channeled into bank accounts held for Iraqi
leaders via BCCI offices in the Caymans as well as in offshore
Luxembourg and Switzerland. BNL was a client of Kissinger Associates,
and Henry Kissinger was on the bank's international advisory board,
along with Brent Scowcroft, who would become George Bush Sr.'s national
security advisor. That connection makes the Bush administration's
surprise and indignation at "oil for food" payoffs in Iraq seem
Important Saudis were influential in the bank.
Sheik Kamal Adham, brother-in-law of the late Saudi King Faisal, head
of Saudi intelligence from 1963 to 1979, and the CIA's liaison in the
area, became one of BCCI's largest shareholders. George Bush Sr. knew
Adham from his time running the CIA in 1975.
Another investor was
Prince Turki bin Faisal al-Saud, who succeeded Adham as Saudi
intelligence chief. The family of Khalid Salem bin Mahfouz, owner of
the National Commercial Bank, the largest bank in Saudi Arabia, banker
to King Fahd and other members of the ruling family, bought 20 percent
to 30 percent of the stock for nearly $1 billion. Bin Mahfouz was put
on the board of directors.
The Arabs' interest in the bank was
more than financial. A classified CIA memo on BCCI in the mid-1980s
said that "its principal shareholders are among the power elite of the
Middle East, including the rulers of Dubai and the United Arab
Emirates, and several influential Saudi Arabians. They are less
interested in profitability than in promoting the Muslim cause."
Bushes' private links to the bank passed to Bin Mahfouz through Texas
businessman James R. Bath, who invested money in the United States on
behalf of the Saudi. In 1976, when Bush was the head of the CIA, the
agency sold some of the planes of Air America, a secret "proprietary"
airline it used during the Vietnam War, to Skyway, a company owned by
Bath and Bin Mahfouz. Bath then helped finance George W. Bush's oil
company, Arbusto Energy Inc., in 1979 and 1980.
Energy Corp., which had absorbed Arbusto (by then merged with Spectrum
7 Energy), got into financial trouble in 1987, Jackson Stephens of the
powerful, politically connected Arkansas investment firm helped it
secure $25 million in financing from the Union Bank of Switzerland. As
part of that deal, a place on the board was given to Harken shareholder
Sheik Abdullah Taha Bakhsh, whose chief banker was BCCI shareholder Bin
Then, in 1988, George Bush Sr. was elected president.
Harken benefited by getting some new investors, including Salem bin
Laden, Osama bin Laden's half brother, and Khalid bin Mahfouz. Osama
bin Laden himself was busy elsewhere at the time -- organizing al Qaeda.
money BCCI stole before it was shut down in 1991 -- somewhere between
$9.5 billion and $15 billion -- made its 20-year heist the biggest bank
fraud in history. Most of it was never recovered. International banks'
complicity in the offshore secrecy system effectively covered up the
But in the years after the collapse of BCCI, Khalid
bin Mahfouz was still flush with cash. In 1992, he established the
Muwafaq ("blessed relief") Foundation in the offshore Channel Islands.
The U.S. Treasury Department called it "an al Qaeda front that receives
funding from wealthy Saudi businessmen."
When the BCCI scandal
began to break in the late 1980s, the Sr. Bush administration did what
it could to sit on it. The Justice Department went after the culprits
-- was virtually forced to -- only after New York District Attorney
Robert Morgenthau did. But evidence about BCCI's broader links exist in
numerous U.S. and international investigations. Now could be a good
time to take another look at the BCCI-Osama-Saddam-Saudi-Bush
Lucy Komisar is a New York-based journalist and author of "A Game as
Old as Empire," published by Berrett-Koehler (San Francisco).